A new resource from the Alberta Environmental Law Centre outlines the relevant policies and tools that protect habitat in the province. Included in this review are the laws and framework for land use planning in Alberta.
See the complete reports – Habitat Matters: Habitat laws, challenges and new directions.
State of habitat laws – ALSA
The Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA) outlines the approach for regional planning the in Alberta and ensures private land owners, provincial agencies and municipalities abide by the plans. In addition to identifying the land use objectives, the regional plans create environment management framework for air, water and biodiversity. These biodiversity management frameworks are a key tool in Alberta’s habitat laws.
The biodiversity management frameworks create objectives and key indicators, but the frameworks have not yet been completed when the Environmental Law Centre reviewed Alberta’s habitat laws. The biodiversity management frameworks are also “limited by the fact that they were left out of the Regulatory Details Plan in both regional plans and are therefore non- regulatory and unenforceable.”
There are two tools that ALSA enables that can be used for habitat protection:
- Transferable development credit (TDC) schemes: Transfer development away from sites that have higher ecological value.
- Stewardship units: Metrics for land conservation that can be exchanged or sold, but the is little guidance for how stewardship units actually function.
Where ALSA falls short
Some challenges of the application of ALSA for habitat protection include:
- Lack of mention of an ecosystem approach, even though ALSA has the potential to integrate an ecosystem approach with regional planning.
- Regional plans are highly discretionary. ALSA provides high-level direction for the development of the plans but the details are discretionary.
- Regional plans have the potential to reduce fragmenting of policies and plans, but this is inhibited until more regional plans are finalized.
- The review process for regional plans is discretionary and provides little opportunities for feedback and changes.
Comprehensive review of habitat law
The review of Alberta’s habitat law is divided into four parts and includes a comprehensive examination of the policies and approaches for habitat protection in Alberta. Land use planning and ALSA are among one policy framework that contributes to the province’s habitat protection policies.