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Alberta Wetland Policy: A Shift in Values Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development 2013 Thorsten Hebben Policy Division, ESRD.

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Presentation on theme: "Alberta Wetland Policy: A Shift in Values Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development 2013 Thorsten Hebben Policy Division, ESRD."— Presentation transcript:

1 Alberta Wetland Policy: A Shift in Values Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development 2013 Thorsten Hebben Policy Division, ESRD

2 Outline Brief Policy Overview –Wetland Definition & Importance –Policy Goal & Outcomes –Relative Wetland Value –Wetland Mitigation Policy Implementation –Goal and Outcomes –Governance Structure –Management System Deliverables –Next Steps

3 What is a Wetland? “A wetland is land saturated with water long enough to promote formation of water altered soils, growth of water tolerant vegetation, and various kinds of biological activity that are adapted to the wet environment.” Highly diverse, productive ecosystems that provide a host of ecological services. Play an important role in sustaining healthy watersheds by: –protecting water quality (sedimentation, contaminant removal) –providing flood and drought mitigation (keeping water in place) –providing water storage and infiltration (groundwater connectivity) –providing habitat for wildlife, fish and plants, and sustaining biodiversity. To date, Alberta has lost between 60 and 70% of wetlands within the White (settled) Area of the province. Losses are ongoing.

4 BogFenSwamp Marsh Shallow Open Water What is a Wetland?

5 Alberta Wetland Policy Policy Goal: –To conserve, restore, protect, and manage Alberta’s wetlands to sustain the benefits they provide to the environment, society, and the economy. Policy Outcomes: 1.Wetlands of the highest value are protected for the long-term benefit of all Albertans. 2.Wetlands and their benefits are conserved and restored in areas where losses have been high. 3.Wetlands are managed by avoiding and minimizing negative impacts, and, where necessary, replacing lost wetland value. 4.Wetland management considers regional context.

6 Relative Wetland Value Wetlands are highly diverse in form, function, use, and distribution across the province – they are not all of equal value.

7 Relative Value Assessment Units

8 Mitigation System Avoidance – The preferred response is to avoid impacts on wetlands. Minimization – Where avoidance is not possible, proponents will be expected to minimize impacts on wetlands. Replacement – As a last resort, and where avoidance and minimization efforts are not feasible or prove ineffective, wetland replacement will be required.

9 Wetland Replacement Wetland reclamation commitments, as established through reclamation plans, will help inform the determination of replacement requirements. Replacement will consider both restorative and non- restorative options, based on defined criteria. –Restorative: Restore, Enhance, Construct –Non-Restorative: Research, Education Replacement requirements enable and encourage innovation. Wetland replacement will be spatially prioritized.

10 Replacement Ratios

11 Policy Implementation

12 Mandate The purpose of the Wetland Policy Implementation Project is to develop and implement a new wetland management system for the Province of Alberta, as described in the Alberta Wetland Policy. Project objectives are as follows: 1.Confirm the tools, processes, and systems that are needed to support policy implementation. 2.Further develop and validate the tools, processes, and systems identified under Objective One. 3.Lead capacity building, communication, and engagement efforts (internally and externally) to ensure implementation readiness.

13 Policy Evaluation and Reporting EVALUATION & REPORTING E1 W ETLAND M ANAGEMENT S YSTEM – W ORKING A RTICULATION Research and innovation KNOWLEDGE & INFORMATION Data Acquisition and improvement Data Management K1 K2 K3 Wetland Restoration Mitigation Agent RESTORATIVE REPLACEMENT R1 R2 Wetland Enhancement Wetland Construction R1 R3 R4 Offset accounting ENFORCEMENT & COMPLIANCE C2 Physical wetland C1 QWSP On-ground Relative Wetland Value Assessment s O1 O2 ON-GROUND ASSESSMENT Voluntary stewardship STEWARDSHIP Regulatory requirements for stewardship S2 S1 M5 Wetland Approval Water Act/Public Lands Act approval application Avoid, Minimize, Replace Replace Minimize Permittee replacement In lieu fee payment Offset Program Requireme nts Authorization decision process Avoid APPROVALS A1 A2 A3 A4 A7 A6 A5 A9 A10 A8 Financial fund(s) Non- Restorative Restorative Allocation FINANCIAL F3 F1 F2 F4 Ambient monitoring Restorative MONITORING M1 Financial M2 Non-Restorative M3 Mitigation compliance M4 Relative Wetland Value Map (RWVM) PLANNING Landscape- level Wetland Manageme nt Objectives P2 Provincial Land- Use Planning Processes P1 P5 Mechanism s to translate into operational decisions P10 Informs municipal and non- Water Act/Public Lands Act decision processes P11 How do landscape -level objectives become operationa l? P3 Wetland Inventory P6 Restoration Inventory P7 Conservatio n Priorities Inventory P8 Relative weighting at landscape informed by distribution and abundanc e P9 Remote Relative Wetland Value Assessment s P4 All other attribute information (including other objective-setting such as muni) P12

14 Planning Strategic Governance (integration and alignment) – collaborative Provincial Wetland Inventory (continuous improvement) Relative Wetland Value Map (remote-based) Restoration/Conservation inventory and hierarchy Research Agenda Web Portal Abundance Modifier – Historical Loss

15 Regulatory Approvals Operational Guidance Manual for Wetland Mitigation –BMP, SOP, COP, FGR alignment, integration –Wetland classification (AWCS), delineation protocol –Decision frameworks for avoid/minimize/ replace and replacement allocation –Restoration hierarchy (collaborative) One-Window Approach for development applications –Water Act and Public Lands Act –Consideration for requirements under Fish and Wildlife Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act

16 Wetland Assessment On-site relative wetland value assessment tool: –Alberta Wetland Rapid Evaluation Tool (ABWRET) –Stratified sampling approach Qualified Wetland Science Practitioner –Qualifications, Competencies –Certification System ABWRET, Wetland Assessment Impact Report, wetland delineation, as appropriate –Possibly in conjunction with professional organizations in the Province: Biologists, Agrologists, Foresters, Geoscientists, Engineers

17 Financial System Financial Structure (funding mechanism) –External, Land Stewardship Fund, or enhanced existing Cost of in lieu fee payment Integration of Water Act and Public Lands Act requirements around wetland replacement –Class IV and V wetlands (permanent) Conservation Offsets –Wetland Offsets as the model program under the CO Framework –Working with the Alberta Association for Conservation Offsets

18 Wetland Replacement Technical guidelines and criteria: –Restoration, Enhancement, Securement, Construction –Collaborative Wetland Mitigation Agents: –Qualifications, Certification, Registration –Collaborative Data system for tracking of replacement activities: –Restorative (restore, enhance, construct) –Non-Restorative (Science, Education)

19 Enforcement, Compliance, and Monitoring Avoid, Minimize, Replace – compliance, enforcement Offset Tracking Data and Auditing Systems Wetland monitoring, evaluation, reporting (replacement and ambient) Monitoring Frameworks for: –Wetland replacement –Financial allocation –Unapproved loss –Policy monitoring

20 Wetland value and Wetland Policy education programs (in conjunction with partners) Wetland Stewardship Program –Incentives, recognition programs Wetland stewardship education Wetland database and reporting tool. –Performance measurement and reporting: development of performance metrics –Management objectives through regional planning processes (conservation areas, priority restoration areas, etc.). Evaluation, Reporting, & Stewardship

21 Next Steps White Area implementation – August 2014: –Key policy components to fully enable the work of approval writers; may not fully encompass all aspects of the management system. –Targeted stakeholder engagement on key policy components. Green Area implementation – August 2015: –Ongoing work to address nuances of peatland management and regulatory approvals processes, as they pertain to Crown Lands. –Additional stakeholder engagement on key policy components. Continuous improvement

22 Questions? Photo Credit: Clayton Spytz

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