The New Era of Wetland Conservation in Alberta

On June 1st 2015, the Government of Alberta released the highly-anticipated implementation directives for Alberta’s Settled Area. These new directives support the provincial Wetland Policy, previously released in 2013, that was developed in response to a significant loss of wetland area. We asked Golder’s Senior Wildlife and Wetland Biologist, Dr. Jonathan Thompson a few questions on what this means for Industry.

How will this new policy impact those looking to develop areas that have wetlands?

Alberta has gone from having a relatively simple wetland compensation process that uses wetland area as a proxy for wetland function, to a much more complicated process based on the concept of ‘relative wetland value.’ The premise, that not all wetlands are equally valuable, will significantly increase assessment responsibilities for development proponents.

Will wetland compensation cost more under this policy?

The policy is not a true no-net-loss policy anymore. This has opened up a broader range of replacement (previously referred to as compensation) options to development proponents. More detail on the actual cost of compensation will become apparent with the release of the Wetland Mitigation Directive in 2016.

In the interim, will a significant amount of work be required to assess wetlands?

Yes, the new assessment process is complex. The Government of Alberta would prefer to see no impact to wetlands as a result of development. By considering wetlands earlier in the land selection process, development proponents can mitigate or avoid wetland impacts. If these impacts are unavoidable, assessing the relative value of the wetland is not only required, but will also determine the level of compensation.

Dr. Thompson has held a series of sold-out seminars on the Wetland Policy Directives in Calgary and Edmonton. For further information, on these or any future seminars he can be contacted at Jonathan_Thompson@golder.com.

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