General regulations and guidelines
A Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ) is designated under the Public Lands Administration Regulation in Alberta. A PLUZ is a tool for managing recreational activity while considering other land uses.
- A PLUZ is created for a specific land base and the unique conditions that exist within that land base.
- A PLUZ is established to better manage recreation that occurs in a specific area.
- PLUZ conditions are designed primarily to protect areas containing sensitive resources and managing conflict between recreation and other activities like industrial and commercial land uses.
- PLUZs are not designated as parks or protected areas.
- Currently, there are 19 PLUZs designated on public land in Alberta
In the Province of Alberta, all visitors to a Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ) must:
- obey signs and posted notices
- obey the instructions of any Government of Alberta staff
- leave the land in a clean and tidy condition
You must know and abide by the specific regulations for the PLUZ you are visiting!
Each PLUZ may have conditions and regulations that are specific to that land base. Most PLUZs are found along the eastern slopes of Alberta, while two are in the Upper Athabasca Region. A map is available for you to find out more information about the PLUZ you plan to visit. See Public Land Use Zones (ZIP, 17.2 MB) for further information.
Camping in a PLUZ
- Camp at least 100 metres from lakes and streams.
- Ensure your camping facilities are temporary and portable.
- Leave vegetation and live trees undisturbed.
- Limit your stay to 14 days.
Hunting and vehicle access restrictions
Hunters are reminded that the boundaries of Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) and PLUZs may overlap and all, or portions of, WMUs may have vehicle access restrictions.
It is unlawful to hunt or discharge firearms within 365 metres (400 yards) of the centreline of the road in a designated road corridor within WMUs that overlap PLUZs, unless authorized.
Fires in PLUZs
Responsible use of campfires for cooking or warming purposes, in accordance with the Forest Prairie and Protection Act, are permitted within PLUZs. However, some PLUZs allow fires in designated camping areas only and/or have other restrictions. In some PLUZs, fires must be 1 km from a roadway. Please refer to the specific information provided for the PLUZ you will be visiting.
Fires are not permitted when firebans are in effect. If available, use existing campfire facilities, portable camping stoves, or fire pits.
To learn about the status of fire bans across Alberta, visit Alberta Fire Bans.
Activities allowed in PLUZs
In some PLUZs motorized recreation is permitted, in others it is not.
Most non-motorized activities are permitted within PLUZs, in accordance with the regulation.
Refer to the PLUZ you plan to visit for regulations regarding the activities that are and are not permitted.
Grazing, feeding and tethering horses
The grazing and tethering of horses is not allowed within 100 metres of lakes and streams in some PLUZs. This requirement prevents water contamination and erosion of shorelines.
Equestrian users are encouraged to high-line their horses to prevent damage to roots.
In certain areas of PLUZs, horse users are required to provide their own feed. Providing supplemental feed for horses prevents overgrazing and ensures adequate forage for wildlife. In addition, using weed-free feed helps to prevent the spread of noxious weeds.
Responsible use of PLUZs
As a recreationist, it is important to become familiar with the laws under the Public Land Administration Regulation (PLAR) and comply with:
- Orders, instructions and directions from Government of Alberta staff (Officer).
- Instructions, prohibitions, and directions contained in posted signs and notices.
- Actions that, in the opinion of the Officer, are dangerous to life or property, or detrimental to the management or use of any road, trail or route.
When you visit public lands, remember to:
- Keep the land and amenities in satisfactory condition.
- Remove all garbage for disposal at home or at an approved garbage disposal facility. Restore the land to a clean and tidy condition.
- Refrain from cutting, removing or damaging any living trees or vegetation.
- Refrain from depositing harmful materials (such as sediment, pollution, greywater or sewage) into any water or onto ice of any watercourse or water body.
- Adhere to fire bans and closures.
Fish and Wildlife Officers, RCMP, Conservation Officers, Sheriffs and municipal enforcement officers routinely patrol PLUZs to monitor compliance and ensure public safety and responsible recreation throughout the province. This work is a collaborative effort involving all levels of government.
Specified penalties and tickets
One of the enforcement tools the province has is the ability to issue on-the-spot tickets for public land offences. Enforcement officers have the discretion to issue tickets and/or require a court appearance for contravention of the regulations.
Some offences incur specific fine amounts, called a “specified penalty”. Specified penalty amounts for offences under the Public Lands Administration Regulation (PLAR) range from $100 to $500, depending upon the nature of the violation. Violations may include traveling off an OHV trail in a PLUZ, occupying a site for longer than 14 days, or disobeying a sign and/or notice.
For information on the types of violation tickets with specified penalties that can be issued, see: Public land access.
Motorized vehicle access
On and off highway vehicle restrictions apply in PLUZs and may limit:
- vehicle type and size
- trail access
- seasons open to vehicle use
No motorized vehicles are permitted to leave the road other than to use trails designated for an off-highway vehicle (OHV).
Trail designations indicate the maximum vehicle width accepted for the trail. Vehicles the same width or smaller than those indicated are allowed.
In PLUZs that have restrictions in place, there may be exceptions to permit motorized vehicle access, but only in the following circumstances:
- Restrictions do not apply to vehicles involved in government resource management activities or vehicles used to transport sick, injured or deceased persons. Such motorized vehicles may be used in restricted areas.
- Some motorized vehicles used by trappers are allowed within the limits of registered trapping areas. A permit is required and timing restrictions apply.
- Ministerial approval may be given for motorized vehicle use for special research in a zone.
- Motorized vehicles used for industrial activity are allowed by permit if a disposition has been approved for that activity by the Minister of Environment and Parks (AEP).
Industrial activity in PLUZs
Industry operates under the existing regulatory framework that applies to all public land, including PLUZs.
This means that proposals for industrial development and activities within PLUZs are evaluated through a review and approval processes that exist for all public land.
Recreation structures on public land
Structures and improvements to land within a Public Land Use Zone must be approved by AEP.
Failure to obtain departmental approval can result in enforcement actions.
Developing and managing trails and sites
AEP strongly values the assistance of volunteers and user groups that promote responsible recreation and who develop, maintain and rehabilitate recreation trails and sites on public lands.
Trail development requirements
The development (example: mountain bike technical trail features), maintenance or rehabilitation of recreation resources on public land requires prior approval by AEP.
Failure to contact AEP before commencing the work is in contravention of the Public Lands Act and could lead to enforcement actions.
Report Bad Behaviour
The forests, meadows, rivers and wetlands of Alberta benefit us all. If you see someone damaging or abusing Alberta’s public land, call 1-800-642-3800 to report the following:
- what occurred
- the date, time and location
- the vehicle and license plate number
- a description of the person or people causing the damage
- your name and phone number
Connect with AEP if you wish to develop, take over the maintenance, or reclaim any recreation infrastructure or impacted areas on public lands: Environment and Parks contacts – Overview.