The Alberta Wetland Policy provides the strategic direction and tools required to:
- allow for continued growth and economic development in the province
- make informed management decisions in the long-term interest of Albertans
- minimize the loss and degradation of wetlands
The goal of the Alberta Wetland Policy is to conserve, restore, protect and manage Alberta's wetlands to sustain the benefits they provide to the environment, society and economy. To achieve this goal, the policy will focus on 4 outcomes:
- wetlands of the highest value are protected for the long-term benefit of Albertans
- wetlands and their benefits are conserved and restored in areas where losses have been high
- wetlands are managed by avoiding, minimizing and if necessary, replacing lost wetland value
- wetland Management considers regional context
Wetland Management System
Five key concepts and mechanisms are crucial to the successful implementation of a provincial wetland management system under the Alberta Wetland Policy:
1. Relative Wetland Value
In the Alberta Wetland Policy, determining relative wetland value is the first step in its Wetland Management System. The relative wetland value approach evaluates individual wetlands based on 5 key criteria to determine if they rate:
- Low (D)
- Moderately low (C)
- Moderate (B)
- High (A)
The Policy recognizes that not all wetlands are equal. Some provide more value than others in terms of how they impact water quality, groundwater, biodiversity and human uses.
The 5 criteria examined are:
- Water Quality Improvement
- Flood Reduction
- Human Value
2. Wetland mitigation
Under the Policy, mitigation refers to management activities undertaken to avoid and minimize negative impacts on wetlands, and to replace lost wetlands where necessary.
The primary and preferred response is to avoid impacts to wetlands. Where avoidance is not possible, proponents are expected to minimize impacts on wetlands. As a last resort, and where avoidance and minimization efforts are not feasible or prove ineffective, wetland replacement is required.
Where achievable, wetlands will be replaced type-for-type (for example, the same area and value of wetland would replace the one that was removed from the landscape). Where this is not achievable, wetland replacement will seek to replace wetlands of a comparable value and ideally in the same area as the original loss.
Note that wetland replacement can be "restorative" or "non-restorative".
- Restorative - replacement activities attempt to make up for permanent wetland loss through restoration, enhancement or construction of another wetland.
- Non-restorative - a variety of alternatives that must support the maintenance of wetland value by advancing the state of wetland science and wetland management.
3. Knowledge and information systems
A broad range of integrated data products or tools will be required to support and enable the Alberta Wetland Policy. Examples include the tools listed on the Alberta Wetland Policy Implementation web page as well as certification systems for Qualified Wetland Science Practitioners and Wetland Restoration Agents.
4. Performance measures, monitoring and reporting
The Alberta Wetland Policy, its administration, and its effectiveness will be evaluated and reported on periodically to ensure that the stated goal and outcomes are being met.
5. Wetland stewardship
The Policy recognizes that wetland stewardship is an important component of effective wetland management in Alberta. A range of initiatives are under development to encourage wetland stewardship activities that will help sustain the benefits of wetlands.
All Albertans are encouraged to enable wetland conservation and protection through voluntary stewardship activities.
This could include:
- assisting with the management of a wetland site
- considering establishing a conservation easement for wetlands
- ensuring your wetlands or neighbours do not get encroached on or damaged
- keeping pesticides and fertilizers away from wetlands on your property
- learning more about wetlands and their diversity and protection