Conservation offsets are compensatory actions that address the unavoidable ecological losses arising from development. Offsets are the third step in the mitigation hierarchy to address any residual development impacts following avoidance and onsite mitigation. While offsets are not new in Alberta, this pilot is looking at a voluntary, market based approach to address industrial growth impacts on southeast Alberta’s native grasslands by contracting with private landowners to convert marginal cultivated lands to native perennial species. Conservation offsets in other jurisdictions have helped industry, land owners, and government to reduce the impacts of land development, thus promoting biodiversity, species at risk habitat and healthy ecosystems.
About this project
Offsets are one of the important market based tools identified through the South Saskatchewan Regional Planning process to help meet conservation and stewardship values on private agricultural land. Key components for an offset system need to be considered at a local scale before being tested more broadly in Alberta. Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) were asked to lead a pilot project and assembled the Southeast Alberta Conservation Offset Pilot Team.
Who was involved
Facilitation and technical support is being provided by ARD in cooperation with Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), Alberta Conservation Association (ACA), Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF), University of Calgary (U of C), University of Alberta (U of A) and LandWise Inc. ACA staff will play an important third-party role linking industry offset buyers with landowner offset providers, including requirements related to planning, contracting, verification and monitoring. Expertise, research and evaluation are being provided through LandWise Inc., U of C, U of A, AITF and Pilot Team members. Industry representatives have provided input to metric development and may voluntarily purchase offsets. Agricultural landowners have provided input and may voluntarily provide offsets through a third party contract.