Offsets are an important market-based tools to help meet conservation and stewardship values on private agricultural land. Offsets were identified through the South Saskatchewan Regional Planning process.
While offsets are not new in Alberta, this pilot project focused on testing a voluntary, market-based approach to address industrial impacts on southeast Alberta’s native grasslands. This was done through long-term contracts with private landowners to convert marginal cultivated lands to native perennial species. Key components for an offset system need to be considered at a local scale before being tested more broadly in Alberta.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, formerly Agriculture and Rural Development, was asked to lead a pilot project and assembled the Southeast Alberta Conservation Offset Pilot Team.
Conservation offsets are actions that compensate for the unavoidable ecological losses arising from land development. Offsets are the third step in the mitigation hierarchy to address any impacts from residual development after avoidance and onsite mitigation have been done.
Conservation offsets in other jurisdictions have helped industry, landowners and government to reduce the impacts of land development, thus promoting biodiversity, species at risk habitat and healthy ecosystems.
Facilitation and technical support were provided by the Ministry in cooperation with:
- Ministry of Environment and Parks, formerly Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
- Alberta Conservation Association
- Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, now Innotech Alberta
- University of Calgary
- University of Alberta
- LandWise Inc.
The Alberta Conservation Association staff helped inform how a qualified non-government organization could play an important third-party role linking industry offset buyers with landowner offset providers. This included requirements related to planning, contracting, verification and monitoring. Expertise, research and evaluation were also provided through LandWise Inc., University of Calgary, University of Alberta, Alberta Innovates and other team members.
Industry representatives provided input to metric development and may voluntarily purchase offsets. Agricultural landowners provided input and may voluntarily provide offsets through a third-party contract.