04 Feb Biodiversity Management Frameworks
The Environmental Law Centre (ELC) has been involved with the Land Use Framework (LUF) and Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA) from the beginning. Its activities have included commenting on several cumulative effect management frameworks and conducting research on this topic.
The following feedback on the draft biodiversity management framework (“the framework”) for the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) is relevant to the same initiative in the North Saskatchewan, further regions, and to cumulative effects management generally.
The ELC’s recommendations are based on criteria for the evaluation of cumulative effects management frameworks. These criteria are appended to this letter. The ELC has also considered feedback from the Miistakis Institute, the Oldman Watershed Council, the Alberta Wilderness Association, the Porcupine Hills coalition, and agrees with the main points of those organizations.
The cumulative effects management frameworks are one of the more promising developments under the LUF as they embody a shift from the prior system and could achieve a purpose of ALSA. The biodiversity framework for the SSRP makes the significant step of recognizing the impact of land disturbance on biodiversity.
The framework includes the necessary components and reflects one best practice by endorsing choice of management actions. The monitoring approach is generally acceptable and the proposed actions include underused tools to reduce land disturbance.
However, the framework lacks most of the best practices for cumulative effects management, including:
- measurable objectives;
- the precautionary principle;
- clear limits;
- mandatory action; and
- a focus on proactive action before thresholds are exceeded.
Without these fundamentals the technical details will matter little. Concerning the details:
- The indicators avoids species at risk in specific sub-regions and sub-basins;
- The thresholds are vague, complicated and unprincipled; and,
- The management responses are mostly reactive, favor inaction, and the proposed actions receive no direct enablement from the framework itself.
The framework does not fix the current system of patchwork legislation, uncoordinated decision making, and inadequate conservation tools as intended by the LUF. Nor does it fill the provincial gap around species at risk. It actually perpetuates some negative features of ALSA and the SSRP, including: lack of substantive guidance, broad discretion, limited accountability for outcomes and limited participation in implementation. The framework is fairly concerned with causation and therefore may avoid regulatory impact on cumulative effects. Nor does it offer regulatory certainty, support or incentives to help overcome the socio-economic barriers to cumulative effects management.
In sum, the draft framework is unlikely to achieve the environmental outcomes of the LUF. The Alberta Government needs to take a step back and imagine the use of ALSA to implement regional plans and fill gaps in the current system. The ELC’s recommendations respond to that need.
The Environmental Law Centre (ELC) is a charity founded in 1982 to provide information, education, research and law reform services concerning environmental law. Its mission is to champion for strong laws and rights so that all Albertans can enjoy a healthy environment.
We provide our full submission for download here: BMF ELC Comments to assist other organizations seeking to provide input to government on related issues.
For more information, please visit the Alberta Land Use Framework website: https://landuse.alberta.ca/Pages/default.aspx