Conservation directives: an unknown and untested tool

Conservation directives: an unknown and untested tool

Conservation directives: an unknown and untested tool


When we think of protecting Alberta’s landscapes there are a variety of tools that are quite well understood and used: parks on public land, conservation easements on private land.  The Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA) greatly added to the conservation tool box by providing a variety of legal mechanisms to plan and manage for conservation purposes.

In particular conservation directives demands more exploration and consideration.  As a mechanism to manage and restrict land use, conservation directives could be lumped together with the ALSA provisions that were pilloried by those concerned by incursions on private property rights.   It need not be so however, as there are opportunities to pilot the directives on public land, with municipalities, and with land owners in a voluntary fashion.

The ELC report, Conservation Directives: an unknown and untested toolidentifies some potential pilot projects to stretch the wings of conservation directives.  The report also outlines the key legal aspects of the directives and identifies the need for regulations to guide their use.

On public land “conservation directives” may be likened to a municipal “direct control district”, a tool to clearly manage land development for conservation outcomes.   For municipal planning, conservation directives may be a good voluntary way to manage around key ecological, hydrological or aesthetic attributes.

The directives also offer planners and landscape managers an opportunity implement cumulative effects management.  Conservation directives are a potent yet flexible conservation tool that can be embedded in regional plans and it is time we test their potential.



The Environmental Law Centre (ELC) has been seeking strong and effective environmental laws since it was founded in 1982. The ELC is dedicated to providing credible, comprehensive and objective legal information regarding natural resources, energy and environmental law, policy and regulation in Alberta. The ELC’s mission is to educate and champion for strong laws and rights so all Albertans can enjoy clean water, clean air and a healthy environment. Our vision is a society where laws secure an environment that sustains current and future generations.

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