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Recommended Conservation Approach for the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan

The regional land use planning process is the best chance this generation has to re‐balance land uses in Alberta’s Lower Athabasca region to ensure boreal forest ecological values are sustained. The Regional Advisory Council can create a wonderful legacy by recommending conservation areas for half this region. It is also crucial that, outside these protected areas, intensive oil sands in situ and mining operations are kept to the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) recommended active lease areas of no more than 15% of the landscape at any time, and that other land uses such as forestry and motorized access are carefully managed to sustain ecological values.

Introduction

As part of Alberta’s Lower Athabasca region planning process, the following environmental nongovernment organizations (ENGOs) are making this submission to the Lower Athabasca Regional Advisory Council and the Government of Alberta based on our review of the Terms of Reference for the regional plan and regarding land conservation outcomes we believe are necessary to achieve a balance
of environmental, economic and social objectives in the region:

  • Alberta Wilderness Association
  • Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Northern Alberta
  • Federation of Alberta Naturalists

The Canadian boreal forest, of which the Lower Athabasca planning region (LAR) is a part, is one of the most important intact ecosystems left in the world due to its species biodiversity, freshwater ecological services, and carbon storage. As the Terms of Reference for Developing the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan note, the science‐based Canadian Boreal Forest Conservation Framework has set a goal to protect
at least 50% of Canada’s boreal region in a network of large interconnected protected areas. An equally important Framework goal is to support world‐leading ecosystem‐based resource management and stewardship practices across the remaining landscape. We are encouraged by the explicit recognition in the TOR of the important role that protected areas play in sustainable land management. It is equally
important that the amount and location of conservation areas is guided by science and desired conservation outcomes.

Other jurisdictions have recently made major progress towards these goals. The Government of Canada is greatly expanding Northwest Territories protected areas. The Government of Québec has committed to protect half of the 70% of Quebec territory north of the 49th parallel, with the other half developed sustainably. The Government of Ontario has committed to an interconnected network of protected
areas for at least half of the northern 42% of its territory. In northeastern Alberta there are still areas of excellent, globally‐significant intact ecosystems. Through the Land Use Framework conservation strategy, the Government of Alberta has a tremendous opportunity to achieve this 50% goal in the Lower Athabasca.

Please click here for detailed Recommended Conservation Approach in PDF.

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