Southern Foothills Study

This multi-stakeholder project examined the historical, current and future landuses occurring along the East Slopes of Southwest Alberta. The results were used to inform community groups and citizens as to the pace of land use and the various consequences of landuse to a suite of social, economic, and ecological indicators.

The southern foothills region of Alberta is a land of spectacular scenery and the province’s symbolic postcard. It provides important economic, ecological and social benefits far beyond its geographic boundary and, perhaps most importantly, it is a key watershed. It also harbours one of Alberta’s richest diversity of plants and animals. These are assets from which all Albertans benefit. A large part of this landscape is still ecologically intact and relatively unfragmented. This nearly pristine status, however, is changing rapidly due to significant development pressure from the energy and forest sectors, recreational users, intensive agricultural operations, and residential acreages. All of these uses provide benefits to the provincial economy, yet they also bring significant liabilities such as land and water disturbance, habitat fragmentation, and invasive weed infestations. When we consider the development pressures on the foothills we come to a fundamental question: How do we respect and protect the essential qualities and existing valuable assets of this landscape while still allowing some acceptable levels and types of anthropogenic activity and change over time? We need to approach this land with the attitude that we are not so much entitled to use it for our own purposes, as we are responsible to steward it wisely for current and future generations. In the fall of 2005 a group of landowners came together at Chain Lakes and agreed that to understand the issues, discuss the problem intelligently, and examine solutions, they would need a scientific approach. As a result they hired Dr. Brad Stelfox of Forem Technologies to conduct a cumulative effects study on three million acres of the southern East Slopes to determine the current state of the landscape today as well as to project landuse changes fifty years into the future. This became known as the Southern Foothills Study.