Northwest Saskatchewan Sustainable Development Plan Land-Use Scenario Modelling

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment contracted the ALCES Group to conduct land-use scenario modelling in the Northwest Saskatchewan Plan Area (Figure 1). To support a regional planning process, ALCES® III and ALCES Mapper™ were used to examine possible economic, ecological and social outcomes of future land-use in an integrated manner. Understanding the potential cumulative effects of different land-use scenarios was anticipated to facilitate improved future planning and lead to more effective environmental assessment processes.

Land-use simulation modelling was conducted to explore and understand the potential outcomes of bitumen extraction, uranium mining, forestry, transportation and population and residential land-use scenarios for the region. Plausible, or likely, land-use scenarios were generated with input from Saskatchewan Government and industry domain experts. Low, moderate and high development scenarios were examined for each land-use sector, for a period of 50-years. The relative influence of important natural processes, such as fire, on ecological indicators was also investigated. Potential economic, social and ecological outcomes of the different scenarios were reported using a set of consistent indicators.

Two study areas, the entire Northwest Saskatchewan Plan Area, and the sub-regional E1 Landscape Area (Firebag Hills), were examined (Figure 1). The E1 Study Area overlays known oil sands (bitumen) resources, and was examined to better understand possible sub-regional effects of bitumen exploration and production. The Northwest Saskatchewan Plan area is 58,800 km2 in size, representing about nine percent of Saskatchewan.

Figure 1. Northwest Saskatchewan Plan Area, showing E1 sub-region.