ALCES Based Project Reports

Year Title (Author, Description) File Download
2008

Towards Acceptable Change: A Thresholds Approach to Manage Cumulative Effects of Land Use Change in the Southern Foothills of Alberta

Peggy Holroyd; Univ. of Calgary Dissertation

In September 2005, a group of landowners, industry, environmental groups and local governments launched an ALCES project to assess the cumulative impact of future land use in southwest Alberta, called the Southern Foothills Study (SFS). The project was created in response to local concerns over the potential impact of growing land use development and the desire for a stakeholder-driven land use planning process. At the outset of the project, three components of environmental and socioeconomic value were identified by the SFS members: fescue grassland, grizzly bears, and water. This research builds upon the work of the SFS to look at how thresholds can be used to help manage the cumulative effects of land use activity on the valued ecosystem components. Candidate thresholds for the valued components were identified through a literature review and interviews with key informants. In a workshop with member of the SFS, the candidate thresholds were evaluated from a social perspective. Alternative scenarios of development were developed to explore the implications of setting thresholds on land use development and activity. Recommendations for thresholds-based management of cumulative effects are provided, considering regulatory and land management processes in Alberta.

Towards-Acceptable-Change.pdf
2008

Chief Mountain Study Executive Summary

Silvatech Consulting

Background The Chief Mountain Study (CMS) is a grassroots driven study directed by a multistakeholder, consensus-based working group that includes government, industry, First Nations, landowners, NGO’s and Parks Canada. The study arose from local concern about land-use trends and their associated long-term impacts on landscape level indicators such as groundwater stocks, surface water quality, grizzly bear, and native grasslands. The study area is located in the southwestern portion of Alberta including: Cardston County, the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, the Kainai and Piikani First Nations’ reserves and Waterton National Park. The area covers roughly 925,000 hectares (2.28 million acres) and is predominantly cultivated agriculture (43% of study area), native origin grasslands (30% of study area) and forests (18% of study area). Human footprint currently covers about 2% of the study area. • Key Findings of the Study Emerging Land use Trends • Growth in settlements and transportation networks represent significant threats to grassland integrity in the region. • Acreages are on track to surpass agricultural residences in area. • Wind turbines are becoming a significant land use. They have a relatively small footprint but a potentially high visual impact. • The area needed for recreational activities is increasing rapidly and is expected to surpass the energy sector footprint before 2057. • Hydrocarbon sector footprint growth is projected to be relatively low compared with other land uses. • Conventional oil, natural gas, and coal bed methane activity is projected to be substantially less than projected in the adjacent Southern Foothills Study. Emerging Environmental Trends • The amount of water held in shallow groundwater aquifers is declining. • Livestock and humans are primarily responsible for the continuing declines in surface water quality. • Native grassland integrity (area presence) is projected to decline. • Forest fragmentation is forecasted to increase. • Grizzly Bear populations are likely to decline. Study Description The purpose of the study was to assess the potential cumulative effects of land use and footprint growth within the study area if their current trends continue for the next 50 years. The ALCES computer simulation model was chosen to assist with projection, analysis and reporting of the changes brought about by natural ecological processes and human land-use. The CMS assessed 4 scenarios: a base case & 3 sensitivity scenarios. The base case scenario simulated the way things are occurring today to continue over the next 50 years and is intended to be used as a benchmark for comparing outcomes tested in other scenarios or sensitivities. Model projections into the future are never made with total certainty. Sensitivity analysis is an approach designed to help assess risk and uncertainty associated with model assumptions. This study included 3 sensitivity analyses; 2 were based on changing land use rates of development and 1 was based on assessing the risk associated with the range of estimates from the best available data about current groundwater aquifer volumes. Land Use Sectors Modelled The CMS modelled human-based activity including: energy & mining, forestry, agriculture & livestock, transportation, human settlements, general industry, and recreation. The CMS also modelled natural processes including fire and insect disturbance events. Model data was obtained from: the Southern Alberta Sustainability Strategy (Government of Alberta), Southern Foothills Study, Apache Canada Ltd., Shell Canada, Statistics Canada, Canadian Wind Energy Association, Hydrogeological Consultants Ltd., CMS stakeholder group, Forem Technologies and Silvatech Consulting Ltd.

Chief-Mountain-Study-Executive-Summary.pdf
2007

Seeking a Balance: Assessing the Future Impacts of Conservation and Development in the Mackenzie Watershed

Matt Carlson, Erin Bayne, Brad Stelfox; Canadian Boreal Initiative

This study explored how development of the Mackenzie watershed’s natural resources may transform the region over the next 100 years. Our intention was two-fold. First, at a general level, we sought to increase awareness of the Mackenzie watershed and how impending economic development may alter one of the world’s most intact ecosystems. Second, and more importantly, we evaluated the capacity of the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework to balance economic development with conservation of the watershed’s ecological integrity. To explore the future effects of development to the Mackenzie watershed, land-use simulations were conducted for the AlbertaPacific Forest Management Agreement area (Al-Pac FMA) in northeastern Alberta and a southern portion of the Dehcho Territory (southern Dehcho) in the Northwest Territories. The Al-Pac FMA is one of the most heavily developed portions of this watershed and contains a substantial portion of the Athabasca oil sands, which is the second largest oil deposit in the world. The southern Dehcho is rich in gas deposits but, unlike the Al-Pac FMA, development has been limited to date. Together, these two study areas provided an opportunity to assess and compare development impacts and conservation opportunities in areas where the allocation of natural resources to development is currently high (Al-Pac FMA) and low (southern Dehcho). The effects of development over a 100-year time frame were assessed using the ALCES computer model. ALCES simulated land use in each study area under two development scenarios. A business-as-usual scenario was simulated to explore the effects of expected resource development and conventional conservation strategies. A Boreal Forest Conservation Framework (Framework) scenario was also simulated to explore the effects of an increased conservation effort. In keeping with the Framework, the scenario consisted of increased levels of protection and strategies to mitigate disturbance from resource development. The conservation strategies implemented in the Framework scenario reflected those proposed by Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries and the Dehcho First Nations. In the Al-Pac FMA, the strategies were to increase the area protected from three percent to six percent of the study area, to maintain old forest in the managed landscape, and to minimize the area impacted by industrial disturbances. In the southern Dehcho, the strategies were to increase the area protected from zero to 48 percent of the study area and to minimize the area impacted by industrial disturbances. In both study areas, the business-as-usual scenario resulted in an increased density of linear disturbances and a decreased area of older productive softwood forest. Changes to the density of linear disturbances and area of older productive softwood forest often exceeded disturbance thresholds that have been proposed to protect against negative effects to wildlife, which suggested that business-as-usual development is not sustainable. The conservation strategies that formed the Framework scenario reduced landscape disturbance, often to within the boundaries of disturbance thresholds. In the southern Dehcho, the density of linear disturbances remained below the disturbance threshold and half of the study area was kept free from industrial disturbance. Decline in the area of older productive softwood forest was not avoided because non-productive forest dominated the protected areas, thus illustrating the importance of adequately protecting all forest types. In the Al-Pac FMA, application of the Framework scenario was able to avoid decline in the area of older productive softwood forest. The linear disturbance threshold was exceeded, however, demonstrating that it will be challenging to avoid negative ecological effects of development in the southern Mackenzie watershed. The ecological implications of simulated landscape transformations were evaluated in greater detail by assessing impacts to woodland caribou and bird populations. The assessment was completed using wildlife models based on data collected from northern Alberta. Five bird species were included: the blackthroated green warbler, bay-breasted warbler and Canada warbler, which are species associated with older forest; the ovenbird, which is a species associated with mature forest; and the white-throated sparrow, which is a species associated with younger forest and much more common than the others. Simulations of a business-as-usual scenario predicted that the woodland caribou population would decline in both study areas, indicating that the species is likely to be extirpated unless conservation strategies are improved. In the southern Dehcho, the simulation predicted a 21-percent decline in ovenbird and bay-breasted warbler populations and a 32-percent decline in a

Seeking-a-Balance.pdf
2008

Chief Mountain Study - A Forecast of Land Use Cumulative Effects (presentation)

Barry Wilson and Mark Hudson, Silvatech Consulting

Background The Chief Mountain Study (CMS) is a grassroots driven study directed by a multistakeholder, consensus-based working group that includes government, industry, First Nations, landowners, NGO’s and Parks Canada. The study arose from local concern about land-use trends and their associated long-term impacts on landscape level indicators such as groundwater stocks, surface water quality, grizzly bear, and native grasslands. The study area is located in the southwestern portion of Alberta including: Cardston County, the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, the Kainai and Piikani First Nations’ reserves and Waterton National Park. The area covers roughly 925,000 hectares (2.28 million acres) and is predominantly cultivated agriculture (43% of study area), native origin grasslands (30% of study area) and forests (18% of study area). Human footprint currently covers about 2% of the study area. • Key Findings of the Study Emerging Land use Trends • Growth in settlements and transportation networks represent significant threats to grassland integrity in the region. • Acreages are on track to surpass agricultural residences in area. • Wind turbines are becoming a significant land use. They have a relatively small footprint but a potentially high visual impact. • The area needed for recreational activities is increasing rapidly and is expected to surpass the energy sector footprint before 2057. • Hydrocarbon sector footprint growth is projected to be relatively low compared with other land uses. • Conventional oil, natural gas, and coal bed methane activity is projected to be substantially less than projected in the adjacent Southern Foothills Study. Emerging Environmental Trends • The amount of water held in shallow groundwater aquifers is declining. • Livestock and humans are primarily responsible for the continuing declines in surface water quality. • Native grassland integrity (area presence) is projected to decline. • Forest fragmentation is forecasted to increase. • Grizzly Bear populations are likely to decline. Study Description The purpose of the study was to assess the potential cumulative effects of land use and footprint growth within the study area if their current trends continue for the next 50 years. The ALCES computer simulation model was chosen to assist with projection, analysis and reporting of the changes brought about by natural ecological processes and human land-use. The CMS assessed 4 scenarios: a base case & 3 sensitivity scenarios. The base case scenario simulated the way things are occurring today to continue over the next 50 years and is intended to be used as a benchmark for comparing outcomes tested in other scenarios or sensitivities. Model projections into the future are never made with total certainty. Sensitivity analysis is an approach designed to help assess risk and uncertainty associated with model assumptions. This study included 3 sensitivity analyses; 2 were based on changing land use rates of development and 1 was based on assessing the risk associated with the range of estimates from the best available data about current groundwater aquifer volumes. Land Use Sectors Modelled The CMS modelled human-based activity including: energy & mining, forestry, agriculture & livestock, transportation, human settlements, general industry, and recreation. The CMS also modelled natural processes including fire and insect disturbance events. Model data was obtained from: the Southern Alberta Sustainability Strategy (Government of Alberta), Southern Foothills Study, Apache Canada Ltd., Shell Canada, Statistics Canada, Canadian Wind Energy Association, Hydrogeological Consultants Ltd., CMS stakeholder group, Forem Technologies and Silvatech Consulting Ltd.

Chief-Mountain-Study-Final-Results-Presentation.pdf
2009

Valuation of water quantity for the Bow River Basin

Jonathan Holmes

An approach, and computation of estimating water quantity for the Bow River Basin in Alberta

Jonathan-Holmes-WATER-QUANTITY.docx
2009

Estimating the cost of water quality for the Bow River Basin in Alberta

Jonathan Holmes

Jonathan Holmes offer thoughts on approaches for computing water quality.

Jonathan-Holmes-WATER-QUALITY.docx
2004

Southern Alberta Landscapes: Meeting the Challenges Ahead - Input-Output Model

Suren Kulshreshtha and Russell Consulting

GoA Report on Economic Input Output Model involving ALCES

Input-Output-Economic-Models-for-Southern-Alberta-Landscapes.pdf
2007

The Changing Landscape of the Southern Alberta Foothills

Southern Alberta Land Trust and Brad Stelfox

Report of the Southern Foothills Study Business as Usual Scenario and Public Survey

Southern-Foothills-Study-Phase-1-and-2.pdf
2008

State of Baptiste Lake Watershed

Matt Carlson, ALCES Group - for the Baptiste Lake Watershed Stewardship Group

In response to concerns regarding the health of lakes in the region, summer villages at Baptiste, Island and Skeleton Lakes have formed the Baptiste, Island, and Skeleton Lakes Watershed Management and Lake Stewardship Council (BISL). BISL's vision for Baptiste Lake is to "maintain a healthy lake and watershed, recognizing the importance of living within the capacity of the natural environment and providing sustainable recreational, residential, agricultural, and industrial benefits". The State of the Watershed report contributes to achieving the vision by describing the current condition of the Baptiste Lake and its watershed, and assessing potential strategies to improve the health of the lake and watershed.

State-of-Baptiste-Lake-Watershed-report-2008.pdf
2009

Cumulative Effects Assessment of the North Saskatchewan River Watershed using ALCES

Dr. Michael Sullivan, ALCES Group - for the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance

The North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance (NSWA) was designated in 2005 as the Watershed Planning and Advisory Council (WPAC) for the North Saskatchewan River basin, under Water for Life: Alberta's Strategy for Sustainability. Part of its mandate as a WPAC is to prepare an Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP) for the North Saskatchewan River Basin (NSRB). This plan will include advice to the government of Alberta regarding the watershed values and trade-offs that are acceptable to a broad spectrum of stakeholders. As part of their work towards the IWMP, the NSWA desired to gain a better understanding of long-term, cumulative impacts of development on the watershed, and to highlight potential conflicts between development and sustainability. The NSWA engaged the ALCES® Group to undertake a high-level, strategic and exploratory cumulative effects modeling for the NSRB. Specifically, the NSWA-ALCES® cumulative effects assessment project is intended to simulate the effects of major land uses in the watershed (agriculture, forestry, urban, and petrochemical industry) on specific watershed “values” (i.e., biodiversity, landscape integrity, water quality, and water quantity) over a 100 year time span.

Cumulative-Effects-of-Land-Uses-in-the-North-Saskatchewan-River-Watershessd.pdf
2005

Looking Ahead: An Assessment of Potential Land Use Trends in Strathcona County

Daniel Farr and Brad Stelfox

Strathcona County is a unique municipality located northeast of Edmonton in Alberta's Capital Region. The juxtaposition of urban and rural areas governed by a single municipality has created an economically and culturally diverse community. It includes the hamlet of Sherwood Park, plus eight smaller hamlets, 900 farms and numerous country residential developments. Historically an agricultural-dominated area, the economic base of the region has evolved to include oil refineries, manufacturing and other heavy industry, and diverse retail and commercial operations. The County is strongly influenced by its proximity to the City of Edmonton, which is the commercial and transportation hub of northern Alberta. Edmonton provides numerous economic opportunities for Strathcona County businesses, and County residents frequently travel to and from Edmonton for work, recreation, health care, and a wide range of other metropolitan services. In turn, the County is also a destination for many Edmonton residents seeking a range of recreational and other activities. Steady growth in the urban and rural population, and a desire to grow and diversify the economy while maintaining traditional land uses such as agriculture, make it challenging to plan future land use development. The purpose of this study is to assess competing land uses and the cumulative effects of land use planning decisions in and around Strathcona County. A modeling approach is used to forecast

ALCES_Strathcona_Land_Use_Report.pdf
2011

Upper Bow River Basin Cumulative Effects Study - Brochure

Terry Antoniuk and Cornel Yarmoloy

The Upper Bow River Basin Cumulative Effects Study (UBBCES) was initiated by concerned citizens, groups, and organizations to investigate and better understand the potential cumulative effects that all land-uses could have on water availability, water quality, and other natural values in the Upper Bow River basin. The Steering Committee directing this study identified five primary concerns about social and environmental health and, in consultation with the authors, selected seven ecological and social indicators to represent these concerns. 
 Issue / Concern Indicator(s) Will there be enough water to meet the future needs of industry, acreages, Calgary residents, ranchers, farmers, and fish? - Surface water flow in Bow River at Carseland Weir reported as yearly total flow (in cubic metres). Will our children and grandchildren be able to rely on the Bow River and its tributaries for clean drinking water? - Relative Water Quality Index at Carseland Weir reported as value of combined nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment load relative to simulated non-industrial (natural) conditions. - Index of Native Foothills Fish Integrity reported as community health value relative to simulated non-industrial (natural) conditions. Will groundwater levels remain stable, decline, or increase? - Shallow groundwater supply reported as total volume at year end (in cubic metres). Will working farms and ranches remain? - Agricultural land area reported as ha in cropland, forage, and pasture. Will there be undisturbed natural areas that supply clean water and provide places in which our children and grandchildren can visit, hike, bike, and watch wildlife? - Unroaded 'natural' areas reported as areas greater than 200 m from linear corridors and man- made clearings. - Grizzly Bear Mortality Index reported as relative risk of bear death compared to simulated non-industrial (natural) conditions. The ALCES landscape cumulative effects (A Landscape Cumulative Effects Simulator) dynamic landscape model was used for this study to forecast the response of the seven indicators to different development approaches. Work was conducted in two phases. In Phase 1, relevant information was collected and the ALCES model was used to forecast potential outcomes of a ‘business as usual’ scenario. For Phase 2, the model was used to evaluate the potential benefits of applying ‘best practices’ identified by the Calgary Metropolitan Plan and Southern Foothills Study. Today, the Upper Bow River watershed is the most densely populated river basin in the province and the once wild, free flowing Upper Bow River has become the province's most controlled river with numerous dams and water diversions. These changes have allowed the region to prosper, but have created unplanned and unexpected effects on water quality, groundwater, wildlife, fish, and natural areas. The agriculture, residential, transportation, forestry, and energy sectors are the main human activities that have changed water and wildlife values in the basin over the last century. ALCES Phase 1 simulations suggested that continued population growth and demand for homes and resources will continue to convert agricultural lands and natural areas over the next two generations. Phase 2 best practices simulations identified some practical actions that municipalities, ranchers, resource companies, farmers, acreage owners, and city dwellers can initiate to minimize their direct and indirect effects on the region's waters, wildlife, and quality of life. 
 Surface Water Supply Water demand will increase in the Upper Bow River basin over the next two generations. With increasing water demand, withdrawals are projected to remove about 4% of total yearly flow under average conditions and up to 18% under low flow conditions. This suggests that in there will be enough surface water for all users upstream of the Carseland weir during average flow years. However, flows will become more variable and seasonal shortfalls are likely, particularly during dry years. The largest future demands for surface water come from Calgary and other communities. Phase 2 simulations confirm that domestic water conservation measures proposed by the City of Calgary will reduce average annual surface withdrawals by 1% over the next 70 years, a yearly reduction of about 151 million cubic metres. Continued emphasis on water conservation by other land-use sectors would also reduce risk of future supply shortfalls. The recently developed Bow River Operational Model (AWRI 2010) also suggests that flow manipulation can be used to accommodate future water demand while maintaining minimum flows and without negatively affecting water quality. 
 Water Quality UBBCES Phase 1 and 2 simulations indicate that the agriculture sector is currently the largest source of land-use nutrient and sediment loading in the Upper Bow basin. The residential sector and transportation sector are also relatively large sources of nutrients and sediment that reduce water quality. As land-use increases to support the growing regional population, nutrient and sediment loading will increase over the next 70 years, and further reduce water quality. Full implementation of best practices will be required to achieve the Bow River Basin Council's objective of maintaining or enhancing existing water quality (BRBC 2008). Best practices simulations demonstrate that measures being implemented by, or proposed by, the Calgary Metropolitan Plan and City of Calgary would have substantial benefits. Voluntary stewardship programs such as 'Cows and Fish' and 'Ranchers of the Jumpingpound' are beneficial. If all agricultural operators in the basin adopted best practices identified here, future nutrient and sediment loading would be reduced by as much as 50%, and this would help maintain downstream water quality. Adopting best practices such as maintaining a native vegetation buffer along streams and improving planning of future residential development would benefit water quality, fish, wildlife, and recreational users, and potentially decrease municipal water treatment costs. Other best practices would have local benefits that would also contribute to improved downstream water quality and integrity.
 Groundwater Supply Although data are very limited, computer simulations suggest that we are slowly depleting shallow groundwater in the Upper Bow River basin and that this decline will continue over the next 70 years. This drawdown is happening for two reasons: 1) we are pumping groundwater from wells faster than it is being naturally recharged; and 2) we are building more impervious 'hard' surfaces like roads and communities that reduce the groundwater recharge. The gap between withdrawal and recharge appears to be widening. At a local scale this will likely mean groundwater depletion in many of the more heavily populated rural residential areas and significant planning challenges for municipalities and developers. This could also reduce the amount of water available in the Bow River and its tributaries during winter and summer low flow periods when groundwater inflow into the river is important. While we currently have limited information about this unseen water source, given shallow groundwater's importance for future generations, recommendations to measure and manage it as carefully as we do our surface waters should be implemented. 
 Working Farms and Ranches Projections suggest that working farms and ranches will continue to be lost from the Upper Bow River basin as they are converted to acreage and residential development. The Calgary Metropolitan Plan lays out a new vision for urban and rural growth in the Upper Bow basin. This vision is designed to minimize future human footprint growth by almost 80,000 ha (to 123,100 ha instead of 202,600 ha) by increasing community and commercial density within communities and 'nodes', and protecting sensitive natural areas. UBBCES Phase 2 simulations suggest that just over one quarter of this reduced footprint (21,500 ha) could be retained as working farms and ranches. Natural Areas and Wildlife Relatively undisturbed 'natural' area has declined over the last century to three-quarters of the Upper Bow River basin. UBBCES Phase 1 and 2 projections show that the existing land-use transportation and infrastructure network in the Upper Bow River basin will need to expand substantially. This will reduce undisturbed natural area to just under 60% of the basin in 70 years with business as usual assumptions. The Calgary Metropolitan Plan's vision for reduced urban and rural residential growth would allow an additional 63,900 ha to remain unconverted in 70 years. This would also help maintain foothill and prairie grasslands which are poorly represented in the current protected areas network. Past increases in roads and disturbed area have resulted in documented declines in native fish and grizzly bear abundance, and modelling projections indicate that further declines are likely. Once access has been created, it has been very difficult to restrict public use, so managers lose the ability to fully reclaim corridors and reduce undesirable changes on bears, native fish, and sediment runoff. Phase 2 simulations show that access management to control human use of roads would benefit grizzly bears, native fish and other sensitive species by reducing legal and illegal mortality (an indirect effect of land-use).

UBBCES_Brochure_-Phase-2_Final_19052011.pdf
2011

Powerpoint Presentation: An Assessment of the Cumulative Effects of Land Uses in the Ghost River Watershed, Alberta - Presentation

Cornel Yarmoloy and Brad Stelfox

Refer to report under same name.

Ghost_Presentation----Cornel-Yarmoloy-and-Brad-Stelfox--Feb2011-.pdf
2003

Grizzly Bear Habitat Selection and Mortality Coefficients of Southern Alberta: Estimates for the Southern Alberta Regional Strategy (SARS)-ALCES Project

Scott Nielsen and Mark Boyce

Southern Alberta has witnessed substantial recent growth in local human population concurrent with an increasing demand on natural resources. This growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. A Southern Alberta Region Strategy (SARS) was formed to address potential economic and ecological benefits and/or impacts of projected regional change. To examine these relationships in a quantitative and structured manner, SARS settled on the use of A Landscape Cumulative Effects Simulator (ALCES). One resource sector outlined in SARS and modeled in ALCES is wildlife, with grizzly bears (Ursus arctos L.) chosen as one focal conservation species for the process. Grizzly bears are a species of special concern in Alberta, currently considered 'may be at risk'. For the ALCES modeling process, information on habitat relationships or habitat suitability indices (HSI) are required. In this report we describe the results of empirical modeling exercises undertaken to provide coefficients of habitat selection and mortality. We further provide suggestions for incorporating the two indices into a single synthetic index we refer to as exposure.

Southern-Alberta-ALCES-and-Grizzly-Bear-Habitat-Modeling.pdf
2008

Alberta Southern East Slopes Integrated Land Management Pilot Project (draft)

Brad Stelfox, Mark Anielski, Matt Carlson and Terry Antoniuk

The Southern East Slopes Integrated Land Management Pilot Project (SES Pilot) used a real landscape and real data from southwest Alberta to evaluate how selected ecological and economic ‘performance’ outcomes could be achieved through different land management scenarios and how such integrated evaluations might be of use for policy analysis, economic trade-off analysis, and land use decision making. Economic and ecological indicators were developed using an integrated Genuine Wealth Accounting system (i.e. integration of natural, financial, and social capital accounts) to account for the physical and qualitative conditions and the monetary value, where possible, of key ecological assets, including water, carbon, and land. These indicators were then used to simulate potential trade-offs among market and non-market resource values using the ALCES© model, including the influence of pre-defined land management objectives on these indicators.

ASPEN-Southern-East-Slopes-Report-_Draft-250908_.pdf
2011

Modeling Rangeland Community Structure in ALCES; Southern Alberta Sustainability Strategy (SASS)

Barry Adams and Brad Stelfox

Rangeland communities are not constant in structure (physiognomy), but change through time as they grow older, or when they are disturbed by various natural processes including fire, drought, and herbivory. Unlike forest communities, rangelands do not have to be reset to the youngest seral stage when they are affected by a natural disturbance. Instead, structural change varies depending on the intensity of the disturbance.

ALCES-Rangeland-Dynamics-Module--prepared-by-Barry-Adams.pdf
2012

Ghost River Watershed Cumulative Effects Study

Dr. Brad Stelfox, Cornel Yarmoloy

The watershed of the Ghost River lies in the upstream shadow of the burgeoning metropolis of Calgary and its surrounding bedroom communities. The Ghost River watershed possesses an exceptional abundance of natural resources, including forests, grasslands, rivers, diverse flora and fauna, and majestic scenery. It also hosts an abundance of consumptive natural resources including wood fiber, livestock forage, hydrocarbons, and wildlife and fish. During recent decades, a rapid increase in intensity of several landuses has occurred, as forestry, livestock grazing, oil and gas extraction, rural residential, hunting, and non-motorized and motorized recreation have all grown to satisfy increasing regional demand. The historical management paradigm of the Government of Alberta for the East Slopes is best described as “multiple use”. This strategy reflects the belief that multiple overlapping land uses can co-occur without meaningfully compromising the performance of key ecological, social, and economic indicators. Increasingly, quantitative and subjective assessments by the scientific community and the public have shown that the laissez-faire nature of the government’s “multiple use” formula is no longer serving society well. In 2011, a Phase 1 report examining the cumulative effects of “business-as-usual” land uses within the Ghost River watershed identified a number of challenges to maintaining acceptable performance levels of ecological, industrial, and recreation indicators. Projections using the ALCES landscape simulator (www.alces.ca) quantified past and potential future declines in water quality, recreation potential, fish and wildlife indicators, and problems with sustainable forestry. The Phase I report can be downloaded from http://www.ghostwatershed.ca/GWAS/Home.html. The Ghost River Watershed Alliance Society received funding from the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation and the Calgary Foundation to explore and assess beneficial management practices (BMP) that have the potential to improve performance of indicators relative to the business-as-usual (BAU) practices explored in Phase 1. Through a series of four independently facilitated workshops, the GWAS sought to engage local and regional communities, recreationalists, and government representatives in exploring potential solutions to enhance sustainable land stewardship for the watershed. Information obtained from these workshops was augmented with data obtained from other relevant projects examining the interface between BMP and ecological goods and services in Alberta’s east slopes. Based on guidance obtained from BMP workshops and other studies (Southern Foothills Study, Upper Bow Basin Cumulative Effects Study, South Saskatchewan Regional Plan), the following issues and BMP were explored for the Ghost River Study: Issue: High level of landscape fragmentation BMP: -Accelerated rates of reclamation of linear features such as seismic lines, minor roads, inblock forestry roads, and non-designated off-highway vehicle trails Issue: High levels of vehicle accessibility BMP: -Restriction of off-highway vehicle (OHV) activity to an engineered and designated OHV trail system that minimizes adverse effects on erosion and wildlife and provides safe and enjoyable OHV activity. -Enforcement increased to minimize off-highway vehicle use on non-designated trails and contain use to a designated vehicle trail network Issue: High Level of Watershed Discontinuity BMP: Increased replacement of “washed out” or “hung” stream culverts Issue: Loss of Riparian Habitat, Forest Structure, Wood Security BMP: -Reduction of current annual allowable forestry harvest commensurate with increased in-block retention of trees, and increased buffers along watercourses and ephemeral streams Issue: Reduced Water Quality from Elevated Nutrient Runoff BMP: -Increased protective buffers along streams found within cutblocks and in croplands -Restrictions of livestock from streams through off-stream watering and salting -Accelerated reclamation of unvegetated trails that are not part of the designated trail network Issue: Reduced Water Quality caused by human waste BMP: -Provision of sanitation facilities at trail heads and designated campsites Installment of advanced septic field technologies at rural residential sites Relative to the “business-as-usual” simulations, the simulated adoption of beneficial management practices in the Ghost River Watershed improved all ecological indicators. Landscape level improvements in ecological indicators included a decrease in Grizzly Bear Mortality index, an increase in the Index of Native Fish Integrity, an improvement in water quality, an increase in recreation potential of the watershed, and a level of forest harvest that is more likely to be sustainable. The results of this study highlight the significant opportunities to government agencies, land use sectors, and various recreational groups, to minimize loss of ecological goods and services and improve the sustainability of the Ghost River Watershed. Justification for adopting these practices are equally defensible from social, economic, and ecological perspectives. This work by the Ghost River Watershed Alliance Society is intended to catalyze a new conversation about sustainable management of the Ghost River watershed based on full cost accounting of a comprehensive list of performance indicators. The take-home message of this project is decidedly pro-landuse, but one in which land-use decisions functionally “optimize” (not maximize) a full suite of socio-economic and ecological indicators. Although this Phase II report is written with the intent that it is a stand-alone document, stakeholders are encouraged to read the Phase I report as it contains additional information relating to the business-as-usual scenario.

Ghost_Watershed_Cumulative_Effects_Study_Phase_II-_Beneficial_Management_Practices.pdf
2006

Southern Alberta Landscapes: Meeting the Challenges Ahead - Export Coefficients for Total Phosphorus, Total Nitrogen and Total Suspended Solids in the Southern Alberta Region - A literature review

Yetunde Jeje

The objectives of the literature review were to: 1) Identify and summarize literature that provide quantitative information on Total Nitrogen (TN), Total Phosphorus (TP) and Total Suspended Solids (TSS) export coefficients in the Southern Alberta region, 2) Identify and summarize literature that provide quantitative information on TN, TP and TSS export coefficients in the following landscape cover categories provided by Alberta Environment: 9 Native Prairie classes, 6 Agriculture classes, 7 Forest Area classes and 4 Miscellaneous (4) classes for input in the ALCES computer simulation model currently under development, 3) Prepare a report that presents a descriptive inventory and analysis of literature including a list of all relevant literature reviewed and abstracts of selected literature appropriately categorized, and provide a discussion of data generated, and 4) Identify and summarize literature that provides quantitative information on TN, TP and TSS export coefficients for Non-native Land Use categories in the Southern Alberta region.

Nutrient_Export_Coefficients_for_ALCES_in_SASS_Project_Yetunde_Jeje_2006.pdf
2007

A Comparison of Land Use Options for the Mbaracayu Biosphere Reserve - Final Report

Matt Carlson

Unplanned and unsustainable land use has transformed the Atlantic Forests of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. In 1991, responding to the rapid loss of Atlantic Forest, the Government of Paraguay created the Mbaracayu Forest Natural Reserve (MFNR) and established the Cuenca watershed as a mixed-used protected area. Given the land use pressures facing the region, the future existence of healthy ecosystems within the Cuenca relies on balancing land use with conservation. The Mbaracayu program, run by the Fundacion Moises Bertoni (FMB), seeks to integrate a vision of sustainable and social development in harmony with the conservation of the MFNR. In response to the recognized need for a management plan, the FMB collaborated with the Alberta Research Council on the project "Capacity Enhancement for Community- and Ecologically-based Management in the Bosque Mbaracayu Biosphere Reserve, Paraguay". As part of the project, the land use simulation tool ALCES was applied to evaluate land use scenarios in the Cuenca. Applying ALCES contributed to the development of a management plan by informing the identification of sustainable land use options. The report is intended to communicate the ALCES tool and analysis, solicit feedback, and inform training of FMB staff to apply ALCES in the Cuenca.

Mbaracayu--Paraguay-ALCES-scenario-analysis-final-report.pdf
2009

Alberta Caribou Committee Recommendations to the Deputy Minister of Sustainable Resource Development for the Athabasca Caribou Landscape

Athabasca Landscape Team

Alberta Caribou Committee Recommendations to the Deputy Minister of Sustainable Resource Development for the Athabasca Caribou Landscape

ACCGB-Recommendations-to-ASRD-DM.pdf
2009

ALCES III Scenario Modeling Report - Athabasca Landscape Area, Appendix III

Terry Antoniuk, John Nishi, Karen Manuel, Mika Sutherland, Cornel Yarmoloy

ALCES III Scenario Modeling Report - Athabasca Landscape Area, Appendix III

Appendix-3---ALT-Modeling-Report-_-Final-June-09-.pdf
2004

A Strategic-Level Comparison of Urban Footprint Associated with Alternative Population Growth Strategies for the City of Edmonton (2001 - 2031)

Brad Stelfox, Richard Levy, and Heather Gariepy

The City of Edmonton has enjoyed impressive historical expansion in both population and area, growing from a small community of 2,626 people occupying 23 km2 at the turn of the century to a large city supporting approx. 716,515 people on approx. 363 km2 in 2004. Edmonton has maintained an average annual growth rate of 2.6% in population over the past 50 years, and 1.6% over the past 30 years. ALCES (A landscape simulation model) was used to explore the consequences of different potential growth rates and distributional patterns. The purpose of this project is to provide information to the City of Edmonton on the historical (past 100 years) and projected future growth (2001-2031) of the City of Edmonton. The two basic questions this report seeks to answer are: 1) How might the Edmonton Urban Footprint differ given four different (low, moderate, high, very high) population growth scenarios? And 2) How might the Edmonton Urban Footprint differ given three different distributional patterns (status quo, Downtown focus, Mature Neighborhood focus, Suburban Area focus) for a moderate population growth scenario?

2004_City_of_Edmonton_Growth_Analyses_using_ALCES.pdf
2011

Upper Bow River Basin Cumulative Effects Study - Modeling Report

Terry Antoniuk and Cornel Yarmoloy

The Upper Bow River Basin Cumulative Effects Study (UBBCES) was initiated by concerned citizens, groups, and organizations to investigate and better understand the potential cumulative effects that all land-uses could have on water availability, water quality, and other natural values in the Upper Bow River basin. The Steering Committee directing this study identified five primary concerns about social and environmental health and, in consultation with the authors, selected seven ecological and social indicators to represent these concerns: 1 - Will our children and grandchildren be able to rely on the Bow River and its tributaries for clean drinking water? 2 - Will there be enough water to meet the future needs of industry, acreages, Calgary residents, ranchers, farmers, and fish? 3 - Will there be undisturbed natural areas that supply clean water and provide places in which our children and grandchildren can visit, hike, bike, and watch wildlife? 4 - Will groundwater levels remain stable, decline, or increase? 5 - Will working farms and ranches remain? The ALCES landscape cumulative effects (A Landscape Cumulative Effects Simulator) dynamic landscape model was used for this study to forecast the response of the seven indicators to different development approaches. Work was conducted in two phases. In Phase 1, relevant information was collected and the ALCES model was used to forecast potential outcomes of a ‘business as usual’ scenario. For Phase 2, the model was used to evaluate the potential benefits of applying ‘best practices’ identified by the Calgary Metropolitan Plan and Southern Foothills Study.

UBBCES_Phase-1_2_Modeling_Report_Final_190511.pdf
2012

Cumulative Effects of Overlapping Land Uses of the Cold Lake First Nations

Dr. Brad Stelfox, Cornel Yarmoloy

The Cold Lake First Nations (CLFN) ALCES project described in this report was triggered by one of the most recent applications among a long series of past heavy oil and oilsand projects. The OSUM Taiga project is not necessarily unusual in technology, scale, or scope. It is but one example of many that have preceded it, and one of dozens to hundreds of projects that will emerge on the CLFN traditional lands in decades to come. What is unique about the OSUM project, however, is that it is directly adjacent to undeveloped reserve lands obtained as part of the CLAWR compensation settlement, to Cold Lake Provincial Park, and to Cold Lake itself. The proposed development footprint will degrade one of the last vestiges of relatively intact boreal landscape (described as “Awne” or “ąne”) easily accessible to CLFN which remains south of the CLAWR and north of the agricultural lands. Like many stories dealing with aboriginal culture and modern land-use, this one is neither simple nor linear. It involves a First Nations whose landscape has changed rapidly, who continue to aspire to maintain a culturally rich ability to participate in traditional activities (hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering), but also recognize the need to embrace components of Alberta’s contemporary economies and society. This community has growing anxiety about the integrity of their Traditional Territory. Ultimately, CLFN argue they deserve a meaningful conversation about their destiny based upon a scientifically credible and realistic examination of the existing state of cumulative impacts upon their Traditional Territory. CLFN is also mindful of the probability of significantly more encroachment in the future. With this in mind, the CLFN have commissioned the CLFN ALCES project to determine the ecological, economic, social and cultural impacts of current and future oil extraction. This report presents results of the CLFN ALCES® land-use scenario modelling for the Cold Lake First Nations Study Area (CLFN SA), which has been completed at the request of the Cold Lake First Nations (CLFN). It uses the ALCES® landscape cumulative effects simulation model (www.alces.ca) to examine and understand the collective impact of the region’s growing population, residential, agriculture, oil, military, park, and transportation sector footprints, and to account for the historic, current and future growth trends in population and industrial activities. By tracking the impact of plausible future growth scenarios (currently driven by the energy sector) on leading indicators such as water quality and demand, employment, air emissions, and wildlife habitat, the ALCES® model can determine the potential economic, social and ecological outcomes of each growth scenario. The model also investigates the relative influence of important natural processes, such as fire, on ecological indicators. The results of each landscape simulation are presented at multiple spatial scales, and include CLFN Traditional Territory, CLFN SA (Alberta side only; hereafter referred to as CLFN SA), specific sub regions (CLAWR, north of CLAWR, agricultural white area, region south of CLAWR and north of White Area, and AWNE (ąne)), and for quarter township (5 x 5 km) grid maps.

CLFN_and_Cumulative_Effects_of_Overlapping_Land_Uses.docx
2011

Phase 1. An Assessment of the Cumulative Effects of Land Uses within the Ghost River Watershed, Alberta - Report

Cornel Yarmoloy and Brad Stelfox

Society is increasingly aware of how our rivers, and the landscapes that support them, deliver not only water, but a suite of societal and ecosystem services which are needed to sustain our quality of life. Eastern Slope watersheds, such as the Ghost, supply diverse recreational needs, timber products, energy resources, support biological diversity and provide ecosystem services such as carbon storage, drinking water and flood control. Human land use development and recreational activities can potentially reduce the effectiveness of these valued services through incremental negative impacts on natural processes. Reductions in the ability of natural systems to provide clean water to downstream communities, such as Calgary, results in an increasing need for water treatment infrastructure and associated monies. Such costs are passed onto consumers through increasing taxes and metered water costs. As demonstrated in other geographies, the significant burden on downstream tax payers for potable drinking water can be reduced through the effective management of headwater areas rather than building and maintaining increasingly larger and more costly water treatment facilities. To support their vision of preserving and enhancing the integrity of the ecosystem functions in the Ghost watershed, the Ghost Watershed Alliance Society (GWAS; www.ghostwatershed.ca) sponsored a quantitative assessment of how past, current and future cumulative impacts of land use on multiple-use forest reserve and private lands within the Ghost-Waiparous watershed could potentially affect sustainability of forests, water, wildlife and recreational resources (Phase 1). The GWAS engaged ALCES Landscape and Land-use Ltd. (ALCES� Group; www.alces.ca) to conduct this initial assessment.

Ghost_River-_Alberta-_Cumulative_Effects_Study-_9_August_2011.pdf
2009

Quantifying land use of oil sands production: a life cycle perspective

Sarah M Jordaan, David W Keith, and Brad Stelfox

Methods for the inclusion of land use in life cycle assessment are not well established. Here, we describe an approach that compares land disturbance between spatially compact and diffuse activities that contribute to the life cycle of a single product, in this case synthetic crude from Alberta’s oil sands. We compare production using surface mining and in situ extraction technologies. In situ technologies disturb less land per unit of production than surface mining, but the spatial footprint of in situ production is more dispersed—increasing landscape fragmentation—and in situ production requires more natural gas which increases land use due to gas production. We examine both direct and peripheral land use of oil sands development by quantifying land disturbance using a parameterized measure of fragmentation that relies on ‘edge effects’ with an adjustable buffer zone. Using a life cycle perspective, we show that the land area influenced by in situ technology is comparable to land disturbed by surface mining when fragmentation and upstream natural gas production are considered. The results suggest that land disturbance due to natural gas production can be relatively large per unit energy. This method could be applied to other energy developments, for example, a comparison between coal mining and natural gas production when both fuels are used to generate electricity.

Jordaan-et-al-2009--Quantifying-land-use-of-oil-sands-production-a-life-cycle-perpective-Environmental-Research-Letters.pdf
2013

Determining Appropriate Nutrient and Sediment Loading Coefficients for Modeling Effects of Changes in Landuse and Landcover in Alberta Watersheds

Dr. Bill Donahue

Alberta is engaged in creating watershed management plans throughout the province, that can be relied upon to provide direction for management of future development and landuse change, while attempting to protect the health of Alberta’s rivers and lakes. Because of widespread and growing nutrient enrichment problems and their effect on ecosystem health, and increased downstream water treatment costs, the reduction or avoidance of excess loading of organic matter and nutrients into rivers is a common goal of water resource managers in Alberta and elsewhere. Sources of these deleterious substances include easily identified sources, such as a wastewater treatment plant (point sources), and diffuse non-point sources associated with human landuse and changes in landuse.1-4 Informed landuse and watershed management that does not harm water quality and freshwater ecosystem health demands an understanding of the effects of landuse change on aquatic systems. Models that link landscape change and changes to water quality or aquatic ecosystem health are therefore relied upon to inform decision-makers, rather than simply tracking changes in water quality, which provides no insight into the sources of various chemicals. Most commonly, catchment export coefficients and loading rates are modeled to estimate the effects of landuse change on pollutant delivery and water quality, because it is input loads tied to particular sources or landuse change that permit either the avoidance of effects or remediative action to mitigate them. These are generally derived from small-scale field studies, and can range from simple regression models5 to more complex mechanistic models.4, 6-12 However, loading rates or export coefficients derived from small-scale catchments are often of limited use in estimating the effects of large-scale land use changes on water quality, or when applied to other locations. Similarly, modeling of export coefficients and pollutant transport based on detailed, site-specific hydrogeological, climatic, and landcover information acquired from field studies is generally not possible because of the exceptional expense and time needed to acquire such data.13, 14 Because the utility of coefficients determined somewhere else is uncertain, it is recommended that regional or local pollutant export coefficients be developed for estimation of pollutant loading in water bodies if sufficient landuse, water chemistry, and flow data are available.11 Unfortunately, in most regions, including Alberta, there has been insufficient environmental monitoring or effort to quantify effects of landuse change on nutrient and sediment export and water quality, in ways that enable land and water managers to make informed decisions to reduce the negative impacts of broad and large- scale landuse change or planning on water quality. Consequently, watershed managers must model estimates of risks of landuse change to aquatic ecosystems from commonly available information, and incorporate the use of loading coefficients developed elsewhere.3 In the absence of site- or region-specific studies and export coefficients, modelers and managers must rely on literature-derived export coefficients to assess the costs and benefits of past, current, and future landuse decisions, in terms of the potential for reducing water quality. However, notwithstanding that this necessity is driven by insufficient monitoring and environmental assessment, there often remains resistance to the conclusions of negative impacts of human landuse from the modeling of effects of landuse change on water quality that has been based on export coefficients developed elsewhere. Many studies elsewhere have provided export coefficients for nutrients and organic matter for forested, agricultural, and urban landscapes.4, 13, 15-17 The goal of this review is to assess the suitability of literature-based nutrient and sediment loading coefficients for modeling the potential for landuse 1 change to affect water quality in Alberta streams and rivers. In assessing the effects of landuse - or landuse change - on chemical loading in freshwaters, it is important to keep in mind two important caveats that were highlighted by Beaulac and Reckhow (1982)13: • As watersheds shift from natural, undisturbed conditions to increasing levels of human disturbance, the ecological mechanisms controlling nutrient flux become more complex and less understood. Therefore, the ability to accurately quantify or predict interactions between land use and aquatic conditions or responses becomes less precise and more uncertain. • For management of water resources, the use of nutrient loading coefficients for predicting changes in water quality conditions that follow changing land use is highly subjective. To reduce uncertainty in this use, the user of these coefficients must be familiar with the biogeochemical processes that influence nutrient fluxes. This is especially the case when there are insufficient local landuse and water quality data to determine loading coefficients. However, because of the breadth of scientific literature on the topic, the absence of local data should not be considered an absolute barrier to estimation of impacts of landuse change on water quality, for the purposes of landuse or watershed planning. This becomes more clear when considering the fact that landuse decisions will proceed whether or not local data are available to inform them definitively about non-point source pollution dynamics. It is arguable that the goal of any environmental modeling exercise is to quantify the nature, scale, and probability of risk, and provide the foundation for reducing environmental risks associated with particular management decisions. Therefore, modeling of non-point source pollution dynamics associated with landuse is a valid and valuable exercise, even in the absence of local data. With that in mind, the approaches and loading coefficients presented here are intended to aid landscape modelers, by providing a starting point for assessing environmental risk and the potential mitigations strategies that may be pursued to reduce them.

Determining-Appropriate-Nutrient-and-Sediment-Loading-Coefficients-for-Modeling-Effects-of-Changes-in-Landuse-and-Landcover-in-Alberta-Watersheds--Donahue-2013-.pdf
2008

ALCES-based Habitat Simulation Modeling for Greater Sage-Grouse in Southeastern Alberta

Chernoff, Greg; Stelfox, Brad; Greenaway, Guy

In support of the Sage Grouse Recovery Action Group’s efforts to identify and quantify the potentially adverse effects of anthropogenic land use on sage grouse habitat, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (Fish and Wildlife) retained the Miistakis Institute at the University of Calgary and Brad Stelfox of Forem Technologies Ltd. to develop, populate, and parameterize a cumulative effects simulation model for a 7X7 township region in southeastern Alberta. This model was subsequently used to conduct landscape-scale simulation modeling over a 50-year time period. The goal of the modeling is to generate plausible future scenarios based on current knowledge of landscape, ecology, and human use which explore potential trajectories for sage grouse viability, and to identify the drivers of change in a virtual environment. The modeling presented in this report is based upon the ALCES® software (Forem Technologies Ltd.). ALCES® is a landscape simulator that enables resource managers, society, and the scientific community to explore and quantify dynamic landscapes subjected to single or multiple human land use practices and various natural disturbance regimes. The model was identified in the Alberta Greater Sage-grouse Recovery Plan (2005) as a decision support tool allowing the Recovery Action Group to determine priority areas for focusing recovery efforts. Land use information (inputs) for the model were derived from existing data collected for the Southern Alberta Landscapes (SAL - formerly Southern Alberta Sustainability Strategy (SASS)) Project’s ALCES®-based cumulative effects modeling, and modified into a format appropriate for sage grouse modeling. ASRD Fish and Wildlife convened a workshop to collect the data required for the wildlife module of the model (i.e., sage grouse data). The Alberta Conservation Association (ACA)-supported workshop brought together sage grouse experts from Canada and the United States. Currently there is no comprehensive model to support decisions with respect to land use in the sage- grouse range of the province. Creation of such a model will greatly assist with integrating decisions for activities such as oil and gas development with sage-grouse conservation activities. This modeling approach may represent a prototypical method for recovery planning. By incorporating wildlife data, land use parameters, and management goals into a participatory process, alternate land use and management scenarios can be explicitly compared with reference to their impact on a target species. Along with the generation of a realistic base-case scenario for current landscape composition and future planned land use, this research has examined the impacts of changing future land use trajectories related to the energy sector as an example of the type of sensitivity analysis that is possible in the ALCES® modeling environment, and of the capacity of this type of analysis to provide valuable information about the impact of different types of land use on sage grouse breeding occurrence and success.

Habitat-Simulation-Modelling-for-Greater-Sage-Grouse-in-Southeastern-Alberta.pdf
2016

Be Ready, or Be Left Behind. Report of the Advisory Panel on Metro Edmonton’s Future

Multiple

To inform recommendations to Edmonton region mayors on how to make the region globally competitive, ALCES Online was applies to explore the long-term (50 year) consequences of alternative urban development strategies to landscape composition and greenfield development. The scenario analysis, presented as an appendix to the report, identified significant environmental and fiscal benefits from pursuing urban densification in the Edmonton region. Executive Summary The Metro Mayors Alliance asked our Panel to consider whether a globally competitive Edmonton region is achievable and, if so, to provide advice about how to make it happen. Over the course of several months we talked to experts, reviewed literature and listened to those with experience in municipal governance. We spoke with a wide crosssection of people in the private, public and non-profit sectors of our Metro Region communities. All of their views informed our analysis. Our advice to the Mayors is this: a globally competitive Edmonton Metro Region is achievable, but it will require municipalities planning, delivering and acting as one Metro Region in certain key areas. Our emphasis on those words is deliberate. Municipalities have become skilled at discussing issues and undertaking planning as a region. These have been the productive fruits of their participation in the Capital Region Board (CRB). But it has been challenging to translate those discussions and plans into collaborative actions with on-the-ground results. Despite years of interaction around the CRB table, municipalities still deliver services and infrastructure individually and compete with each other for land, resources and investment. When making choices, the costs and benefits to their individual municipality take precedence over the benefits to the overall region. Provincial policies and legislation have played a significant role in cultivating current practices. Municipalities are playing within the confines of a system that has evolved over decades – a system that drives competition among municipalities and doesn’t provide adequate mechanisms for their collaboration. This is understandable, but it’s not sustainable. Modelling commissioned by our Panel indicates that if municipalities continue to develop the Metro Region under a “business as usual” approach our region won’t just fail to be globally competitive, it will fall backwards, with serious implications for taxpayers and for the quality of life we all take for granted.1 If municipalities don’t change their current trajectory, the model shows as much as 87,700 additional hectares of agricultural land and 50,200 hectares of natural areas could be lost to uncoordinated development over the next 50 years. What’s more, the settlement footprint across the region could double in size from 135,900 hectares to as much as 273,900 hectares. Taxpayers could be on the hook for an additional $8.2 billion to service that larger footprint with roads and other public infrastructure. The good news is that there is a far better way forward – without amalgamation or the creation of a new layer of government. The modelling commissioned by our Panel indicates that if municipalities plan, decide and act as one Metro Region through an integrated approach, the expansion of the overall settlement footprint could be cut by approximately half. This would save precious agricultural land and natural areas. Municipal servicing costs would be cut in half, reducing upward pressure on municipal tax rates and saving money for taxpayers. All of this would help make the Metro Region globally competitive and improve its quality of life. So how should things change? From a functional standpoint, there are many options for municipal collaboration. One of the most promising ways is for municipalities to take a regional systems approach. A regional systems approach doesn’t mean delivering all aspects of a municipal service through a regional body. It means strategically bringing together elements of services that are regionally significant to create highly functioning systems across the region. Any aspect of a service that isn’t regionally significant would continue to be locally planned and locally delivered by each municipality. What are those regionally significant services that are important to our competitiveness? Our Panel identified many recognized drivers of competitiveness in city-regions, but three stood out as “cornerstones” for the Edmonton Metro Region: 1. Economic development 2. Public transit 3. Land use and infrastructure development. These three cornerstones are the primary factors considered by investors when deciding where to locate new industries and major facilities. Therefore, they are the areas of highest priority and greatest risk for the Metro Region. As inter-related areas, they should “snap together” to build a strong backbone that will enable the Metro Region to achieve its social, economic and environmental goals. And all three are areas where action is achievable, essential and urgent.

be_ready_or_be_left_behind.pdf
2018

Watershed Simulation Tool – Methods and Outcomes for the Bow River Basin

Carlson, M., R.J. MacDonald, and M. Chernos

Carlson, M., R.J. MacDonald, and M. Chernos. 2018. Watershed Simulation Tool – Methods and Outcomes for the Bow River Basin. Submitted to the Bow River Basin Council. Established in the wake of devastating floods in southern Alberta in 2013, the WRRP applies an integrated watershed approach to improve natural watershed function with the goal of building greater long-term resiliency. To inform this decision-making process in the Bow River Basin, the ALCES Online land use simulation model was applied to assess current and future risks to watershed function and the mitigation potential of conservation and restoration options. The scenarios incorporated the major land uses in the basin —- forestry, oil and gas extraction, agriculture, aggregate extraction, and urban and rural residential development — as well as forest fire. During the 50-year land use simulation, the expansion of land use was associated with elevated risk to watershed function, particularly in the central portion of the basin. The assessment of relative effectiveness of conservation and restoration strategies identified the strategies with the greatest potential benefit, and where to apply them for maximum effect. The hierarchical assessment of trade-offs among mitigation options is delivered to managers and stakeholders through a set of web-based dashboards, composed of dynamic maps and figures that convey future risks to watershed integrity and the effectiveness of mitigation options.

Bow_River_Basin_Report.pdf
2015

Landscape Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing Development and Operations on Surface Water and Watersheds

Multiple

Quinn, M.S., M.E. Tyler, E. Ajaero, J. Arvai, M. Carlson, I. Dunmade, S. Hill, J. McCallum, D. McMartin, D. Megson, G. O’Sullivan, R. Parks, D. Poulton, B. Stelfox, J. Stewart, C. Serralde Monreal, S. Tomblin, C. Van der Byl. 2015. Landscape Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing Development and Operations on Surface Water and Watersheds. Prepared for the Canadian Water Network. Institute for Environmental Sustainability, Mount Royal University, Calgary, AB. The study explores landscape and watershed impacts of hydraulic fracturing using a multi‐disciplinary social and natural science framework. The primary learning from our multidisciplinary approach is the need for greater institutional opportunities to integrate and coordinate a spectrum of approaches to address knowledge gaps in multiple system interactions across scales and involving system threshold effects that may be social in nature as well as biogeochemical. There is a lack of operational precedents in Canada for applying a cumulative effects approach to assessment of regional gas extraction from low permeability unconventional formations using horizontal wells with multistage hydraulic fracturing. A demonstration case study was developed for this report and fully presented in Appendix A. The purpose of the case study was to demonstrate how a simulation model (ALCES Online), in conjunction with an RSEA approach, could inform regional management of hydraulic fracturing by identifying risk and mitigation opportunities. The simulation outcomes were sensitive to uncertainties, emphasizing the importance of improved understanding of hydraulic fracturing’s impacts.

Quinn-et-al-2015-CWN-Report-Landscape-Impacts-of-Hydraulic-Fracturing-Development.pdf
2016

Modelling Ecosystem Carbon Dynamics in Alberta: An Integrative Approach

Rider, N., M. Carlson, and B. Stelfox

Rider, N., M. Carlson, and B. Stelfox. 2016. Modelling Ecosystem Carbon Dynamics in Alberta: An Integrative Approach. ALCES Group Report. The report describes the application the ALCES Online landscape simulator to examine the effect of past, present, and potential future land use and natural disturbance on ecosystem carbon storage in Alberta, Canada. Introduction Fluxes of carbon (and other greenhouse gases) between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere are important drivers and mitigators of global warming (Heimann & Reichstein, 2008). Consequently, understanding ecosystem carbon dynamics and how land use and land use change affect them is becoming considered increasingly important. Since 2003, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has accepted greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory reports from many major nations (IPCC, 2015). Internationally binding agreements including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ensure that countries monitor their greenhouse gas emissions. Land use and land use change (LULUC) are increasingly recognized as integral to global carbon budgets (Guo & Gifford, 2002; Kaplan, Krumhardt, & Zimmermann, 2012; Macedo & Davidson, 2014). Every year, Canada submits a National Inventory Report documenting emissions from land use and land use change as well as from commercial and industrial activities to the IPCC (Environment Canada, 2015b). Each National Inventory Report includes emission trends from the energy sector, industries and product use, agriculture, waste, and LULUC. Since the IPCC is primarily interested in emissions and emissions factors, the report does not specifically document existing carbon stocks in biomass or other pools. The current report expands research on carbon emissions by providing information on existing biomass and organic carbon stocks in Alberta. Additionally, it provides forecasts and backcasts for biomass and organic carbon based on a landuse dataset which documents historical LULUC as well as future LULUC. ALBERTA The province of Alberta is located in Western Canada. In 2014, the population of Alberta totalled 4.1 million (Alberta Finance, 2015). This number is expected to increase by around 50 % by 2041. This increase will create substantial demand for goods, services, and infrastructure which will undoubtedly lead to changes in land use and alter emissions patterns. Alberta is also home to a large energy sector which has nearly half a million kilometres of pipelines and nine oil sands developments (Alberta Energy Regulator, 2015). It is important for the Alberta Government to have decision-making tools which can inform land use decisions while taking into account multiple factors. The Alberta Government is currently developing regional plans to help manage multiple uses on the landscape (Alberta Environment and Parks, 2015). Information about how LULUC and ecosystem carbon storage are related should be considered by governments during local, regional, and national planning. GENERAL APPROACH The current project integrates existing ALCES data (which was originally obtained from a variety of sources), values from the primary literature, and other available information to determine best estimates of ecosystem carbon stocks. In general, with the exception of forests, peatlands, and wetlands, carbon stocks were divided into three categories - aboveground biomass, belowground biomass, and soil organic carbon (SOC). All carbon stocks were dependent on land uses and land use changes. For Alberta’s forest area, dead wood and litter biomass were also considered to be important stock categories. For peatlands and wetlands, it is difficult to distinguish between belowground biomass and soil organic carbon, so these were lumped together into a single category, belowground carbon. The approach used differed slightly depending on specific cover types. An online tool, ALCES Online, was used to present the data and generate all maps in this report. ALCES Online uses a raster data format with a resolution of 2.5 km. Existing biomass values for natural areas were determined either from relationships to other variables from the primary literature, measured values summarized in primary literature, measured values provided by government agencies, or values predicted by a model. To determine biomass and carbon stocks for anthropogenic features, the general approach was to determine a base carbon density in a given cell based on the carbon in natural features, croplands, and pastures (Equation 1). This base carbon value included area-weighted carbon values for all natural features, croplands, and pastures. To determine what the carbon value of an anthropogenic feature in a cell was, the base carbon value was divided by the area which it represented (the total natural, crop, and pasture area), and then multiplied by a loss coefficient associated with the anthropogenic feature in question, followed by the area of the anthropogenic feature (Equation 2; α = coefficient). The sum of base carbon of a given type and all carbon associated with anthropogenic features of a given type yielded the total carbon of a given type in a given cell (Equation 3). The sum of all types of carbon in a cell yields a total ecosystem carbon value for that cell (Equation 4). As was previously mentioned, litter and deadwood carbon values only existed for forest. Since croplands and pastures are more similar to natural features in terms of how anthropogenic features impact their carbon storage, croplands and pastures were included in the base carbon stocks in the aforementioned approach. The next section (Approach by Footprint) documents how values were determined for existing biomass or soil organic carbon and how the different anthropogenic feature carbon was accounted for. The approach described above was the most common one; however, in a few specific cases, as described in the following sections, the coefficient approach was not used to determine the carbon associated with an anthropogenic feature. Integral to the approach used was the Unity Dataset, which exists in ALCES Online (see The Unity Dataset).

Alberta Ecosystem Carbon Dynamics - draft report.pdf
2017

Assessing the Potential Cumulative Impacts of Land Use and Climate Change on Freshwater Fish in Northern Ontario

Chetkiewicz, C-L B., M. Carlson, C.M. O’Connor, B. Edwards, F.M. Southee, and M. Sullivan

Chetkiewicz, C-L B., M. Carlson, C.M. O’Connor, B. Edwards, F.M. Southee, and M. Sullivan. 2017. Assessing the Potential Cumulative Impacts of Land Use and Climate Change on Freshwater Fish in Northern Ontario. Wildlife Conservation Society Canada Conservation Report No. 11. The study is the first to project the potential impacts of development on freshwater systems in a 440,000 km2 region of northern Ontario over the next 50 years. The study examined the impact of high- and low-growth development scenarios that incorporated forestry, mining, and hydroelectric development, as well as climate change and forest fire. The response of fish populations was assessed by applying expert-derived models that describe relationships between simulated stressors (e.g., roads, dams, forestry activities, temperature) and species-specific fish sustainability indices (FSI) for walleye, lake sturgeon, lake whitefish, and brook trout. All four species exhibited increased risk over the simulation period, although lake whitefish were more tolerant of simulated changes in land use and climate change. Overall, climate change was the most influential driver of risk to freshwater fish, followed by hydroelectric dams. Climate change consistently exacerbated the effects of land use and natural disturbance changes under both scenarios – FSI declined faster or further when land use was combined with climate change.

WCS_Canada_CR_11_Chetkieicz_et_al_2017.pdf
2015

The Future of Wildlife Conservation and Resource Development in the Western Boreal Forest

Carlson, M., and D. Browne

Carlson, M., and D. Browne. 2015. The Future of Wildlife Conservation and Resource Development in the Western Boreal Forest. Canadian Wildlife Federation, Kanata, ON. Canada’s western boreal forest is a region of national and international interest due to its immense economic and ecological values. The region’s hydrocarbons, timber, arable land, and minerals are a source of great economic potential, but also carry risks to wildlife and their habitat due to the cumulative effects of dispersed and often overlapping impacts of resource development. The aim of the project was to start a national dialogue about options for wildlife conservation in this rapidly developing region, with the ultimate goal of creating a comprehensive land-use plan for wildlife conservation and resource extraction in the western boreal forest. The analysis of the potential cumulative effects of the next 50 years of development in the region is a first step in this process.

CWF-Western_Boreal_Forest_Report2015.pdf
2016

Alces Online Hawaii Workshop, April 2016

Stelfox, J.B.

Alces Hawaii Workshop April 2016.docx
2017

Knowledge Integration and Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) Modelling

Fabio Boschetti, Hector Lozano-Montes, Brad Stelfox, Catherine Bulman, Joanna Strzelecki, Michael Hu

Knowledge Integration and Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) Modelling report. Prepared for the WAMSI Kimberley Marine Research Program Final Report. The Kimberley Marine Research Program (KMRP) Project 2.2.8 represents the first attempt to integrate a large amount of data, knowledge and state-of-the-art understanding of the bio-physical, ecological and social processes affecting the Kimberley marine environment drawing in new information generated by several of the KMRP projects within the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) program. This information was used to parameterise two computer models (ALCES and Ecopath with Ecosim [EwE]) to simulate land, coastal and marine processes. A careful examination of a large volume of publications from the academic, private and public sectors allowed a number of climate and social economic development scenarios that the Kimberley region may experience in the decades to come to be developed. Computer simulations were used to test the Kimberley system’s responses to these alternative scenarios under a number of management strategies including current and proposed marine parks under different options of zoning and multiple uses. Both the scenarios and management strategies were selected and agreed upon in consultation with a number of stakeholder groups, including the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (formerly Department of Parks and Wildlife), The Kimberley Development Commission, WA Department of State Development, Department of Primary Industries and Resources (formerly Department of Fisheries), Department of Mine, Industry Regulation and Safety (formerly WA Department of Mines and Petroleum), among others. The analysis of the impacts of these scenarios and management strategies sheds light on a range of future states the Kimberley marine environment may experience during the 2015 to 2050 period. Before the core results are summarised, it is important to remind the reader that a model simulation is not an absolute prediction (a ‘prophecy’) of how the Kimberley region will look in 2050. Rather, it is an attempt to say something of decision-making significance about how the system may respond to the specific conditions summarised in the scenarios and management strategies, which is consistent with our current scientific knowledge and our current understanding of how the Kimberley system functions. It follows that while insight on system behaviour gained from consideration of these scenarios can provide guidance on potential patterns of responses, care must be taken when considering circumstances outside the specifics of the scenarios and management strategies modelled and particular account must be made of the uncertainty in our current knowledge. The outcome of this project is a very large set of simulation outputs representing the dynamical evolution of the land, coastal and marine environments over 35 years. This includes hundreds of regional maps and thousands of time series of environmental, social and economic indicators. All these results are now publically available and can be viewed at http://www.wamsi.org.au/research-site/modelling-future-kimberley-region.

MSE final report v4.pdf
2016

A Biophysical and Land Use Atlas for Maui, Hawaii

Stelfox, J.B.

A biophysical atlas of physical features (soils, climate, topography), plant communities and land use sectors (croplands, residential, transportation, mining, industrial and tourism) was assembled in Alces Online and then used to prepare an online Atlas. This atlas is now available for the educational sector (primary, secondary, post-secondary) for the State of Hawaii. These materials were presented to local governments, land trusts, and the University of Hawaii.

Alces Online Atlas for Maui, Hawaii for Univeristy of Hawaii; reduced resolution.pptx
2013

A Fork in the Road: Future Development in Ontario’s Far North

Carlson, M., and C. Chetkiewicz. 2013

Ontario's Far North contains some of the world's most intact subarctic terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. It is a stronghold for a number of fish and wildlife species such as woodland caribou, wolverine, and lake sturgeon. The region is also the homeland of Ojibwe, Oji-Cree and Cree First Nations who have established longstanding traditional cultural values and a unique relationship with this land that they have used and occupied for thousands of years. The environment in the Far North provides important "services" to people such as climate regulation, food, cultural values, and clean and abundant water supplies. The Far North also includes a wealth of natural resources such as minerals, hydropower development potential, timber resources, and other resource development opportunities. In 2010, the Government of Ontario committed to working with First Nation communities to develop land-use plans that support conservation and development of the Far North. An important step in the planning process is assessing whether the cumulative effects of the full suite of potential future developments are compatible with the aspirations of First Nations and Ontario. To support decision-making in this unique region, we applied a simulation model (ALCES®) to explore changes in the composition of regional landscapes associated with potential future mining, hydroelectric development, and forestry activity as well as forest fires, and the implications for woodland caribou, wolverine, moose, and the intactness of watersheds. Our study focused on the James Bay Lowlands, which includes the large mineral reserves in the Ring of Fire, numerous kimberlite deposits, including the Victor Diamond mine, and major rivers with hydropower potential such as the Attawapiskat, Moose, and Albany. To encompass the full extent of the Pagwachuan Caribou Range, the study area extended south of the James Bay Lowland thereby also incorporating portions of five Sustainable Forest Licenses that are managed primarily for timber production. The simulated development scenario resulted in a three-fold increase in anthropogenic footprint over 50 years, primarily due to road and transmission corridor expansion to support industrial developments. The spatial pattern of the simulated footprint differentiated between the dispersed road network associated with forestry in the south and the more isolated, but intensive, mining and hydroelectric Executive Summary To support decisionmaking in this unique region, we applied a simulation model (ALCES) to explore changes in the composition of regional landscapes associated with potential future mining, hydroelectric development, and forestry activity as well as forest fires, and the implications for woodland caribou, wolverine, moose, and the intactness of watersheds. vi Canadian Boreal Initiative | Wildlife Conservation Society Canada developments in the north. The simulated forestry activity in the south had consequences for the Pagwachuan Caribou Range where the risk to herd survival approached the high category and range disturbance exceeded a threshold of 35% – a guideline in the national caribou recovery strategy. Simulated impacts to wolverine were also greatest in the south, where expansion of the road network caused habitat suitability to decline. Land use impacts to wildlife such as caribou and wolverine may be exacerbated by climate change. As an example, the moose population was simulated to increase twofold when climate change was incorporated, which would likely cause the region’s wolf population to grow with negative implications for caribou herd viability. Simulated mining and hydroelectric developments were sufficiently isolated at a regional scale to avoid large impacts to caribou and wolverine. A greater concern, however, may be the consequences of these developments to the integrity of aquatic ecosystems. The watershed impact score increased for a number of northern watersheds, demonstrating that risk to aquatic ecosystems is likely to increase in watersheds that contain important natural resource regions such as the Ring of Fire due to the presence of multiple mining and hydroelectric developments. The outcomes of this pilot project offers important considerations when addressing cumulative effects in northern Ontario, including: the benefit to wildlife of limiting land use to isolated regions within an otherwise intact landscape; the need to improve understanding of the cumulative effects to aquatic ecosystems of multiple large-scale developments (e.g., mines, dams) within northern watersheds; and the potential for climate change to increase the sensitivity of wildlife to industrial land use. We hope these findings will inform land-use planning at both the community and regional scale and motivate additional analyses that are needed to comprehensively assess cumulative effects in Ontario’s Far North.

alces-lowres.pdf
2010

Cost of Construction and Maintenance of Infrastructure relevant to the Upper Bow Basin

Mr. Jonathan Holmes

Contains metrics pertaining to cost of construction and maintenance of infrastructure. Summary. This analysis is a comparative study of three different documents (see below under “studies used”) to find the best available estimates of costs and revenues of new development from the perspective of municipalities. The above estimates are certainly not perfect, but hopefully detailed review of the assumptions underpinning these numbers will show that they are realistic for the Upper Bow Basin. These coefficients are meant to be used for both the BAU simulation as well as for best practices. In particular, they are sufficient to estimate the capital costs of denser or “clustered” development. From a municipality’s perspective, the key change from clustered development is a reduction in the costs of constructing roads and water pipelines to connect far-flung areas. Since water pipeline length is very closely related to urban roadway length, it is possible to estimate the cost-savings of urban development using the quantity of roadway required for these communities as the driver. Another way of showing the consequences of best practices is to measure the substitution of one landuse type for another. Because rural development has different rates of revenues and costs, an 3 of 15 increase in density of residential development would have consequences on a municipality’s financial position, and this can be captured using the information provided here. However, best practices which alter the costs impacts of a specific landuse without changing its landuse type are not analyzed in this report. For example, the additional costs of water conservation for a given piece of land are not quantified. If required, this can be done separately. (Note: For a discussion of a limited number of best practices, we recommend reading the CMHC report).

Upper-Bow-Infrastructure-and-maintenance-costs.pdf
2009

Valuaton of Recreation Attributes

Jonathan Holmes

This report by Jonathan Holmes lays out an approach for computing recreational value of landscapes Summary. Two concrete methods for calculating the non-market recreational value of a land base are presented: One based of landscape types, and the other on the mix of recreational activities used in the landscape. Both provide relatively easy and effective ways of quantifying the value of recreation in a given area over and above the total costs that recreational users had to pay, but I recommend the second method where possible because it is more precise and benefits from better regional estimates. In addition, I have included a discussion about how these estimates could be projected into the future using estimates derived from the ALCES model. The easiest way to do this is to assume that per hectare landscape values will remain constant over time for different landscape types, and to adjust the non-market value estimate based on landscape change. However, this assumes that other factors such as road penetration or the quantity of big game (in the case of hunters) have a small or negligible effect on the value of a landscape. While it would take more work, I believe that a more detailed projection of value (and therefore a better idea of what tradeoffs are in play) is possible in the case of hunting, and I discuss a few ways of doing this in a separate section. Unfortunately, projection of value for other types of recreation is difficult, because the relationship between landuse change and the recreational value of a landscape has been subject to few studies and reports to my knowledge.

Holmes_Recreation-Valuation-Paper.docx
2008

In Situ Oil Sands Footprint Monitoring Project

Antoniuk, T., Manuel,, M., Sutherland, M., and Bowen, J.

Prepared for Alberta Environment Land Monitoring Team Stakeholders and regulators have become increasingly concerned about the cumulative impact of existing and future in situ oil sands operations on ecosystem health and reclamation success in the Lakeland Industrial and Community Association (LICA) region. To respond to these concerns, Alberta Environment (AENV) commissioned a pilot project to develop a terrestrial footprint monitoring protocol for the LICA region. The In situ Footprint Monitoring Project (the In situ project) was completed by the ALCES Group in association with InfoJim Inc. The intent of the project was to establish a foundation for ongoing monitoring of the in situ development footprint that would ultimately assist stakeholders and regulators in responsible land management and sustainable development. Specific objectives defined by AENV were: 1. Develop an indicator-based approach and protocol to assess landscape features and evaluate land disturbances and reclamation progress over time, utilizing spatial information at an appropriate scale to enable comprehensive evaluation of cumulative land disturbances. 2. Using the developed protocol – identify, monitor, and map the cumulative land footprint associated with in situ activities for the selected area between 1980 and 2007, and to enable periodic updates after 2007.

In-Situ-Oil-Sands-Footprint-Monitoring-Project.pdf
2009

Athabasca Landscape Team Caribou Management Options

Terry Antoniuk, John Nishi

Athabasca Caribou Landscape Management Options Report Athabasca Landscape Team May 2009 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Woodland caribou are listed as "threatened" under both Alberta's Wildlife Act and the federal Species at Risk Act. The Athabasca Landscape Team (ALT) was established in June 2008 by the Alberta Caribou Committee Governance Board (ACCGB) and tasked with developing an Athabasca Caribou Landscape Management Options report for boreal caribou ranges in northeast Alberta (hereafter Athabasca Landscape area). The ALT was asked to develop management options to recover and sustain boreal caribou in all populations in the Athabasca Landscape area, consistent with the provincial woodland caribou Recovery Plan (2004/05 – 2013/14), but not to consider detailed technical, political or economic challenges. The ALT determined that there is insufficient functional habitat to maintain and increase current caribou distribution and population growth rates within the Athabasca Landscape area. Boreal caribou will not persist for more than two to four decades without immediate and aggressive management intervention. Tough choices need to be made between the management imperative to recover boreal caribou and plans for ongoing bitumen development and industrial land-use. The four Athabasca ranges — Richardson, West Side Athabasca River (WSAR), East Side Athabasca River (ESAR), and Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) — reflect known caribou locations and the presence of suitable peatland habitat. A 20 kilometre (km) buffer was added to these combined ranges to identify ‘planning areas’ that reflect the influence of adjacent habitats and populations of predators and other prey on caribou population dynamics. Available information suggests that there is limited movement between the four ranges or populations. Discrete caribou habitat areas are primarily found in large peatland complexes, but lichen-rich pine forests are also used. These peatlands occur within a matrix of upland mixedwood forest that is avoided by caribou, but provides habitat for other prey species (i.e., moose, white-tailed deer and beaver) that in turn support wolves, black bear, and other potential predators. The selection for peatlands appears to be a spatial separation strategy critical to the survival of boreal caribou. All monitored caribou populations in the Athabasca Landscape area are currently in decline, and recent trends and simulation modeling results indicate that there is a high risk that the populations will not persist for more than forty years. Current extrapolated caribou abundance in the landscape area (ca. 900 animals) is well below the number that would be expected in the absence of industrial land-use. Predation appears to be the immediate cause of recent declines, and available information indicates that this is directly or indirectly linked to land-use features, including roads, harvest blocks, leases, pipelines and power lines, seismic lines, and agricultural/residential clearings that have led to an increase in moose and deer populations within and around caribou ranges. The ALT undertook two analyses from which it developed the management options presented in this report. The first was a rating of the relative risk to caribou persistence within each planning area and range based on a series of eight risk criteria. These criteria Athabasca Landscape Team i Athabasca Caribou Management Options Report included both biological and land-use factors believed to influence short- or long-term persistence and habitat function. Table 2 in this report defines each criterion and summarizes how it was used, along with relevant assumptions and comments. The overall risk rating for each planning area is provided in the Table included at the end of this Executive Summary. The second analysis conducted for each planning area or range by the ALT involved simulation modeling using ALCES®. Modeling was conducted to forecast likely caribou populations and habitat conditions under three scenarios including Non-Industrial, Business as Usual, and Alternative Futures. Scenarios for Alternative Futures were designed so that multiple simulations would identify the management lever, or combination of levers, that could maintain or increase boreal caribou numbers over the next 50 years. Land-use footprint, associated with oil sands (bitumen) extraction and forest harvest, is likely to increase throughout the Athabasca Landscape area over the next 50+ years. The highest risk to caribou occurs in areas that are underlain with thick bitumen deposits (which includes portions of all planning areas). Small population size is also associated with higher risk, as in the Richardson and CLAWR areas where both potential and existing populations are considered to be less than 150 individuals. Risk for caribou persistence is lower (but still rated as medium) in the WSAR and the eastern portion of the ESAR planning areas. The ALT’s analyses show that the time for management action in the Athabasca Landscape area is now. Risk of extirpation increases yearly, and further delays in management action implementation will compound the current challenges. ALT analyses demonstrate that an aggressive suite of management options (likely totalling hundreds of millions of dollars) will need to simultaneously focus on reducing predation risk and restoring functional caribou habitat within each planning area. It is important to reiterate that evaluation of political and economic implications of management options was considered outside the scope of the ALT. Likewise, consultation and engagement of parties that would be affected by the recommended management options has not been completed. Nevertheless, the ALT concluded that a suite of management options would be needed to maintain and increase current caribou distribution and population growth rates. Landscape scale management will be required to successfully sustain caribou in the Athabasca Landscape area. The ALT proposes that this region be managed as two zones. In Zone 1 Areas, described in more detail below, caribou recovery would be the priority designated land use, and all management options identified below would be implemented. Elsewhere within planning areas (Zone 2), all management options excluding future footprint restrictions would be implemented. The exception is portions of the ESAR – Bitumen Fairway sub-planning area underlain by thick bitumen deposits where appropriate best practices would be implemented. The suite of management options identified by the ALT includes:
Athabasca Landscape Team ii Athabasca Caribou Management Options Report ¥ establish large (thousands of square kilometre) Zone 1 Areas in portions of each planning area where recovery of functional habitat (footprint is reduced well below today’s levels through aggressive and coordinated reclamation and future industrial footprint is restricted to levels below current conditions); and caribou mortality control (wolves and other prey are controlled for 50+ years) would be the designated and enforceable management priority; 
 ¥ elsewhere within caribou planning areas (Zone 2 Areas): control wolves and other prey for 100+ years; conduct coordinated reclamation; and implement enhanced best practices; and 
 ¥ as the viability of cow-calf penning or predator-prey exclosures is uncertain, the Richardson planning area is the most appropriate location to test this option. 
The table below provides a summary of the management options that would recover and sustain current caribou abundance and distribution in each Athabasca Landscape planning area. All identified options would need to be implemented as an integrated suite. Simulations showed that successful combinations of management levers were common to all planning areas, although the extent and duration of management actions differed slightly between areas. Simulations and risk ratings demonstrate that larger or more intact planning areas such as WSAR and Richardson have higher probability of success than do smaller, or less intact planning areas such as CLAWR and ESAR in the bitumen fairway. 
The ALT concluded that ‘Zone 1 Areas’ should be established to increase the probability of successfully recovering caribou in each planning area.
Although implementation will require further consultation with stakeholders and consideration of the current land-use policy and regulatory system in the province, the value of Zone 1 Areas is that they would apply a cumulative effects management approach where caribou recovery would be the designated and enforceable land-use priority. From an ecological perspective, Zone 1 Areas need to be of sufficient size (thousands of square kilometres) to recover and sustain an isolated caribou population. In these areas, combined footprint would be reclaimed and future footprint restricted to very low levels (below current conditions) concurrent with continuous predator control until functional habitat is restored. Six candidate areas have been identified in portions of the WSAR, Richardson, ESAR-W, ESAR-E, and CLAWR planning areas. To achieve provincial caribou recovery goals, the ALT boreal caribou management objective, and offset current declines of woodland caribou populations in the Athabasca Landscape area, all planning areas should receive protection through designation and implementation of Zone 1 Areas. Indeed for small planning areas with high relatively high industrial land used and anthropogenic footprint like the CLAWR area, all suitable range should be considered as a Zone 1 Area in order to ensure persistence of caribou. However, if political considerations preclude this approach, the ALT recommends that priority for establishing Zone 1 areas should be in planning areas with greater chance of success for population recovery (i.e., the order listed in the table below). Ultimately, population size and management effectiveness is related to the amount of functional or intact habitat. If two planning areas are similar in most respects, and choices have to be made between them, the ALT concluded that the area with larger, more continuous, or relatively intact habitat has a greater chance of success. 
 Athabasca Landscape Team iii Athabasca Caribou Management Options Report A more quantitative evaluation of candidate Zone 1 Areas based on the concepts of risk management and viable populations should be undertaken to understand the relationship between area and extirpation risk and to optimize the location and size of candidate areas. Mortality management and functional habitat restoration through coordinated reclamation and appropriate best practices are required management options in Zones 1 and 2 of each planning area. Habitat restoration on its own will not achieve success, because unmanaged predation by wolves will cause ongoing decline in caribou numbers in the near term (i.e., several decades minimum), despite restoration efforts. Similarly, mortality management aimed at increasing caribou survival will help caribou persist, but will have to be continued indefinitely if functional habitat is not restored. These two management strategies – restoration of functional habitat and mortality management – must be applied together. It is important to note that the benefits of habitat restoration will not be realized for decades because there is a 30-50 year lag time following reclamation before forest becomes old enough to be considered low quality for other prey, and suitably old to be used by caribou. At minimum, mortality management will need to be continued for this entire lag period. For this reason, long-term risk will be minimized if both habitat restoration and mortality management begin as soon as possible. The suite of successful management options evaluated by the ALT provides new landscape-scale strategies to sustain caribou, but there are also several key challenges: ¥ establishing legislated boundaries and management guidance for Zone 1 Areas; 
 ¥ conducting landscape-scale reclamation programs coordinated among multiple 
stakeholders; 
 ¥ aggregating decisions for landscape-scale caribou management that are made by 
individual government departments into a broader integrated cross-government 
strategy; 
 ¥ consultation and engagement of stakeholders who would be affected by the 
recommended management options contained in this report; and 
 ¥ building awareness of decision-makers, land users, and the general public to 
maintain social and financial support for required management actions, research, and monitoring over the long term. 
The ALT suggests that the current Lower Athabasca Regional Planning initiative under the Alberta Land-Use Framework is an appropriate forum to address these challenges for the Richardson, ESAR, and CLAWR planning areas. The management strategies identified by the ALT will require further leadership and work by the ACC Governance Board and collaboration with others to identify solutions to policy challenges and to develop clear implementation rules and processes that are consistent with existing and proposed legislation. 


-Athabasca-Landscape-
2016

An assessment of the cumulative effects of land use and management in SSN

B. Wilson, M. Carlson, M. Iverson, and J. Straker, S. Sharpe

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The St’kemlupsemc Te Secwepemc Nation (SSN) requested that ALCES Landscape and Land Use Ltd. (ALCES) conduct a cumulative-effects assessment for the SSN traditional territory, including any effects contributed by the proposed Ajax mining project. Simply put, cumulative effects are the changes caused by our actions today in combination with other past, and reasonably foreseeable human and natural disturbance. Critical components of this assessment include: • assessment over the entire SSN traditional territory, as well as the Ajax Regional Study Area (RSA) where appropriate; and • referencing current and forecast future conditions against ranges of natural variation approximating pre-contact conditions. This report provides a summary of the undertakings, findings and any recommendations emerging from this work for consideration by the SSN Review Panel in its deliberations regarding the proposed KGHM Ajax project within the SSN Traditional Territory. Simulation models are tools that provide insight into the potential outcomes of different land use management strategies. Models will not explicitly tell us what the “best” management objective or implementation approach is – this is the role of decision makers. ALCES is an acronym that stands for A Landscape Cumulative Effects Simulator. ALCES Online (AO) is a web-based GIS and landscape simulator for assessing the cumulative effects of multiple overlapping land uses and external stressors such as climate change. Indicators are measures of values of interest that help us understand the consequences of human land use and natural disturbance The ALCES simulation model was used to simulate ecosystems and forest fires during pre-contact conditions, and to additionally simulate the current and future effects of key human land uses, including mining (metal and aggregate), forest harvest, road construction, rural and urban residential growth, and recreation. These simulations were assessed for the cumulative effects on a range of land-use and ecosystem indicators, including five key indicators selected by SSN representatives: 1. land dispossession and tenure; 2. grasslands quantity and quality; 3. mule deer; 4. fish; and 5. an index of animal protein sources. Results of this work demonstrate substantial effects for all of these indicators from the precontact period to current conditions. All grassland and wildlife indicators show estimated declines within the SSN Traditional Territory ranging from 13% to 100%. In addition, development of the proposed Ajax mine project is shown to further contribute to decline in ALCES Landscape & Landuse Ltd. www.alces.ca ii future indicator performance for the grasslands and protein indices. Performance for the key selected indicators is summarized below: • Land dispossession and tenure – roughly 316,000 ha, or 25%, of the SSN traditional territory has been dispossessed through granting/sale of private lands, designation of provincial parks or other protected areas, and through direct construction of human footprint. These dispossessed areas are generally concentrated around the city of Kamloops and the grasslands to the south, as well as along the Thompson River valleys. Addition of non-forestry tenure types (mineral leases, guide-outfitter areas, range tenures, and the Agricultural Land Reserve) brings the total dispossessed land to 110% of the traditional territory. This analysis demonstrates that even without inclusion of forestry tenures that have granted forest-harvest rights and the ability to impose associated land management activities on the landscape, almost the entirety of the SSN traditional territory is occupied by at least one tenure type that is restrictive of SSN use of this land base. • Grasslands quantity and quality – grasslands comprised approximately 15% of the SSN traditional territory in pre-contact times. An analysis of current conditions indicates the absolute loss due to human land uses of almost 26,000 ha within the traditional territory, or approximately 14% of the original grasslands. These metrics are further pronounced in an examination of the Ajax RSA. In pre-contact times there were approximately 63,000 ha of grasslands in the RSA, or about 1/3 of the grasslands in the SSN traditional territory. Roughly 8200 ha, or 13%, of these grasslands have been lost due to human development at present, and future development over the next 50 years is projected to remove another 3400 ha, or 6% of the remaining grasslands. One of the larger intact grasslands in the RSA is the 2200-ha area north of the proposed mine development, and south of the Aberdeen neighborhood in the city of Kamloops. Declines in grassland quality are also estimated to have occurred and to continue occurring, both at the scale of the SSN traditional territory and within the RSA for the proposed Ajax mine. These declines are due to the combined effects of fire suppression, cattle grazing, introduction of non-native and invasive species, and physical removal of grasslands due to construction of human footprints. Integration of quantity and quality as an aggregate metric suggests that there has been an approximate 67% decrease in the integrity of native grasslands in the SSN traditional territory from pre-contact times to the present, and a 72% decrease within the Ajax RSA. • Mule deer – the habitat-effectiveness index for mule deer is currently 21% below the estimated lowest pre-contact level. This index is predicted to recover over the 50-year forecast driven by changes in forest demographics, but will still remain well below the minimum pre-contact level for this species. Fish – fish habitat is estimated for species that occur within the mainstems of the Thompson Rivers, including interior Fraser coho, an at-risk population. Average fish habitat values across the study area have declined by 27.5% from reference values, but some areas are higher, with declines in excess of 50%. These estimates of decline are conservative, in that they are based solely on a narrow assessment of mainstem habitat values, and do not account for temperature and flow effects within the river, nor population effects due to other factors. In addition, due to its limitation to the mainstem Thompson rivers, our analysis was not able to assess effects on fish inhabiting the Pípsell (Jacko Lake) area and associated watercourses. • Index of animal protein sources - The index of primary pre-contact terrestrial animal protein sources has declined by approximately 49% in current conditions from the precontact period, due both to degradation of grouse and mule-deer habitat and due to extirpation of elk and caribou from the traditional territory. Combining the effects of habitat degradation, extirpation, and land dispossession indicates an even greater effect: a 62% decline in availability of these protein sources under current conditions in comparison to the pre-contact period, as the majority of the highest quality habitat for the traditional protein species is largely inaccessible due to the granting of private title and construction of human footprint. As with the grasslands analysis, these effects are further pronounced in the RSA for the proposed Ajax mine – in this area, the decline in accessible terrestrial animal protein sources is 74% in current conditions compared to the pre-contact period. Addition of the fish indicator to the terrestrial protein indicators shows a total precontact protein indicator decline of 36% from pre-contact to current conditions. When the effects of tenure and direct displacement are added, the estimated decline is 42%. These and supporting analyses conducted for this report show the already substantial cumulative effects of land-management decisions and use in the SSN traditional territory, with generally large changes estimated from the pre-contact period to the present. Although the proposed Ajax project is relatively small, it is an additional stressor on the territory’s ecosystems and the organisms that depend on them, and its development would cause further loss to key SSN indicators, particularly grasslands and related species.

85_2016.04.26_Cumulative effects of land use & management in SSN_ALCES.pdf
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