ALCES Based Project Reports

Year Title (Author, Description) File Download

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.

Contact ALCES for Antoniuk, T., Manuel,, M., Sutherland, M., and Bowen, J., 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.

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

Contact ALCES for Brad Stelfox, Mark Anielski, Matt Carlson and Terry Antoniuk, 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.

Contact ALCES for Chernoff, Greg; Stelfox, Brad; Greenaway, Guy, 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.

Contact ALCES for Peggy Holroyd; Univ. of Calgary Dissertation, 2008

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 
 ¥ aggregating decisions for landscape-scale caribou management that are made by 
individual government departments into a broader integrated cross-government 
 ¥ 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. 

Contact ALCES for Terry Antoniuk, John Nishi, 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.

Contact ALCES for Jonathan Holmes, 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

Contact ALCES for Athabasca Landscape Team, 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.

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

Contact ALCES for Jonathan Holmes, 2009
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