Ecological Connectivity – Modelling, Planning and Municipalities

 

Ecological Connectivity – Modelling, Planning and Municipalities

Three guides to help to clear some of the cloudiness around ecological connectivity and municipal planning

The Issue / Idea

Municipalities face challenges in finding practical guidance for integrating ecological connectivity into the structures and practical realities of municipal planning.

The Project

Every municipal planning department in the Calgary region has faced the challenge of addressing ecological connectivity.

It can start from a variety of directions – open house feedback, a councilor request, a regional planning requirement, etc. It can carry many labels: wildlife corridors, linkage zones, structural and functional connectivity. However, two things are common to all of these cases. First, it is always based on the notion that species need to move to stay healthy and viable. Second, what a municipal planner can or should do about this is not clear.

As part of the Calgary Regional Partnership’s Ecological Conservation and Protection Initiative, Miistakis created three guides to help to clear some of the cloudiness around ecological connectivity and municipal planning.

As well as supporting municipal planners, these guides are intended to help those working with planners or who are affected by municipal plans. Understanding the way ecological connectivity is viewed through the lens of municipal planning will help others (including municipal councilors, wildlife biologists, conservation groups, land developers and builders) better understand the decisions and options that emerge in the planning realm.

Planning to Connect: A guide to provide clarity on what ecological connectivity might mean for a municipality, which plans and policies to target, and how. It also includes a searchable catalogue of example clauses from other jurisdictions and a document library of sample plans, reports, strategies, and cases from which to learn

Pulling the Levers: A Guide to Modelling and Mapping Ecological Connectivity outlines how the science can be used to give municipalities map-based illustrations of ecological connectivity.

Connecting the Dots: A Guide to Using Ecological Connectivity Modeling in Municipal Planning outlines how planners can acquire and use that information to address planning questions, working in partnership with their GIS staff or consultants.


Planning to Connect: A Guide to Incorporating Ecological Connectivity into Municipal Planning

Policy Clause Catalogue

Pulling the Levers: A Guide to Modelling and Mapping Ecological Connectivity

Connecting the Dots: A Guide to Using Ecological Connectivity Modeling in Municipal Planning

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Miistakis Institute

Status

Completed in

2019

Supporters

Woodcock Foundation

CRP Regional Ecoplan

 

CRP Regional Ecoplan

A project to outline how the region’s valued ecological features and functions could be maintained, and to do so by identifying measurable targets, describing specific actions that can be taken by the Calgary Regional Partnership and its members

The Issue / Idea

How can municipalities maintain their valued ecological features and functions in the face of  population growth?

The Project

In 2014, Miistakis began working with the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) on an implementation plan for the Calgary Metropolitan Plan’s first principle: “Protecting the natural environment and watershed.”

In a region that is projected to receive another 1.6 million people over the next 60 years, it was recognized it would be a significant challenge to determine how to actually approach achieving this principle, as well as how to know if it has been accomplished.

The Ecological Conservation and Protection Plan (later renamed the CRP Regional EcoPlan) was created to outline how the region’s valued ecological features and functions could be maintained, and to do so by identifying measurable targets, describing specific actions that can be taken by the CRP and its members at both the regional and local level, and by integrating directly with the Calgary Metropolitan Plan.

The Ecological Conservation Themes – the backbone to the plan – were established and, as well as the plan framework, and the target-setting approach approved by the CRP Executive in September 2017.


CRP Regional EcoPlan: A Summary of the Ecological Conservation and Protection Plan

CRP Regional EcoPlan: Themes – Detailed

Measuring Up: A Preliminary Assessment of Potential CRP EcoPlan Sub-Theme Measures

CRP EcoPlan: Strategies Catalogue: Summary Description

Proposed Target-setting Process for the CRP Regional EcoPlan

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Miistakis Institute

Status

Completed in

2017

Supporters

Calgary Regional Partnership

Municipal Conservation Easement Program

 

Municipal Conservation Easement Program

A Guide to help municipalities create a conservation easement program

The Issue / Idea

How can municipalities help landowners conserve their land for the future by using a conservation easement?

The Project

Flagstaff County in east-central Alberta has been working towards better protecting the valuable landscapes within its communities. After being approached by a local landowner about granting a conservation easement to the County, Flagstaff approached Miistakis about helping them establish a Conservation Easement program (municipalities are ‘qualified organizations’ under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act, eligible to hold conservation easements).

Working with the County’s Agricultural Service Board, Miistakis helped them draft a conservation easement bylaw, and tailor the policy to their draft Municipal Development Plan.

Once the decision was made to go ahead with implementation, Miistakis worked with the County to identify the conservation goals, and specific administrative needs. Miistakis then developed several implementation resources including a program procedures manual, a conservation easement template, a Baseline Documentation Report manual and template, a monitoring template, and several other templates and resources.

Flagstaff County is now moving ahead to negotiate conservation easements with interested ratepayers in their community.


Flagstaff County Conservation Easement Program: Procedures Manual

Flagstaff County Conservation Easement Program: Conservation Easement Checklists

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Miistakis Institute

Status

Completed in

2017

Supporters

Flagstaff County

Transfer of Development Credits

 

Transfer of Development Credits

A tool to help communities deal with rapid conversion of their valued landscapes, while simultaneously promoting appropriate landscape development

The Issue / Idea

How can municipalities deal with the rapid conversion of their valued landscapes, while simultaneously promoting appropriate landscape development?

The Project

The Transfer of Development Credits (TDC) tool is designed to help communities deal with the rapid conversion of their valued landscapes, while simultaneously promoting appropriate landscape development. The tool allows for the transfer of development potential from areas less suited to development (based on a community desire to see its character and function maintained), to areas more suited to increased development (based on their capacity to accept greater development activity).

The TDC website was developed as a resource for Alberta communities, to assist them in better understanding what a TDC program is, and how it can be used to conserve valued landscapes.


A Practical Guide to Transfer of Development Credits (TDCs) in Alberta

 

Organization

This project was undertaken by

Miistakis Institute

Status

Completed in

2013

Supporters

Alberta Real Estate Foundation

Anonymous Donor

Cost of Community Services

 

Cost of Community Services

How many dollars of revenue does a municipality get for every dollar of service expenditure for different types of land use? The Cost of Community Services (COCS) methodology assesses this.

The Issue / Idea

Because different land use types generate vastly different revenues, it can be difficult to know which if any one of them ‘pays for itself’ relative to the costs it incurs for the municipality.

The Project

The Miistakis Institute explored this question by undertaking a “Cost of Community Services Study” for Red Deer County. After a detailed review of background documents and financial records, and extensive interviewing of all Red Deer County Managers and Directors, Red Deer County’s audited financials for a single year were re-allocated based on land use. Expenditures and revenues were divided between four land use categories (Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Agricultural) and the results were used to create revenue/cost ratios.

The intent of this study is to support the development of land use planning approaches which best serve the community. Red Deer County can use this study with other information to maintain a healthy balance of land uses for the County. At the policy level, the study can assist in the development of a vision for the community; at the operational level, it can help assess whether resource allocations match policy priorities.


The Fiscal Implications of Land Use: A “Cost of Community Services” Study for Red Deer County: Main Report

The Fiscal Implications of Land Use: A “Cost of Community Services” Study for Red Deer County: Report 3: Methodology

The Fiscal Implications of Land Use: A “Cost of Community Services” Study for Red Deer County: Report 4: A Comparative Analysis of the Red Deer County COCS Study and Previous COCS Studies

The Fiscal Implications of Land Use: A “Cost of Community Services” Study for Red Deer County: Report 5: Detailed Data

The Fiscal Implications of Land Use: A “Cost of Community Services” Study for Red Deer County: Appendices

Report on the “Cost of Community Services” Multi-Municipality Workshop

Presentation Slide Deck: “Cost of Community Services” studies: What are they?

The Fiscal Implications of Land Use in a Rural Municipality

Organization

This project was undertaken by

Miistakis Institute

Status

Completed in

2007

Supporters

Alberta Real Estate Foundation

Red Deer County

Managing Recreation on Public Land: How Does Alberta Compare?

 

Managing Recreation on Public Land: How Does Alberta Compare?

This review by the Environmental Law Centre (ELC) compares the legal framework for recreation management in Alberta to other Canadian provinces and US jurisdictions

The Issue / Idea

How does Alberta regulate recreational impacts on the landscape? How does it compare to other jurisdictions? What challenges does it face in regulating recreational impacts on land and how might we go about it in the future?

The Project

Recreational use of public land in Alberta is creating significant management challenges as the demands for recreational opportunities and the impacts of recreational activity are increasing together. These challenges are shared by many western jurisdictions and have intensified in recent decades due to increases in motorized recreation. This review by the Environmental Law Centre (ELC) compares the legal framework for recreation management in Alberta to other Canadian provinces and US jurisdictions. These comparisons include the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, the US Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, and the States of Colorado, Utah and Oregon. The original report is expanded to consider Quebec and New Brunswick in the Addendum published in 2016.

The comparisons focus on three legal barriers to on-the-ground management actions in Alberta that were identified in advance of the research. These are:

    • mandates to manage recreation on public lands;
    • funding for recreation management programs; and,
    • liability for injuries on recreation trails.

The review also explores two questions relevant to recreation policy development in Alberta:

    • how motorized recreation is typically managed as compared to non-motorized recreation; and,
    • how options for improving recreation management under existing legislation compare to the option of legislative reform.

Managing Recreation on Public Land: How Does Alberta Compare?

Managing Recreation on Public Land: How Does Alberta Compare? Addendum

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Environmental Law Centre

Status

Completed in

2016

Supporters

Alberta Law Foundation

The Calgary Foundation

Glen and Lois Mumey

Agricultural Lands Law and Policy in Alberta

 

Agricultural Lands Law and Policy in Alberta

Highlighting and describing the legislative context for agricultural land uses in the province

The Issue / Idea

Agricultural lands and agricultural uses can provide a large suite of social, economic, and environmental benefits. What are laws and regulations that impact agricultural lands?

The Project

Agricultural lands support numerous social, economic and environmental benefits. In addition to making up an invaluable aspect of Alberta’s heritage and culture, social benefits of agricultural lands include food security and valued viewscapes. This project is set out in two phases. Phase 1 (2019) provides a review of the relevant statute and regulation relevant to agricultural lands and their operations. Phase 2 (forthcoming in 2021) outlines approaches (and recommendations) to move toward better conservation of high valued agricultural lands.

This report highlights and describes the legislative context for agricultural land uses in the province.


Agricultural Lands Law and Policy in Alberta

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Environmental Law Centre

Status

Phase 1 Completed in

2019

Phase 2 is

on-going

Supporters

Alberta Real Estate Foundation

Municipal Powers, Land Use Planning, and the Environment: Understanding the Public’s Role

 

Municipal Powers, Land Use Planning, and the Environment: Understanding the Public’s Role

Exploring the nature of citizens’ rights to participate in municipal decisions related to the environment

The Issue / Idea

What is the nature of citizens’ rights to participate in municipal decisions related to the environment?

The Project

Municipalities exercise a broad range of powers that have significant direct and indirect impacts on the environment. Alberta’s cities, towns, and rural municipalities are already key players in waste management, water and wastewater treatment, and land use planning and development. They have the authority to assume a greater role in the regulation and management of natural areas including wetlands, air and water quality, toxic substances, redevelopment of contaminated lands, water conservation, wildlife, and other aspects of the environment within the municipality.

This Guide outlines the legal rights of citizens to participate in decision making on issues related to the environment. The Guide also provides approaches citizens can take in participating in municipal decisions.

It is important to note that there have been some amendments to the Municipal Government Act since this guide was published in 2005. These amendments may have implications for certain aspects of public participation. See the ELC website for further updates on the Municipal Government Act changes.


Municipal Powers, Land Use Planning, and the Environment: Understanding the Public’s Role

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Environmental Law Centre

Status

Completed in

2005

Supporters

Alberta Law Foundation

Renewable Energy for Rural Municipalities

 

Renewable Energy for Rural Municipalities

A project to help municipalities municipalities understand their environmental, social, economic concerns and opportunities, and what support tools they may need to process applications for large scale (over 1MW) solar and wind development in their municipality

The Issue / Idea

What tools do municipalities need to balance development considerations with high value agricultural, ecological, and cultural lands?

The Project

“By 2030, renewable sources like wind and solar will account for up to 30 per cent of electricity generation,” says Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan.

To achieve this goal, large scale wind and solar developments are being proposed and are likely to have direct impacts in rural jurisdictions that have the land base to support them. In discussions with several municipal staff, it has become apparent they are uncertain how renewable electricity regulations and development will affect them. What is their role in the regulatory and approvals process? How do they balance competing interests between agriculture, ecology and renewable development? What do they need to know to make informed decisions?

Miistakis is working with municipalities to understand their environmental, social, economic concerns and opportunities, and what support tools they may need to process applications for large scale (over 1MW) solar and wind development in their municipality. Miistakis will then collaborate with stakeholders to develop the support tools required to inform decision making at the local level.


Renewable Energy Development: Ecological Fact Sheet for Municipalities

Renewable Energy Development: Regulatory Resources for Municipalities

Rural Municipal Wind and Solar Decision Support Tools: Regulatory Context Background Paper

Survey Report: Large Scale Wind & Solar Decision Support Tools for Rural Municipalities Project

Rural Municipalities and Renewable Energy Development: Education Session (January 23, 2018, Brooks, AB)


Rural Decision Support Tools for Renewable Energy Development: Progress Update (Miistakis Institute)

Organization

This project was undertaken by

Miistakis Institute

Status

Completed in

2018

Supporters

Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties

Wheatland County

Municipal Land Use Suitability Tool (MLUST)

 

Municipal Land Use Suitability Tool (MLUST)

A project to help municipalities identify where renewable energy (and other land uses) is most suitable in consideration of high valued agricultural, ecological, and cultural lands

The Issue / Idea

How do municipalities balance development considerations with high value agricultural, ecological, and cultural lands?

The Project

When municipal governments consider industrial scale solar or wind energy development, it immediately becomes clear that not everywhere is suitable for those activities, and not everywhere is unsuitable. For some areas it is a clear-cut ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but most areas sit somewhere on a continuum between those two extremes.

The Miistakis Institute and the Oldman River Regional Services Commission (ORRSC) developed the Municipal Land Use Suitability Tool (MLUST) to assist the Municipal District of Pincher Creek in identifying where renewable energy development is most suitable in consideration of high valued agricultural, ecological and cultural lands.

The MLUST process took six months to complete, engaged municipal stakeholders, made use of existing spatial datasets, and produced a series of map products to inform planning at the municipal scale.

MLUST engaged the municipal council and staff to identify features they valued on the landscape. Each feature was scored by stakeholders to determine each features conflict with wind and solar energy development. The most suitable areas for renewable energy development coincided with low probable conflict rating of other land uses. Renewable energy development suitability areas were also informed by removing No-Go Areas based on provincial, municipal and organizational regulations and Non-Development Areas based on existing settlement and Infrastructure.

The MLUST process can be adapted to determine the most suitable lands for any type of land use, not just renewable energy.

Prior to the development of the MLUST process, a similar process was used with Wheatland County and the County of Newell called the Least Conflict Lands. This process was later refined to create the MLUST process.


Executive Summary: Municipal Land Use Suitability Tool (MLUST) for Municipal District of Pincher Creek

Municipal Land Use Suitability Tool (MLUST) for Municipal District of Pincher Creek

Executive Summary: Least Conflict Lands: Municipal Decision Support Tool for Siting Renewable Energy Development

Least Conflict Lands: Municipal Decision Support Tool for Siting Renewable Energy Development

Organization

This project was undertaken by

Miistakis Institute

Oldman River Regional Services Commission

M.D. of Pincher Creek

Wheatland County

County of Newell

Status

Least Conflict Lands Completed in

2018

MLUST Completed in

2020

Supporters

Energy Efficiency Alberta

Rural Municipalities of Alberta

The INTACT Foundation

Energy Efficiency Alberta’s Community Energy Capacity Building Program

Wheatland County

County of Newell