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Your Trees do have Value

by the Agroforestry & Woodlet Extension Society 

Most people that live in Alberta have trees as part of their landscape. That can be in the yard around their home as ornamentals and fruit trees, or it can be in rural Alberta as large tracts of natural native trees that existed prior to any land clearing or shelterbelts and windbreaks that have been planted over the years. Those trees have a large variety of value to the owners and the communities in the province. So how do you find out those values and what can you do manage or improve those values?

In 2019 the Agroforestry & Woodlot Extension Society initiated a project, with support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, to assist primarily rural landowners of acreages and farms in learning about the value of their trees and also how manage aspects of the trees to improve the growth and quality of the trees and the overall value of their property. However, the project efforts can also benefit landowners in cities, towns, and small hamlets as all these areas have plenty to trees and can use some assistance.

The project involved meeting with landowners talking about their treed area or about an area they would like in trees and providing them advise on best way to achieve their goals. In many cases, the conversation turned to how to successfully plant more trees or how to improve the health and growth of their existing trees. Over the past year the program resulted in benefits to over 30 landowners, leading to six new planting projects that involved planting over 20,000 trees on private lands in central and northwest Alberta. It also has the potential of creating another 6-8 projects that will be planted in the spring of 2021, with a growing number as the project proceeds.

So, what are some of the values that might come from your trees? There are obvious values like producing wood if the tree is cut down, to be used in the manufacture of many things, including most of the homes in Alberta, but there are a lot of other values that they can provide as they stand and live in our backyards. As examples: trees will affect the microclimate (climate of a localised area) around them, primarily by altering wind, potentially reducing heating and cooling costs by 17.5% – 25%, and protecting livestock; they act as a physical buffer for odours and particulates, improving air quality; the reduction of wind speed prevents the movement of valuable topsoil off of fields and helps prevent the drying situation that leads to loose soils in the first place. One of the most beneficial synergies of trees is in how they interact with water and water bodies on a property. Their ability to control snow can be quite extensive, and they can act as water filters for runoff. Wooded areas also offer a variety of habitats for wildlife, which in turn offer their own benefits.

This partnership has allowed us to demonstrate that there are many and varied values the forested areas and trees can have, from their economic values to their inherent value as natural areas. Due to the complexity of these forested areas and trees, it is important to look at each case individually, and assess a forest or shelterbelt’s value on a case-by-case basis. All of this is explained in detail in the educational document produced as part of the project on the many and wonderful values that trees provide to people.

Enhancing Rural Property Values through Extension/Education

2018-2019 Annual Report Highlight

There are millions of hectares of privately owned forested areas in Alberta. This project is creating a variety of marketing materials, including postcards and fact sheets, that are designed to increase awareness among rural landowners about the services provided by Agroforestry & Woodlot Extension Society—AWES—and help them make “the most of their forest.”

The non-profit organization consists of people from government, industry, and non-profit sectors who all “share the common goal of encouraging sustainable forest management on private lands.”

AWES helps rural landowners across the province make the most of any forest they may have on their property. As well as being pleasing to the eye, healthy trees can serve a number of very important purposes on a piece of property— from acting as shelterbelt or windbreak to protect land, wildlife, and buildings against wind and erosion, to helping to maintain the health of riparian areas where land meets water to even encouraging native pollinators.

AWES holds a number of educational workshops and other events over the course of a year and is also available for a landowner to hire as a consultant to provide a number of services. After a site and individual tree health assessment, AWES can help a landowner with planting trees, rejuvenating or creating a shelterbelt, or restoring a riparian area.

In one-on-one meetings with landowners, AWES educates rural landowners about their forested lands and helps them improve how they manage their forested lands, thus helping landowners increase the property value of their land.

The $30,000 in funding from AREF is helping AWES promote its valuable services to landowners. And concurrently, the project is helping people working in the real estate industry better understand and promote the fact that well managed forest on rural parcels of land can lead to increased property values for the current and any subsequent owners.

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2018-2019 Annual Report.

Biodiversity should be on the agenda of local councils

This article was originally published Dec. 3, 2019, in Folio.

By BRENT WITTMEIER

Albertans need to start seeing biodiversity as a local priority, University of Alberta researchers say.

In a new report supported by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, associate professor of law Cameron Jefferies and Erin Sawyer, a research assistant with the Alberta Land Institute, argue that growing global concerns about habitat and biodiversity loss need to filter down to the level where Alberta’s municipalities and citizens can play a pivotal role in making the connections between neighbourhoods, communities and nature.

“We should be thinking about our municipal environments as part of the ecosystem,” said Jefferies, who specializes in environmental law. “Infrastructure isn’t just the built environment, it’s also the tree canopy and the water system.”

Building on the principle that communities feel the effects of biodiversity loss most closely, Jeffries and Sawyer argue that local governments have multiple legal tools and tactics to protect sensitive areas, create adaptation plans and encourage citizens to take up conservation in their backyards. The reasons for doing so, Jefferies added, go beyond the satisfaction of living near nature.

“We get a lot from our environment. We get more than we think,” said Jeffries. “At the end of the day, so much of our food comes from pollination. So much comes from the ecosystems that are buffering our environment for us.”

In 2018, Jefferies was awarded a grant to work with the Alberta Land Institute to write a report looking into the environmental implications of recent changes to the Municipal Government Act. The Government of Alberta modernized its legislation governing municipalities, and among the changes were broader powers and expectations for municipalities to pursue and enhance environmental protection.

Since then, a new government has shifted budget priorities, but Jefferies argues that the biodiversity question must not be lost.

Communities can still use conservation offsets and land trading to focus development where it has the least impact, or to shift to higher density planning to consume less land and concentrate resources. Bylaws could be put in place to protect trees on private properties or to encourage the use of green roofs, steps that can keep wildlife corridors intact.

“If we don’t build resilient communities, we’re going to have more repair costs,” Jefferies said. “There’s consequences to insurance, to taxes. There’s consequences to property loss, to damage.”

A bigger emphasis on biodiversity could enhance quality of life at a local level, Jefferies said. The City of Edmonton, for instance, looks at wildlife corridors when planning transportation projects, recognizing that a poorly planned road or bridge can isolate wildlife populations.

Jefferies hopes the new report can spark conversations, provide ideas for municipalities and inspire regional collaboration. But a bigger goal is for broader public engagement around the need to take biodiversity out of nature documentaries and into local contexts. Jefferies and Sawyer’s team is working on brochures to help Albertans see conservation opportunities in their backyards.

While Jefferies said he is hopeful that municipalities will take initiative and support biodiversity, he also envisions an opposite scenario, in which more is expected from local governments without a corresponding degree of financial or regulatory support. He hopes the new report offers municipalities some options for moving forward.

“Funding is always going to be a difficult issue,” he said. “If you get that new responsibility but you don’t get an associated funding boost, then how do you actually achieve some of those goals?”

 

What do rural landowners need to know about inactive and orphaned wells?

Pembina Institute’s latest primer on oil and gas liabilities in Alberta

By Nikki Way and Morrigan Simpson-Marran

Increasingly, Albertans have heard about the number of oil and gas wells that sit inactive, neglected, or potentially orphaned in this province. Inactive and orphaned well numbers are growing in parallel with a prolonged energy recession in Alberta since 2014. Often this issue is discussed in an abstract way, mainly focusing on the financial implications for the province or referencing liabilities that companies do not have the funds to properly care for, which raises questions about whether some of these wells will be cleaned up at all.

At the end of the day, rural landowners are the ones who have this infrastructure on their land and have to live with these uncertainties. With support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the Pembina Institute has published the Landowner’s primer: what you need to know about unreclaimed oil and gas wells to help those who are most impacted. Designed as a complementary follow up to our 2016 publication, the Landowners’ Guide to Oil and Gas Development , this primer addresses questions and examines problems landowners face when dealing with operators who are under financial strain and still have unreclaimed oil and gas infrastructure on landowners’ property.

Since the price downturn of 2014, multitudes of oil and gas companies that had accrued significant clean-up costs in Alberta have declared bankruptcy, in some cases leaving their infrastructure under the care of the Orphan Well Association. Many of the names of bankrupt operators have been in the news recently, such as Sequoia Resources, Lexin Resources, Trident Exploration, and Redwater Energy.

Although these are some of the high profile examples of operators who reneged on their responsibility to clean up hundreds – and in some cases, thousands – of wells, there are many other lesser known instances in which landowners are left with few answers for what might happen, or even who they could seek out to get questions answered. Currently in Alberta there are 90,000 inactive wells and 3,406 orphan wells that are up for abandonment (also known as decommissioning), while another 2,772 orphan sites need to be reclaimed.

Frequently, when wells are orphaned, sold off in bankruptcy, or even neglected and left inactive by companies that are financially struggling, landowners are left without an explanation of how to proceed and what their rights are. They may struggle to navigate the process of insolvency, or to understand the role of the operator or the regulator through this process.

The Pembina Institute’s Landowner’s primer outlines what a typical reclamation process should look like, and what issues may arise if the reclamation process does not go as planned. It explains what may happen if the operator on your land declares bankruptcy, and who might take over the responsibility of the well next. It offers guidance on issues such as missed lease payments and who to contact in case of a leak from the well. It also offers advice on how to navigate an untended well site. Should more questions remain, the guide has a list of contacts for landowners in order to get the help they need.

Without legislative changes that can ensure the timely reclamation of oil and gas infrastructure before companies reach their financial limits, many landowners will continue to experience this problem. It is important that as many landowners as possible have resources to navigate this situation.

Whether you are a real estate professional, an organization that works with landowners, or if you have an oil or gas well on your property, this primer is for you. You can download a copy of the Landowner’s primer: what you need to know about unreclaimed oil and gas wells. In addition, you can order a printed copy of the Landowners’ Guide to Oil and Gas Development for the cost of shipping.

Download your copy of the Landowner’s primer. 

About the Pembina Institute
The Pembina Institute is a non-profit think-tank that advocates for strong, effective policies to support Canada’s clean energy transition. We have offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Toronto. Learn more: www.pembina.org

Land Access Strategies for New Farmers in Alberta

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

Statistics Canada reports that only 8 per cent of farmers across the country have a succession plan. Meanwhile they’re getting closer to retirement. The average age of producers in Alberta is 57 and fewer of their children want to take over the family farm.

“Seventy-five per cent of farmers say they will sell their land in the next 10 years. That’s a huge transfer of land,” says Dana Penrice, prairie program manager at Young Agrarians. “At the same time we’re seeing a trend of new farmers coming from non-farming backgrounds.

They’re first generation farmers and they’re looking for land.” AREF is supporting the Young Agrarians’ Organic Alberta project which will research, consult and survey new farmers, older farmers as well as land experts to better understand the upcoming land transfer in Alberta.

The project will host workshops on intergenerational communication, succession planning and other topics regarding land transfer. They’re branding the initiative: ‘Want land? Got land?’

“What we’re facing is a really significant change in assets in terms of land and farm ownership,” says Penrice.

“We need to figure out this whole land access issue. How do we match up people who are looking for land and people who have land?”

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

Methods of Remediation of Contaminated Water and Excess Nutrients

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

Research at Olds College has determined at least three native wetland plants in Alberta—sedges, cattails and bulrushes—are “working very well” removing contaminants and excess nutrients from the water. “There’s no data that indicates what plants, what kind of contaminants or nutrients each plant takes up and how much the plants can take up at a time,” says Ruth Elvestad, research technician at Olds College Centre for Innovation.

That’s why AREF supported furthering the research with a project called: Use of Native Wetland Plants and Cold Climate Floating Island Systems for the Remediation of Contaminated Water and Water with Excess Nutrients. The project will test several more native wetland plants to help landowners understand the value of wetlands on their property and how different plants can clean up different contaminants.

“We would say let’s test the water that has algae or other contaminants,” says Elvestad. “Then we should be able to say ‘This is what you’ve got going on in your pond so you need plant X, Y or Z and this is how many you need of each in order to assist in cleaning your water so it can be recycled and used in agriculture, irrigation, and other applicable industries.’”

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

Rural Climate Solutions Online Resources and Broadcasting

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

The Stettler Learning Centre is creating a series of podcasts and a website that are “part educational tool, part source of inspiration” aimed at Alberta producers who want to understand what they can do on the farm to help move toward a clean energy economy.

“This podcast comes straight out of Alberta—one of Canada’s biggest agriculture and energy producers— and dives into the technology and practices that are both good for the farm and good for the climate,” says Derek Leahy, the project coordinator for Rural Routes to Climate Solutions at the Stettler Learning Centre. “The agriculture sector is often characterized as a cause of climate change as opposed to a solution but most people do not realize that there are farming practices that can help us in the fight against climate change.”

From solar power to better land management, many of the practices that can help the environment can also help improve farming and ranching operations. “There are many producers who do not realize many climate solutions can help their farming and ranching operations thrive,” says Leahy. For example, using biodiversity can boost productivity, manage pests and help the land endure Alberta’s endless cycle of floods and droughts. Another podcast covers the benefits of formalizing a cooperative among agricultural producers to save on costs and minimize operators’ environmental footprints.

“Producers are constantly looking for opportunities and new techniques to improve my agricultural operations,” says Leahy. “Our project connects those dots by providing clear, informative and entertaining explanations on how producers can benefit from using climate solutions on their land.”

AREF’s support for the project allows the Learning Centre extend an existing program that received funding from the Alberta Government Community Environment Action Grant program. The initial program developed workshops and other materials for producers about agricultural and land-use practices that reduce carbon emissions.

Turning those materials into podcasts provides a really convenient method for producers to consume the information. “For producers, time is limited and it is also a precious commodity. But with the podcast, a producer can simply download episodes on to his or her phone and listen on the job, particularly on those days that they’re on a tractor or combine all day.” says Leahy.

“It is our hope that through this easily accessible method of learning, producers will be informed and inspired to use climate solutions on their farms. They will benefit and we will all benefit from this.”

Listen to the Rural Routes to Climate Solutions podcast here!

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

New look of Pembina’s New Energy Economy Map

It’s been over a year since the New Energy Economy project got its start, premiering at the 2017 Alberta Climate Summit. The goal was to share stories of Albertans taking hold of the energy evolution well underway in the province, and in less than a year it has made amazing progress.

Today, the New Energy Economy Map has over 200 projects, each having broken ground after 2012. They have published more than 20 stories and profiles about these projects and the people who make them happen — touching on renewable energy, efficiency, education, transportation, clean technologies and more. The map is always growing, with new stories published every week.

 

University of Alberta Enhances Research on Urban Expansion

“Urban Alberta is spilling into rural,” says Brent Swallow, an environment and development economist. Too often, decisions about land designation are driven by short-term goals, he says. But there are long-term costs to development and to the “ecosystem services” that rural land provides for cities, such as clean air and water.

Balancing urban expansion with rural conservation is challenging and heavily influenced by people’s attitudes and beliefs. For example, do urbanites in Alberta want to preserve the rural land around their cities? Do they want more locally grown produce at the farmers markets? Are they willing to pay extra to keep the city outskirts green?

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation wants to find answers to these questions to help the real estate industry better understand issues around land stewardship. The foundation’s $50,000 donation will make it possible for Swallow and his research team in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences to conduct a province wide survey of urban attitudes toward fragmentation, conversion and conservation of agricultural land.

One Shift at a Time – Gamification for Energy Transition

The Newtonian Shift drops you into the outdated, inefficient, polluting Newtonia. You may find yourself working for a utility, or a bank. Or maybe you are a First Nations leader, oil and gas producer, or the director of an environmental non-profit. As the population grows and the impacts of climate change become impossible to ignore, the leadership and citizens of Newtonia call on actors across the system, including you, to work together to transform your country’s energy system into one that is sustainable and able to meet the needs of the future. It’s up to you to make it work while dealing with outages, supply disruptions, and shifting political winds. If this sounds familiar, you’ve been paying attention.

 The Newtonian Shift is one of the key tools employed by the Energy Futures Lab, an awardwinning, multi-stakeholder initiative to accelerate the transition to the energy system that the future requires of us. Launched publicly in early 2015, the lab is powered by The Natural Step Canada, in collaboration with the Suncor Energy Foundation, Energy Efficiency Alberta, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF), the Government of Alberta, Shell, ATB Financial, RBC, the Calgary Foundation, and the Landmark Group of Builders. The initiative also involves dozens more organizations in an unprecedented series of innovative partnerships and collaborations. AREF’s support, from 2016 to 2018 has enabled the EFL to play a prominent role in reframing a broader public narrative about energy, and introduce alternatives to the polarized debate that all too often dominates conversations around energy issues. The grant has enabled the EFL to scale and reach over 4000 Albertans over the past two years through its EFL Leadership Bootcamps, Energy Future Showcase event, public receptions, and especially the Newtonian Shift energy transition simulation.

The Newtonian Shift has proven to be a powerful tool that helps people engage with the complexity of energy issues through gamification. “You can talk or read about a system, but The Newtonian Shift gives you the visceral experience of being at the centre of change. It’s fun, it’s intense, and provides real insights.” Cheryl De Paoli, Executive Director of AREF. The feedback of over one thousand participants has helped to pinpoint a few of the aspects that make the Newtonian Shift so effective:

A Platform for Experimentation.

We can try things in a game that we cannot just try in real life. We’ll never design a perfect model of something as complex as Alberta’s energy system, but our ability to run experiments in the real world is extremely limited. Being able to play out interventions over years and across an entire system, even in simulation, can help us to identify promising avenues to pursue in the real world, or understand why an initiative that might seem promising could face unforeseen barriers.

Perspective Shifting.

Games let us be someone else. Over the course of a career we can only have so many jobs, and we may not all get the chance to be the CEO of a major corporation, manage a cleantech startup, or negotiate on behalf of a First Nations community. Participants have come from across Alberta’s energy system, bringing their own unique points of view. Some may even recently have seen each other as adversaries, but now they’ve been brought together to collaborate. What they are quickly realizing, and what the Newtonian Shift drives home, is that things often look very different from the other side of the table.

Experience of the Transition

In a game you don’t just learn something, you live it. The Newtonian Shift gives participants the visceral experience of what a transition is like and the type of collaboration that is needed in order to make it happen. The bird’s eye view and time compression of the game world allow participants to feel the system and the shift. Interrelations and dynamics are revealed and internalized in a way that can’t be achieved through readings, presentations, discussions or clever facilitation.

Runs of the Newtonian Shift are taking place in communities, academic institutions and some of Alberta’s leading businesses. One of the next times the game will be run will be as part of the Energy Futures Roadshow pilot scheduled for September 2018 in Crow’s Nest Pass. If you are interested in hosting a session of The Newtonian Shift, visit our website or email nalguneid@naturalstep.ca.

About Traversing Terrain and Experience: Atlas of the Battle River and Sounding Creek Watersheds

By Battle River Watershed Alliance

The land that drains into the Battle River and Sounding Creek- these watersheds- provide a backdrop for the unfolding lives lived full of courage and tragedy, heroism and heartbreak. Over time, this landscape has witnessed the retreat of glaciers, Indigenous peoples and great herds of bison, the arrival of the Fur Trade and European settlers, the ploughing of fields, and the creation of modern cities. This book tells these stories, and many more.

In 2014 with the help of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation and others, the Battle River Watershed Alliance set out to tell these stories in an Atlas unlike any before. In 2017 the dream became reality and the Traversing Terrain and Experience Atlas was published. This is no ordinary atlas; this is a compilation of stories, art, photography, geography, and interesting facts that make our home unique. It blends the science with the social, it reflects on how the land has shaped us, and how we have shaped the land. It expands our understanding of place, as it takes you through the story of a landscape rich in history, culture, resources, and inspiration.

 

The 120 pages of this hardcover book contain 100% local information on everything from climate and weather, to population density, to art and culture. The watersheds region is expansive and diverse. The Atlas has equal representation from urban and rural perspectives, from the western headwaters at Battle Lake to the eastern confluence with the North Saskatchewan River, from the northern parkland to the southern grassland, from past, to present, to future.

The Atlas will be distributed at no cost to the 60+ schools and 40+ libraries in the watershed, ensuring all students and community members can have access to it. Books are also available for purchase through the BRWA website at www.battleriverwatershed.ca/atlas.

By reading through this atlas you will come to understand the deep and profound relationship between the land, water, people and all living beings. You will see the interconnection between our environment and our economy. You will learn more about the communities which make up this region, and the extraordinary people who call this place home.

Climate and Weather Pages

Population Density Pages

 

 

25th Anniversary celebrations at Friends of Fish Creek Park

By Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society

Figure 1: 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Signature Artwork  – Autumn Colour by Jim Pescottt

So far, 2017 is proving to be a pivotal year. As well as being the 25th anniversary of the Friends, it is also becoming the year where all our learning and relationships of the previous 5 years are coming together.

We launched two special fundraising initiatives to mark our 25th anniversary, the dedication brick program and the signature image program. Our brick program gives donors the opportunity to purchase a brick with their special message or dedication on it. The new pathway to the door of our office in the park will feature these bricks.

Our signature image program features a painting created specially for us by Canadian artist Jim Pescott. This image features the very essence of the park and we have had 25 limited edition art prints made, each one signed and numbered by Jim, which are available for purchase.

AREF funding has supported our work towards building the value we can add to the lives of our community. One area that has seen lots of growth is our wellness program suite. A lot has changed in our city in the past few years and the results of a slow down in the economy are only just starting to become clear. The previous season taught us a lot about the value the community saw in our wellness programs and the ways in which the park can serve as a tool to support both good physical and mental health. During this time, practitioners in wellness have reached out to us to collaborate in further leveraging the natural spaces in the park to support wellbeing.

Our hands on stewardship programs grow in both scope and complexity and we are now delivering riparian restoration activities in the park. In addition to the restoration activities, our invasive species management program continues to grow thanks to our amazing volunteers that have gathered a great deal of knowledge of this subject over the years.

Figure 2: Volunteers lend a hand in the care of Fish Creek Provincial Park.

Visit Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society’s website to keep up to date on our programs and upcoming events.

Environmental leaders recognized

On June 6th, environmental leaders from across the province gathered at Edmonton’s Royal Alberta Museum for the 26th Annual Emerald Awards. Presented by the Alberta Emerald Foundation, the Emerald Awards recognize and celebrate outstanding environmental achievements across Alberta.

The awards place a spotlight on all sectors including – not-for-profits, government, business, educational institutions, individuals, and youth, with a total of 12 categories. The finalists are selected by a panel of knowledgeable third-party judges.

And the Emerald Awards go to:

To read about all of the nominees, visit the Alberta Emerald Foundation’s website.

…..

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s community investment program has enabled Albertans to understand and respond to changing land use patterns, growth pressures, and air and water management issues, and enhance the quality of their communities. We believe all have a role to play in taking responsibility for how we use our land and as such we are pleased to be involved in the Emerald Awards as an industry leader celebrating the good stories of land use excellence in Alberta.

Protecting the Bighorn as a Wildland Park

By Hilary Young, Y2Y

Long before I started working with Y2Y, I’d heard about the allure of the Bighorn Wildland – especially the cold, clear tributaries and waterfalls that form the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River. I was excited to experience this landscape firsthand with my colleagues over the summer, as one of Y2Y’s major goals is to protect the Bighorn as a Wildland Park.

We started out on the trail to the Siffleur Falls, crossing a long suspension bridge and a wooden boardwalk before gaining elevation on the limestone hills. Four kilometers passed quickly, and we were caught by surprise when the trail narrowed and the limestone suddenly cut away into the sloping Siffleur Canyon.

When we came upon the cascading falls a few hundred meters further, we sat for a while in awe, gaining perspective on the steady natural forces that pre-date humans by just staring thoughtfully into the river canyon. For how many hundreds of thousands of years has clean, quick-flowing water been wearing away rock? And for what tiny fraction of this have we been meddling with natural processes and having a disproportionate impact?

After taking photos (which of course failed to capture the emotional experience the canyon evoked in person), we started our hike back out. I knew that the Siffleur River flowed into the North Saskatchewan and then into the Edmonton Capital Region’s water supply. I knew that these tributaries lay within an intact landscape that provided quality habitat for threatened species like grizzlies. But getting out into the Bighorn gave me an emotional connection to a place I could recite facts about — I now understood on a more visceral level that industrial resource extraction and motorized recreational vehicles had no place here. The ancient canyon was the perfect symbol for wild lands that have a timeline, purpose and rhythm well beyond our own.

The Bighorn Wildland that lies between Jasper and Banff National Parks needs to be protected as a Wildland Park. This vast landscape of low elevation foothills, broad valley bottoms, ridgelines and mountains is part of the interconnected Yellowstone to Yukon region, one of the last intact mountain ecosystems left on Earth. Over a million Albertans downstream of the Bighorn, in places like Edmonton and Clearwater County, rely on the water that its tributaries and rivers provide.

Please help protect these lands by calling or writing your local MLA to let them know you want the Bighorn to be designated a Wildand Park! Visit us at loveyourheadwaters.ca for more information.

 

How much do Albertans love the wilderness?

By: CPAWS Southern Alberta Chapter

Alberta is home to an amazing landscape and Albertans know it. You can hop in your car and be in the middle of wilderness in little more than an hour.  The accessibility to nature and getting outside is an incredible draw and asset to this province.  Although we know Albertans are drawn to the outdoors, CPAWS wanted to dig deeper and ask Albertans about our parks and wilderness, specifically are they spending time outdoors, what activities are they doing and what are their values and attitudes towards nature?

To do this, CPAWS commissioned a province wide poll, funded in part by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, on Albertans’ recreation and wilderness values. The survey, created with input from academics, partners, stakeholders and most importantly an outside consultant (the Praxis Group), was designed to be credible and statistically representative of all Albertans.   Although recreation surveys have been done in the past, none of them have encompassed both outdoor activities and wilderness values on a province-wide scale.

Then Need

At CPAWS we felt we needed to get a better and more comprehensive understanding of how Albertans are using the land to help inform better planning decisions for the future of Alberta. As Alberta’s population grows, more people are getting outside and into our parks and wilderness areas. We wanted to learn about what is actually happening on the landscape.  With more demand, low impact sustainable recreation is going to play a bigger role and we will need to properly plan in order to safeguard environmentally sensitive areas.

Recent concerns about infrastructure-based commercial development in places like Banff National Park despite huge public opposition and lack of demand, and high impact activities, like motorized recreation, that have a significant impact in places like the Castle and Ghost, indicate a need to look at what people want from their outdoor experience and how they value our wilderness areas. We need to make sure that land-use decisions are in the interests of the majority of Albertans and that we protect and grow our amazing parks and wilderness areas in the province, reflecting Albertans’ values.

Results

The results of the survey showed that 76% or three quarters of all Albertans get outside and enjoy the wilderness of Alberta on a regular basis! The majority value quiet recreation and 88% want more wilderness protection.  It is important to note that most Albertans are engaging in low impact recreation like hiking and camping and that that 86% prefer non-motorized recreation.

Some other key stats from the survey are:

  • 76% participate in some form of outdoor recreation
  • 98% want protection of water to take precedence over industrial development
  • 88% want governments to preserve more wilderness
  • 94% of Albertans believe that wilderness areas are important because they preserve plant and animal species
  • 86% prefer non-motorized recreation in wilderness areas over motorized recreation
  • 83% want wilderness protected and left in its natural condition even if these areas are never visited by, or benefit, humans.

So clearly, Albertans love and strongly value their wilderness areas. The most surprising result for CPAWS was that 83% of Albertans indicated that they wanted wilderness protected even if they never visit those areas. This tells us that people recognize the value of nature and they are willing to make tradeoffs to protect it for future generations.

The survey results have been shared widely with municipalities, recreation groups, the real estate industry, government officials and land managers so that this information representing Albertans can be used in formal land use decisions and recreation planning.  CPAWS feels the project has been rewarding is making an impact.  We have had people and groups quoting the survey results in meetings, pushing for land use practices that are representative of the majority Albertans.

What is next? CPAWS will make sure the results are widely available and continue to make efforts to present, share and promote this important work. CPAWS wants to see decision-makers have the information they need to plan for the protection of the environment such as headwaters, forests and wildlife corridors while considering the needs of the multiple recreation users in Alberta.

We are also working on encouraging people to get outside and sustainably connect with nature through outreach and creation of a series of videos highlighting sustainable recreation opportunities in Alberta. The first video highlights snowshoeing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Now that we know how much people appreciate these areas, we hope they will be empowered to be stewards of our parks and wilderness areas and use their voices to advocate for better land management and more protected areas in our province. We can enjoy economic benefits, great recreational places and prioritize ecologically sensitive areas. We can have an even better Alberta, we just need to plan for it.

To read the full report on Albertans’ Values and Attitudes Towards Recreation and Wilderness visit http://cpaws-southernalberta.org/campaigns/survey-albertans-want-more-wilderness-protected

Congratulation to ALUS in Alberta on their win of the Shared Footprints Award!

Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) in Alberta was awarded the Shared Footprints Award at the 25th Annual Emerald Awards, held on Thursday, June 8th at TELUS Spark.

“It’s such a thrill to accept the Shared Footprints Award, sponsored by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation,” said Christine Campbell, ALUS Canada’s Western Hub Manager, in her acceptance speech. “For ALUS, winning the Emerald Award is proof of something we’ve always known: Albertans appreciate the environmental stewardship work that farmers and ranchers are doing, for all our sakes.”

The Shared Footprints Award recognizes excellence in Integrated Land Management (ILM)—a strategic planned approach to managing and reducing the human-caused footprint on public and/or private land. All of the finalist in this category demonstrate collaboration, dedication and creativity in working to improve and enhance land use practices in Alberta.

ALUS Canada is a community-led, farmer-delivered program that supports stewardship activities on agricultural lands. ALUS programs have been established in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. In all ALUS communities, farmers and ranchers obtain support to enable them to produce valuable ecological goods and services on their lands, via such activities as establishing or restoring wetlands, flood mitigation, carbon sequestration, creating wildlife habitat such as native Prairie pollinator strips, and more.

The County of Vermilion River adopted ALUS in 2010 as a means to address the loss of wetlands and other conservation issues associated with land-use changes in the area. Parkland County and Red Deer County quickly followed suit. Ten provincial municipalities have now adopted the ALUS program, with many more having expressed interest in joining this pioneering network. Together, Alberta’s ALUS communities are bridging the gap between environmental and agricultural activities by building a network of farmers and ranchers to lead conservation efforts throughout the province.

This is the third year the Alberta Real Estate Foundation has sponsored this award.

To read ALUS Canada’s press release visit their website here: PRESS RELEASE – ALUS Wins Alberta Emerald Award.

To see previous recipients of the Shared Footprints Award, visit the Alberta Emerald Foundation website here.

ALUS and AREF

Staff and Board from ALUS and AREF at the 25th Annual Emerald Awards (click to enlarge)

25 years of celebrating environmental successes with the Emerald Awards

From a couple that’s revived a Cree water blessing at the Battle River to teachers that inspire students, from projects at giant corporations to a young woman who worked in her basement to clean tailings ponds—the Alberta Emerald Awards shines a light on hundreds of environmental stars across the province.

“Since we began in 1992, the Emerald Awards have showcased 280 recipients from across Alberta in sectors from business, government, youth, individuals schools and more, each with its own unique environmental success story,” says Carmen Boyko, Executive Director, Alberta Emerald Foundation (AEF). “By showcasing the incredible dedication and hard work of the Emerald Award finalists and recipients we hope to inspire everyone to take a look at their everyday environmental habits and practices, helping to build toward a healthier more vibrant environment.”

As well as the Emerald Awards, the AEF holds Emerald Day events in communities across Alberta to showcase work by the finalists and recipients. Emerald Days include environmental booths, a speakers series featuring awards recipients and finalists well as activities for kids and an environmentally friendly family movie. AEF’s Youth Environmental Engagement Grant Program inspires “the next generation of eco-heroes” by giving up to 100 young people micro-grants of up to $400 for environmental projects across the province.

“I’m proud to be a part of this 25th annual celebration as we celebrate and showcase some pretty extraordinary achievements made by individuals and organizations, all of who are dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and sustaining the environment,” says Boyko. “We know that Albertans are passionate about the environment and we are honoured to share new and innovated environmental research, technology and practices.”

AREF is happy to support the Emerald Awards’ Shared Footprint category to celebrate projects that go beyond normal land management to have a positive impact on the environment. “Recipients of the Shared Footprints Award go above and beyond land and water stewardship, building and shared knowledge, improving air quality and reducing land disturbances,” says Boyko. “AREF’s support with this category has been invaluable.”

The Emerald Awards are unique in Canada and helps bring governments, private industry, non-government organizations and individuals together in support of the environment. This year, 70 people and/or organizations were nominated for an award and there will be 32 finalists announced, across 12 categories. The Emerald Awards will be held June 8 at TELUS Spark in Calgary.

The Alberta Emerald Foundation Announces 25th Annual Emerald Awards Finalists

Today, at Calgary’s Eau Claire Market, hopeful nominees joined the Alberta Emerald Foundation (AEF), its sponsors, volunteers and other members from the local community, for the announcement of the 25th Annual Emerald Awards Finalists.

Over the past weeks, a panel of knowledgeable third-party judges with cross-sectoral experience rose to the challenge of narrowing down the brilliant examples of innovation and environmental achievement nominated this year for the uniquely-Albertan award. A maximum of three nominees in each of the ten Emerald Award categories have been selected as a finalist. Only one per category will take home the award.

“The Alberta Emerald Foundation is at the forefront of celebrating great achievements in sustainable development, bringing awareness to the many unique environmental projects occurring throughout Alberta,” says Aaron Dublenko, past Emerald Award recipient and member of the current judging panel. “Whether it’s schools, industry, government, non-governmental agencies, large or small companies, anyone can be acknowledged for their ingenuity in sustainable practices. Such recognition reminds us that despite the many pressures our air, water and soil face, people are working tirelessly to use less, reduce their footprints and educate others on how to do the same.”

“We are the only Foundation in the country to recognize the important work of environmental leaders across all sectors,” says Andy Etmanski, Chair of the Board, AEF. “By honouring and elevating the ingenuity, dedication and hard work of these individuals and organizations, we inspire others to follow their example, benefiting all Albertans with a healthier and cleaner environment.”

The Emerald Awards recognize and celebrate environmental excellence achieved by individuals, not-for-profit associations, large and small corporations, community groups and governments from across Alberta. Since 1992, the Emerald Awards has recognized over 475 finalists and 280 recipients who have demonstrated creative thinking and innovation in environmental management systems, technologies and education programs.

The 25th Annual Emerald Awards will be presented on June 8, 2016 at Telus Spark in Calgary.

Congratulations to ALUS in Alberta and Beaver Hills Initiative for being named finalists in the Shared Footprint category!

To read the full list of finalists, visit the Alberta Emerald Foundation’s website here.

Alberta Green Condo Guide: Saving money and helping the environment

The Green Condo Guide for Alberta outlines how to capitalize on energy saving opportunities in common areas of a condominium, including centralized heating, cooling and ventilation systems and lighting.

Reducing a building’s energy bills is a huge opportunity to save money and reduce a building’s impact on the environment.   In fact, at least 40 per cent of a condominium building’s operating costs go to gas, electricity and water bills, making utilities the largest controllable expense for any condo corporation.

And most older condos can cut these costs by 30 per cent by doing a few upgrades, adding more efficient lighting or boilers.  Even a newer building can realize savings of at least 15 per cent.

This simple to follow and easy to read 14-page guide outlines a number of steps that will not only reduce a condo’s energy use—saving money and reducing emissions—it will result in a more comfortable and well maintained building.

The step-by-step overview of how you can green a condo begins with information on how to baseline and benchmark a building’s energy use, perform an energy audit and set goals.  Next, it goes through a high level explanation of how to identify opportunities for improvement, assess the business case for upgrades and improvements and develop and track a retrofit plan.

A good energy retrofit will help protect the capital that’s invested in a condo by ensuring the building’s systems are in good operational order and operating costs are under control. A green building is comfortable and cost-efficient, which protects an owner’s investment and is more attractive to buyers.

The Green Condo Guide for Alberta, funded in part with a grant from AREF, is based on work originated by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) and adapted for Alberta by the Pembina Institute.

What Lies Beneath? Buyer beware

It’s every homeowner’s nightmare: You buy a home, move in, then find out there’s an abandoned gas well beneath, leaking and contaminating your property. Think it can’t happen to you? It can. According to the Energy Resources Conservation Board in November 2012 over 150,000 abandoned well sites dotted the Alberta landscape, making it essential that buyers do their homework.

These nightmares happen because of gaps between what Albertans should know, could know and actually do know about their environment,” says Adam Driedzic, Staff Counsel and author of a new Environmental Law Centre publication, What Lies Beneath? Access to Environmental Information in Alberta.

In real estate transactions the onus is generally on the buyer to do their due diligence and the general rule for buying and selling real estate is ‘buyer beware’. Unfortunately there’s no checklist to prove due diligence and no one-stop shop for environmental information.

The best way to demonstrate due diligence is to identify environmental concerns, learn what information is available about those concerns and act on that knowledge. Buyers who make inquiries into the environmental conditions of the specific site and the local area are in the best position to make sound choices and solid deals.

Most land in Alberta has already been used for something. In Calmar, oil and gas extraction took place on farmland that was re-zoned, subdivided, developed into a residential community and sold without exposing what lay beneath or what other activities had taken place on the land previously.

And in Alberta it isn’t just oil and gas activities that are concerning. Whether you’re looking to buy a giant parcel of farmland or a tiny infill lot in the city, there are many activities that can impact the land, air and water that surround your potential new home. Feedlots, pesticide application, old dry-cleaners or landfills – even recreational activities like off highway vehicle use – can affect your quality of life.

What Lies Beneath? Access to Environmental Information in Alberta provides practical information-finding tips, outlines environmental concerns you may want to think about and describes where to get started to find the information you need to make the best choices when buying property in Alberta. A twelve-page booklet based on this guidebook, Buyer Beware, is also available.

The Environmental Law Centre is Alberta’s leading environmental public policy and law reform charity. The full publication and booklet can both be downloaded on the Environmental Law Centre website.

Alberta Real Estate Foundation teams up with Emerald Awards

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) is partnering with the Alberta Emerald Awards to sponsor the Shared Footprints Award which celebrates excellence in land use.

The Shared Footprints Award, which recognizes excellence in Integrated Land Management (ILM)—a  strategic planned approach to managing and reducing the human-caused footprint on public and/or private land—was created in 2009 in partnership with Alberta Sustainable Resource and Development.

“With the reputation and success of the Emerald Awards in Alberta, it made sense for us to work together to make a unique category that celebrates great stories in sustainable land use in Alberta,” says Gary Willson, AREF’s Chair.

“This is a unique partnership for us, as most of our partners come from the corporate and government sectors, so we have never had a formal partnership with another foundation,” says Emmy Stuebing, Executive Director of the Alberta Emerald Foundation, which puts on the annual awards.” We are very proud to call the Alberta Real Estate Foundation an Emerald Leader.”

Nominees must meet the standards of the Emerald Awards, address the Shared Footprints Award criteria plus demonstrate how their efforts support the principles of ILM.

“The nominees in this category demonstrate collaboration, dedication and creativity in working to improve and enhance land use practices in Alberta,” says Stuebing. “The Shared Footprints category of the Emerald Awards showcases excellence in land use.”

Both Foundations look forward to working together to support and recognize champions in ILM in Alberta. AREF’s sister organization, the Real Estate Foundation of BC has been running their own Land Awards for over four years. Instead of considering their own awards program, AREF has chosen to collaborate with the well-established Emerald Awards. The 23rd annual Alberta Emerald Awards will take place on June 5th in Calgary.