WHEREAS provincial recovery and action plans for species at risk appear to be developed and fully implemented in isolation; independently from directly impacted stakeholders, communities and other levels of governments; and
WHEREAS provincial and territorial range plans for the recovery of boreal woodland caribou were due to the Government of Canada by October 2017; demonstrating a clear legal commitment for habitat protection in order to avoid legal action; and
WHEREAS the May 2016 recommendations report, entitled Setting Alberta on the Path to Caribou Recovery was accepted by the Government of Alberta; and included the permanent protection of 1.8 million hectares of land in northwestern Alberta for boreal woodland caribou recovery; and
WHEREAS the 2016 report’s recommendations of permanent protected areas for woodland caribou recovery simply follow forestry management unit (FMU) boundaries, with little consideration for existing and future energy dispositions, other mineral exploration, and inter-jurisdictional infrastructure; with an apparent disregard for comprehensive land-use planning and regional growth as provided for with the Land-use Framework; and
WHEREAS the local communities of rural Alberta are willing to participate in measures to enable the recovery of local caribou populations and to enhance the natural environment, in conjunction with ensuring the existing and future economies of rural regions continue to prosper today and for future generations to come; and
WHEREAS municipalities across Canada have expressed concern regarding the socio-economic impacts of protecting and/or sterilization of land to support caribou range planning, as required by the Species at Risk Act; and
WHEREAS challenges and priorities related to caribou range planning spill beyond municipal and provincial/territorial boundaries;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties proactively lead inter-jurisdictional municipal level caribou population recovery planning across Western Canada.
The federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) is the legislation used for species protection in Canada. Implementation of measures to protect species that are identified under SARA tends to fall to the provinces, based on the constitutional division of authority and responsibility.
The SARA legislation is premised around habitat protection; healthy habitat equals healthy species that is dependent on said habitat. Stringent protection of land with little regard for the socio-economic consequences is tolerable on a small scale. The challenge is that the same habitat protection requirements prevail even for large ungulates and animals that are migratory in nature. As a result, habitat protection to allow for the revival of some species no longer impacts a small localized area, but vast areas which are home to high numbers of primary resource industries.
The broad nature the SARA legislation is causing concerns for rural and primary resource dependant municipalities across Canada. Municipalities across Canada are currently fighting to protect their livelihoods. The following associations have all passed formal resolutions and/or taken a leading advocacy role:
The Alberta and Canadian Chambers of Commerce each recently passed resolutions advocating for the consideration of the socio-economic impacts in caribou range planning. The resolution brought forward to the Canadian level originated from Ontario.
Within Alberta many municipalities and businesses have been advocating diligently on their own, with two of the more prominent groups being the Alberta Forest Alliance and the Northwest Species at Risk Committee.
Industry associations from across Canada have also been advocating strongly for socio-economic impacts to be considered. This, combined with the actions from municipal groups and associations from across the country speaks to the significance and cause for concern that the current SARA legislation provides. Additionally, provincial responses have not provided confidence to rural communities that their concerns will prevail.
Note: because of the October 2017 deadline by the federal government for provinces to submit caribou recovery range plans, there may be significant announcements made in the time since this resolution was submitted and the AAMDC resolution session.
9-17S: Legal Opinion for Species at Risk Proposed Policies
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) seek a legal opinion on the proposed Species at Risk Act policies to determine what effect that the proposed policies will have on municipal operations and the rights and freedoms of rural landowners;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that if the legal opinion determines that the proposed Species at Risk Act policies will negatively impact rural landowners, that the AAMDC proceed with further action to work with the provincial and federal government on these proposed policies to demonstrate the social and economic impacts of policy implementation on the rural landscape.
DEVELOPMENT: To fulfill the first part of this resolution, the AAMDC hired MLT Aikins to provide a legal opinion on the proposed Species at Risk Act Polices. The legal response identifies impacts for municipalities and rural landowners in regards to the policies, and AAMDC members should be aware of the implications some policies may have in regards to land-use planning and infrastructure project decisions. The legal response in its entirety is available on the AAMDC website.
As the obtaining the legal opinion addresses a portion of this resolution, it has been assigned a status of Accepted in Part and the AAMDC will continue to advocate on the importance of a socio-economic approach to policy implementation, as identified in the legal analysis.
15-16F: Species at Risk and the Need for an Overall Socio-Economic Impact Assessment
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties works with the Government of Alberta in a timely fashion, to complete an overall Socio-Economic Impact Assessment based on all the species at risk recovery plans and retention plans currently affecting the operations of all industries in the Province of Alberta, including but not limited to oil and gas, forestry, agriculture, tourism and mineral exploration.
DEVELOPMENTS: The Government of Alberta response summarizes the work done to date to develop strategies to comply with SARA as it impacts Alberta’s caribou population, and acknowledges that socio-economic impacts of habitat protection formed a component of the recovery planning process. However, the response does not indicate a willingness to conduct a broad socio-economic impact assessment on all species at risk recovery plans in the province. Therefore, this resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met, and the AAMDC will continue to advocate the need for a socio-economic impact assessment on species at risk recovery plans.
16-15F: Species at Risk Act (SARA)
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties facilitate a round table discussion with representation from the federal Environment Minister and provincial Environment Minister to rebuild the current Species at Risk Act to improve it in a way that seeks a balanced and cooperative approach (economic, environmental, and social) to species protection that focuses on ecosystem protection; limiting impact on agriculture, industry, rural development, and land use in Alberta.
DEVELOPMENTS: The Government of Alberta response indicates a willingness to work with the AAMDC and the federal government to take a collaborative approach to aligning species at risk protection with the need to address social and economic impacts. This is encouraging and will be followed up on by the AAMDC. The AAMDC also provided input into the draft Species at Risk Act (SARA) policies that were released in 2016, noting that a balanced approach to protect species and their habitats needs to be considered to consider the social, economic and environmental impacts of these efforts.
Until a formal response from the Government of Canada is received, this resolution holds a status of Incomplete Information. The AAMDC is continuing advocacy efforts at the provincial and federal levels to move this issue forward.
RMA has not undertaken inter-jurisdictional municipal level caribou population recovery across western Canada. RMA has, however, advocated member concerns on this issue and in March 2018, the Government of Alberta suspended the creation of caribou protection plans and requested additional assistance from the Government of Canada to identify the socio-economic impacts of such plans.
Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) has assembled three caribou sub-regional task forces that will advise the government on land-use planning at a local scale, including caribou recovery actions. The task forces include RMA representation along with relevant stakeholders. The task forces are intended to provide recommendations to the government on draft sub-regional plans for Cold Lake, Bistcho Lake and Upper Smoky. AEP are focused on creating sub-regional plans that fit within local and regional economies. RMA’s involvement on the task forces is an important step to bring forward member concerns surrounding the socio-economic impacts that would result from loss of activity and sterilization of large tracts of land from caribou conservation. Although, it has not been determined whether the information from these task forces will be used on an inter-jurisdictional level, it may lead to that opportunity.
This resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met.