WHEREAS in 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, which included 20 global biodiversity goals, known as the Aichi Targets; and
WHEREAS in response to the Aichi Targets, Canada adopted a suite of national targets, known as the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada; and
WHEREAS Canada and Alberta’s co-led Pathway to Canada Target 1 project focuses on the protection of 17% of terrestrial areas and inland waters and 10% of coastal and marine areas across Canada; and
WHEREAS Alberta Environment and Parks has also committed to achieving the protection of 17% of terrestrial areas and inland waters within Alberta by 2020; and
WHEREAS at the end of 2016, the Government of Canada recognized that 10.5% of terrestrial areas and inland waters, and 0.96% of coastal and marine areas were protected; and
WHEREAS in June 2018, Alberta Environment and Parks recognized that 12.54% of Alberta is protected, through 8.24% federally and 4.3% provincially protected areas; and
WHEREAS the International Union for Conservation of Nature recommends that all privately-owned protected areas that satisfy all international standards should be recognized as protected areas by all levels of government; and
WHEREAS the Municipal Government Act provides municipalities with land-use planning tools, such as environmental reserves, to permanently protect parcels of land to conserve natural features including: natural drainage courses, flood plains, waterbodies, and riparian areas from future development; and
WHEREAS Alberta Environment and Parks has yet to announce that municipal and privately-owned protected areas would be recognized in their assessment to achieve their target of 17% terrestrial areas and inland waters protection;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) urge the Government of Alberta to recognize municipal and privately-owned protected areas in their reporting towards Alberta’s 17% protection of terrestrial areas and inland waters target if they satisfy international standards for protected areas or Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs); and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the RMA partner with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association to compile an inventory of all municipal and privately-owned protected areas in Alberta, for the purpose of providing Alberta Environment and Parks with a complete inventory of candidate protected areas and OECMs, for their 2020 17% terrestrial areas and inland waters protection target.
Canada’s 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada was released in 2015. Canada and Alberta’s co-led Pathway to Canada Target 1 project, is based upon the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Target 11.
In 2017, the governments of Canada and Alberta established a National Advisory Panel to advise governments on achieving Canada’s international commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Canada and Alberta’s co-led Pathway project also established a National Steering Committee, an Indigenous Circle of Experts and a Local Government Advisory Group, who make up the Pathway Team. However, the Local Government Advisory Group is yet to be formalized.
In 2016, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) committed to achieving the protection of 17% of terrestrial areas and inland waters by 2020, in the province of Alberta.
AEP’s 2016-17 annual report describes the potential for privately-owned and municipal protected areas to qualify for reporting towards AEP’s 17% target. Outlining how Alberta will identify these areas if they meet international standards for protected areas or Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs), pending international OECMs guideline development.
In January 2018, the International Union for Conservation of Nature released Guidelines for Recognizing and Reporting Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures. These guidelines recognize that municipal and privately-owned protected areas can provide OECMs benefits, which can meet international reporting standards.
AEP’s 2017-18 annual report does not mention identifying other areas, including municipal and privately-owned protected areas or OECMs in their reporting, towards their 17% target.
Although the intention of environmental reserves, under the Municipal Government Act, is to prevent the development of hazardous lands, avoidance of natural drainage features and pollution prevention in wetlands and other waterbodies, many municipalities create environmental reserves for other intentions, including environmental significance. The co-benefits of designating environmental reserves can include the protection of wildlife habitat and habitat connectivity, protected areas for biodiversity and safeguarding the hydrological functionality of wetlands and waterbodies. These benefits could be considered as OECMs under international standards.
AEP is working to achieve their 17% target, through multiple initiatives including caribou range planning. AEP’s Draft Provincial Woodland Caribou Range Plan (2017) provides the scope of Canada and Alberta’s co-led Pathway, and states that conservation areas designated as part of range planning may contribute to their 17% target.
Through caribou range planning, AEP have proposed to permanently protect approximately 1.3 million hectares of land in Mackenzie County for the Bistcho, Yates and Caribou Mountains herds; these areas would qualify and report towards AEP’s 17% target. 1.3 million hectares equates to approximately 15.8% of Mackenzie County’s geographic land-base.
AEP’s Business Plan 2018-21 describes how municipal and privately-managed areas that may meet the definition of a protected area or an OECM, are currently excluded as data is incomplete. AEP estimates that municipal and privately-owned protected areas represent less than 0.25% of the 17% provincial target.
Over the next two years, other RMA member municipalities could see proposals for an increase in provincial protected spaces to achieve AEP’s 17% target. Additional protected spaces have the ability to impact municipal service capacities and operating budgets.
A complete inventory of all municipal and privately-owned protected areas will help AEP to assess and include all areas which qualify, for reporting towards their 17% target.
Government of Alberta (2018) Modernized Municipal Government Act, Available:
Government of Canada (2018) Canada’s Protected Areas, Available:
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Environment and Parks
Municipal and privately owned protected areas play an important role in the network of areas in Alberta dedicated to biodiversity conservation. Although small, these areas provide a host of functional biodiversity benefits and are often located in areas of significance for connectivity, ecosystem services, biodiversity and species at risk.
Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) is committed to working with partners to ensure that existing and new protected or conserved areas are inventoried and recognized for their contributions to biodiversity conservation in Alberta, and that the eligibility and reporting criteria are clear and accessible for all land managers.
AEP is exploring opportunities to work with municipal partners to understand how municipal tools under the Municipal Government Act, like conservation and environmental reserves—coupled with policy and regulations—can enable the long-term protection of biodiversity. The resolution to inventory municipally protected or conserved areas is an excellent step forward in beginning to recognize the potential contributions of the large numbers and wide diversity of municipal and private lands to conservation in Alberta.
RMA is encouraged by the Government of Alberta’s recognition of the ecological and biodiversity benefits of municipal and privately-owned protected areas. RMA has been in contact with the Alberta Land Stewardship Centre which has an existing inventory of privately held conservation areas. This inventory does not include municipally held land which would be required to fulfill the intent of the resolution and may require significant RMA resources. RMA is considering how to proceed on this resolution, and the extent to which RMA members could be involved in the process, but the current status is Intent Not Met.