Executive Director’s Message
As the snow finally melts and we all start enjoying the long days of spring, I am happy to share our latest Miistakis Miinute newsletter with you. This winter saw the completion of Miistakis’s rural residential spatial dataset for southern Alberta. This dataset was first compiled in 2003 and has proven to be a valuable resource for all of those interested in rural land use change in Alberta.
Within this edition, you will also find updates on projects focused on conservation easements for agriculture, the development of a scorecard to evaluate private land conservation programs to assist the Government of Alberta’s Land Trust Grants Program, and the evaluation of certification programs and payment for ecosystem services focused on ranching and grassland stewardship. All of these projects support private land conservation in Alberta, which is a core program area at Miistakis as we see private land playing a critical role in conservation.
Finally, we are excited to be launching the initial phase of a partnership project with the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area (ASCCA), the Calgary Science School, and Cows and Fish to reintroduce beavers to the ASCCA. This innovative project will demonstrate the critical role that beavers play in our ecosystems while engaging students and the public in collecting valuable monitoring information.
Rural Residential Mapping in Southern Alberta
Rural residential (or exurban) development is prominent on the southern Alberta landscape. Acreages are common on the outskirts of major cities like Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton, and all along Highway 2. Indeed, throughout much of the province Albertans have moved to these “semi-rural” properties seeking a more solitary setting, while still expecting that big-city amenities will be accessible.
This type of development has a considerable impact on the rural landscape. Most acreages require the construction of private roads or driveways, increasing the density of these features on the landscape. Developments are commonly built on agricultural land and are re-seeded with non-native grasses, altering both the natural and cultural environment. Many rural residences are not serviced by municipal water utilities, necessitating water wells and septic tanks. The costs of this type of development are substantial – providing services and infrastructure to low-density rural areas requires a considerable investment of municipal resources.
Kim Good, Project Manager
I am fascinated by the little things in life and am in total awe of nature. Yesterday I was driving to town from our farm and was struck by the incredible impact of the sun. The road runs east – west, and there is a small slope from the road to the ditch on either side. The grass on the south side was totally green and vibrant, while the grass on the north is still brown and old. Isn’t that amazing? In the big scheme of things that slope difference seems so slight! And yet, it makes all the difference in the world to the grass growing there.
I came to Miistakis just over 5 years ago and how time flies! I was brought on to work on the Transfer of Development Credits research project with my partner in crazy conservation ideas, Guy Greenaway. At that time, one municipality in Alberta had considered including a TDC program to help balance their conservation and development interests and another had introduced an early version of a similar program. Since that time, information and interest in TDCs by municipalities has increased substantially to a full program in one municipality, several others being investigated and legislation that expressly enables TDC programs. It’s been a great journey learning and sharing about this planning tool!
Also over that time I have had the pleasure of working with the entire Miistakis team of incredibly intelligent and dedicated conservationists on a variety of projects that generally involve some kind of private land conservation effort. Much of my time in the near future will be spent on considering conservation programs that provide economic benefits to ranchers of well managed grasslands and on working with stakeholders in a specific region design a private land conservation plan.