Conserving and managing the valuable lands adjacent to rivers, lakes and wetlands
As development intensifies and land uses change, Alberta’s riparian lands will continue to be lost and degraded without a focused effort to conserve and manage them. Immediately adjacent to rivers and lakes, these lands support productive and diverse animal and plant communities, play an important role in flood and drought mitigation, and are a valuable component of the landscape. Healthy riparian lands provide environmental, economic, cultural and recreational benefits throughout the province.
A new report from the Alberta Water Council makes 13 recommendations for more effective conservation and management of riparian lands in support of Water for Life goals.
Riparian land conservation and management is complex. All levels of government and diverse stakeholders on both public and private land have roles in managing and influencing outcomes on Alberta’s riparian lands. Although many successful programs and policies have been developed, Alberta lacks a broad scale provincial initiative that sets and measures riparian outcomes that are formally supported by all. The report highlights the need for a province-wide assessment to identify how much riparian land exists, what its current state is, and how much has been lost or degraded. Stephanie Neufeld, representing the Lake Environment Conservation Sector on the team explains that “We know scientifically and intuitively that riparian lands are unique and have high ecological and societal value. It’s time to start systematically measuring, monitoring and reporting on riparian health and function at the provincial scale to ensure that these lands remain an integral part of Alberta’s landscape, now and in the future.”
The Council’s Riparian Land Conservation and Management report contains thirteen recommendations that highlight how riparian land conservation and management can be improved in Alberta, and builds on existing and long-term efforts by many individuals and organizations. The report outlines the need to:
- Develop a provincial vision and outcomes for riparian land conservation and management that will allow policies, strategies and initiatives work towards a common goal.
- Adopt accepted methodologies and use them to map riparian lands throughout the province on an ongoing basis.
- Coordinate and collaborate with municipalities to ensure consistent decision making with respect to riparian land conservation and management.
- Share knowledge and information to increase understanding of riparian lands.
- Develop integrated management solutions at all scales.
Norine Ambrose with Cows and Fish represented the Fisheries Habitat Conservation Sector on the team that examined this issue. She notes, “This report is a really significant step forward in riparian management in Alberta, conserving and managing the areas next to water, including floodplains, shores and banks. Riparian areas play such a vital role in water quality and quantity, which includes flood and drought attenuation, supports biological diversity, and contributes to many social and economic values. The recommendations have the consensus of many diverse sectors, which will go a long way toward improving riparian health and management in Alberta. I look forward to collaborating with these sectors in implementing the recommendations.” This multi-sector project included Alberta’s major land and water users who worked to develop an innovative approach to improving riparian land conservation and management in the province.
The report and more information on the Alberta Water Council can be found at www.awchome.ca.