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Working With Wetlands

An innovative new wetland project has come to life in the Beaver Hills Biosphere.

Wetlands are known to provide essential ecosystem services (ES), such as supporting biodiversity, carbon sequestration, water filtration, maintaining surface water flow and more. Despite this, wetland habitat everywhere continues to be lost at an alarming rate. As a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Beaver Hills Biosphere (BHB) is committed to the conservation of biodiversity, restoration and enhancement of ecosystem services, and the sustainable use of natural resources. In a recently launched pilot project, the BHB and partners Strathcona County, Beaver County, Lamont County and Leduc County will focus on developing an inter-municipal approach to supporting restoration and stewardship of wetlands within the unique terrain of the biosphere.

The BHB’s Wetland Conservation and Stewardship Pilot Project will explore ways to integrate ES into planning and decision-making within the “living laboratory” that is the biosphere. During this multi-year project, in addition to developing an effective inter-municipal framework for wetland mitigation, partners will also investigate, design and test market-based approaches to conserving, restoring and stewarding wetlands and associated wetland habitats within the BHB.

Kelly-Lynn Lewis, Division 2 Councilor with Leduc County, and BHB board member, recognizes the value of a project like this to support current and future inter-municipal planning efforts.

“Our new Municipal Development Plan already contains policies that mitigate or minimize the adverse impact of development on environmentally significant features, and specifically speaks to supporting the sustainable integration of economic and human development with the conservation of biodiversity on lands located within the biosphere,” says Kelly-Lynn. “We look forward to sharing our experiences with and learning from others involved in this project.”

In addition to the municipal partners, a variety of stakeholders will be engaged in the project, including landowners and land managers, with a focus on exploring an alternative approach for wetland conservation and stewardship in a way that supports both traditional and current cultural attributes of the biosphere. Ultimately, the project will assist everyone involved with their respective wetland planning and conservation goals and programs.

“This project will assist municipalities and others to develop a clear vision and active role for future wetland conservation strategies that benefit the biosphere landscape, regardless of jurisdiction,” says Jocelyn Thrasher-Haug, Manager of Environmental Planning at Strathcona County.

The strong partnerships and collaborative nature of this project are an integral component. Another key outcome will be the establishment of a knowledge network comprised of individuals, agencies and governments with an interest in the conservation and restoration of wetlands within the biosphere and with the capacity to extend lessons learned from this project to other jurisdictions in Alberta. Additional details and outcomes of the comprehensive and multi-phased project will be shared as the project progresses.

This extensive, multi-year initiative is funded by Alberta Innovates. Additional funding received from Alberta NAWMP will support the development of the inter-municipal collaboration framework for wetland restoration and conservation in the biosphere.