Water Matters supports the implementation of a comprehensive policy for the management of wetlands in Alberta.
Wetlands play a critical role in providing essential ecosystem goods and services — such as clean air and water — and provide substantial economic benefits to our provincial economy. A wetland is defined as land having water at, near, or above the land surface, or which is saturated with water long enough to promote wetland or aquatic processes as indicated by poorly drained (hydric) soils, hydrophytic vegetation, and various kinds of biological activity that are adapted to the wet environment (Tarnocai, 1979).
Wetlands cover 18 percent of Alberta's land base — an area of 117,400 square kilometers. Approximately two-thirds of wetlands in Alberta have been lost due to land-use impacts.
The current wetland policy used by the Alberta government (an 1993 interim policy) is over 14 years old and woefully inadequate in addressing the broad goals of Water for Life. (Bow Riverkeeper et al., 2007). It sets out a mitigation/ compensation process to avoid, minimize, or compensate for wetland loss but only applies to the "white zone" area of the province, where 64% of slough/marsh wetlands have already been lost (AENV 2005). The white zone is the settled areas of Alberta, including much of Alberta south of Edmonton, Edmonton, just north of Edmonton, and the area around Grande Prairie. The green zone is the unsettled area, primarily northern Alberta and the boreal forest.
At this time, the Government of Alberta is reviewing a series of recommendations advanced by the Alberta Water Council (link to Water Governance — Water for Life section of website) with plans to implement a province-wide Wetlands Policy in the near future. (See Recommendations for a New Alberta Wetlands Policy. Alberta Water Council. September 16, 2008)
After a decade of debate and the loss of thousands of hectares of wetlands in Alberta, we can no longer afford to delay taking action to protect our wetland resources.
Tarnocai, C. 1979. Canadian Wetland Registry in Proceedings of a Workshop on Canadian Wetlands Environment. C.D.A Rubec and F.C. Pollett, eds., Canada Land Directorate, Ecological Land Classification Series, No. 12.
Alberta Environment. 2005. Provincial Wetland Restoration/ Compensation Factsheet.
Bow Riverkeeper et al., 2007. Recommendations for Renewal of Water for Life: Alberta's Strategy for Sustainability.