Preserving, enhancing, and managing our environment is a hot topic from classrooms to boardrooms. It’s also a complicated topic, given the interconnectedness of elements like air and water across vast geographic areas. Add in typical human activity and development, and environmental management becomes much more complex.
Fortunately, environmental management has been ongoing and growing for decades in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland. This is no simple feat, considering the region is 582 square kilometres and includes pristine rivers, prosperous agriculture lands, and multi-billion dollar industrial complexes side-by-side. Over the past few years, as municipal and industrial growth continued, the need for proactive environmental management became greater, and so did a merging of environmental management tools for the Heartland area.
In 2007, the Government of Alberta recognized this need and officially adopted the “Cumulative Effects Management” (CEM) approach. This new approach integrates the methods, science and technology into a coordinated, integrated and legislated system. CEM is designed to protect the water, air, land, and biodiversity of Alberta, while recognizing industrial and municipal growth will continue. The CEM approach applies to the entire province; however, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland and the Capital Region are identified as an important area for managing cumulative environmental effects because of industrial and municipal development.
Previous to the CEM approach, individual projects and initiatives dealt with one segment of the environment alone, such as water or air. Though great work was being done, a merging of these individual projects enhances efforts to manage environmental effects in the Heartland. Now, the initiatives for these segments of the environment are coordinated and implemented under the umbrella of CEM so they work in unison rather than in isolation.
Since adoption of the CEM approach, significant work went into three frameworks to form the foundation for managing cumulative effects in the Heartland:
· Water Management Framework for the Industrial Heartland and Capital Region – Currently in the implementation stage, and includes the Groundwater Management Framework for the Industrial Heartland
· Air Management Framework for the Industrial Air Management Area – Currently in the developmental stage, with plans to finalize and move to implementation in the near future
· Elemental Sulphur Management Framework for the Industrial Heartland – Completed and ready for implementation as growth pressures dictate
Other plans and projects feed into and support CEM, including the Climate Change Plan, Land Use Framework, Biodiversity Strategy, Capital Region Growth Plan, and others. Continued work on these and other projects ensure that municipal and provincial strategies align and reinforce CEM.
Cumulative Effects Management for Alberta’s Industrial Heartland and Capital Region is being led through a multi-stakeholder Cumulative Effects Management Advisory Group which includes Alberta Environment, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association, Northeast Capital Industrial Association, Strathcona Industrial Association, North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance, surrounding municipalities and industrial companies.
For additional information, see Alberta Environment’s overview on Cumulative Effects Management.