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DUC responds to Alberta Budget 2022
Efforts to get Albertans back to work underscore the need for conservation investments in Alberta’s working landscapes
Following an economically damaging pandemic, the Government of Alberta released its 2022 budget last week with a focus on getting citizens back to work. Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is encouraged by budgetary investments that support conservation efforts in working landscapes—areas that connect Albertans ecologically, socially and economically.
“Alberta is a vibrant province that harnesses the power of our landscapes and natural resources,” says Thorsten Hebben, DUC’s manager of provincial operations in Alberta. “Investments that support the conservation and restoration of wetlands and grasslands will help drive economic progress by creating greater landscape resilience through flood and drought prevention, water quality management and climate change mitigation.”
Building on Alberta’s wetland policy
Alberta Environment and Parks has already established a comprehensive provincial wetland policy. This means Budget 2022 is well positioned to continue building out critical nature-based solutions that contribute to a wide variety of provincial priorities, from supporting infrastructure needs to growing tourism and recreation revenue.
Like all policies, success is dependant upon effective implementation. DUC applauds Alberta Environment and Parks’ efforts to develop meaningful policy performance measures and encourages the ministry to report on them as part of the $72.9-million allocation to environmental science and monitoring.
Looking ahead, DUC supports the Province’s commitment to ensuring that sustainable economic development is achieved within environmental capacity. We encourage the government to continue establishing environmental outcomes through land-use planning initiatives under Alberta’s provincial Land Use Framework and are keen to share our conservation science and on-the-ground experience to help guide decision making.
Creating a predictable and efficient regulatory environment
DUC also supports the Province’s ongoing efforts to advance a more efficient, timely and accountable regulatory system. This includes $19 million over the next three years for continued work on the Digital Regulatory Assurance System that will move Alberta Environment and Parks to a single, consolidated digital system for regulatory applications, approvals and long-term environmental monitoring.
“This will be particularly beneficial for Alberta’s leading-edge wetland restoration program, of which Ducks Unlimited Canada is a key delivery agent,” says Hebben. “By streamlining processes and reducing unnecessary duplication, focus can be firmly placed on what matters most. It’s about ensuring we can efficiently return natural habitats to the landscape so they can begin delivering their environmental benefits to Albertans as quickly as possible.”
Scaling up habitat restoration efforts
Alberta has lost between 60 to 70 per cent of its wetlands in settled areas, which makes efforts to restore these habitats vitally important. Beginning in 2023-2024, the Province will provide an increase of $10 million annually for the implementation and scaling of habitat restoration efforts.
“We’ve seen how Alberta farms, acreages and urban centres flourish as wetlands are returned to the landscape by providing millions in economic value. Scaling up these efforts is one of the best things we can do to reap the rewards of this natural capital,” says Hebben.
This provincial funding announced as part of Budget 2022 will be used to leverage contributions from the federal government and industry, multiplying both its environmental impact and economic returns.
The Province is putting money back into tackling greenhouse gas emissions through new investments in its Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) program. As part of this program, DUC continues to emphasize the importance of wetlands, grasslands and boreal forest habitats in sequestering carbon and their ability to contribute carbon emission offsets.
Looking ahead, DUC urges the Alberta Government to adopt a grasslands protocol, which would provide guidance on how to quantify, monitor, report and verify greenhouse gas emission reductions associated with the avoided conversion of grassland to cropland.
Supporting results-driven agriculture
Another promising sign in the budget supports the critical relationship between conservation and agriculture in Alberta. DUC has long recognized that agricultural producers are among the most important environmental stewards and has strong relationships with farmers and ranchers throughout the province.
A budgetary investment of $37 million annually to Results Driven Agriculture Research, will support producer-driven research to power competitiveness, profitability, productivity and sustainability of Alberta’s agriculture industry. This includes $116 million over three years to continue expanding Alberta’s irrigation infrastructure that is expected to lead to the expansion of more than 230,000 irrigated acres.
“While we acknowledge the opportunity to enhance agricultural productivity in water-limited areas of Alberta, we encourage the Government of Alberta to consider habitat conservation as part of the initiative, such that ecosystem services are maintained and both agricultural operations and the environment benefit from elements of long-term sustainability,” says Hebben.
Recognizing that Alberta’s wetlands and grasslands have tremendous economic worth, the commitments made by the Province in the 2022 budget represent important opportunities for all sectors to work together to build a sustainable and prosperous post-pandemic future. DUC is poised and ready to share our conservation science and put our on-the-ground restoration efforts to work for all Albertans.