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Meet a Municipal Leader in Environmental Stewardship

Posted March 15, 2018 by LSC

Citizens often look to the provincial and federal government for leadership in environmental management and regulation. While these entities are central to Canada’s environmental policy and decision making process, Alberta’s municipal governments also play a key role in setting standards, developing policy, delivering programs and being innovators in environmental stewardship within their jurisdictions. Today, we shine a light on a local municipality, Parkland County, and learn how they are setting themselves apart as a leader and champion of stewardship in Alberta.

Diverse landscape, diverse population

Parkland County is a unique and diverse municipality. It faces rural pressures – from hamlets, agriculture and country residential, and lakeshore communities, as well as urban pressures from larger neighbouring municipalities such as the Cities of Spruce Grove and Edmonton. These, coupled with a diverse landscape (wetlands, lakes, streams, prime agricultural lands, natural resources) and wide-ranging land use (agriculture, resource development and extraction, recreation, industrial), makes managing the Parkland County landscape a complex task. However, this has not stopped them from finding solutions to and implementing sound stewardship programs.

“Our County approaches environmental stewardship and management in a balanced, holistic manner,” shares Megan McFall, Sustainability Coordinator with Parkland County.

To meet the needs of its diverse population and varied landscape, Parkland County offers several stewardship programs, each geared towards a specific audience. The programs include Green Acreages, ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services) and Guide to Waterfront Living. Many of Parkland’s programs are voluntary and they incorporate incentives for landowners to implement best management practices.

“We provide incentives for those who choose to provide a public service on private land by conserving our ecosystems. “Megan explains. “We provide information and funding to remove barriers and ensure residents are able to establish innovative stewardship projects that benefit the greater community.”

A concerted effort

While these County programs have been doing well, and hundreds of acres have been put into the production of ecosystem services, success has not come overnight or without obstacles. Megan explains that running environmental programs can be difficult if there are no policies and procedures in place within the organization to aid in a program’s success. So, all of these efforts are supported by the County’s Environmental Conservation Master Plan, Council’s Long-Term Strategic Plan, Integrated Community Sustainability Plan and Municipal Development Plan. Success also requires the support of County staff, and the Community Sustainability Department, responsible for implementing these programs, has grown from a single summer student in 2011 to eight full time and part time staff.

When asked what one piece of advice Parkland County would offer to other municipalities wanting to develop and implement environmental programs, the response is a resounding “listen to your residents.”

“Many programs are not as successful as they could be because not enough time was spent incorporating residents’ needs or feedback into the development of a program,” Megan adds. To ensure success of their own programs, Parkland County confirmed there was a targeted need in the community and developed their program accordingly to address those needs.

An important role

Municipalities play an important role as stewards of the environment; from establishing appropriate policies and by-laws to developing and delivering effective stewardship and extension programs. It is also up to them how innovative and proactive they choose to be in this arena. Parkland County has purposefully decided to be an innovator in environmental management, and it is only a matter of time before more municipalities see the benefit in following their lead.

“The County has taken a long-term, strategic approach to how it can promote balanced growth, ensure healthy ecosystems, build sustainable communities and diversify the economy,” Megan concludes. “The uptake and success of our stewardship programs is a strong indicator that this approach is working.”

Learn more about Parkland County’s environmental programs.

Some comments...

  • C. Bara says:

    In light of Parkland Councils decision on Tuesday to approve the largest subdivision ever on Jackfish Lake, despite the vast majority of land owners providing feedback to council opposing the sub division. One has to wonder about hypocrisy in Parkland County's commitment to environmental stewardship and specifically the comment that they "listen to the residents".

  • Land Stewardship Centre says:

    Hello C. Bara. We reached out to Parkland County regarding your comment and they have provided the following response:

    "Thank you for your comment and concern for environmental stewardship in Parkland County. Parkland’s stewardship programs are focused on working with landowners who volunteer to increase the production of ecosystem services on their properties. However, environmental protection is also considered during the development process. The Jackfish Lake development voluntarily went above their current regulations for setbacks, and naturalized stormwater management and by proposing an Environmental Code of Conduct for future residents. The County is also in the process of working with watershed management groups to increase the breadth of technical, environmental information that can be used to inform updates to regulatory planning documents.”

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