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World Wetlands Day: Alberta’s Wetlands Need More Protection

February 2, 2012

There is no better time to think of the priceless benefits that Alberta’s wetlands provide to us than today, World Wetlands Day. Why not talk to candidates about improving wetland protection in the upcoming election?

Alberta has a ‘no net loss’ wetland policy for private lands only, but wetlands are critical in the 2/3 of our province that is public lands too! Peat wetlands destroyed by oil sands development cannot be replaced, so it is particularly urgent that Alberta adopts a wetland policy to apply to our boreal forest.

The multi-sector Alberta Water Council Wetland Policy Team worked from 2003 to 2008, crafting pragmatic ‘no net loss’ wetland policy recommendations that all sectors except oil sands mining interests supported. But the recommendations were never adopted.

Alberta needs a provincial wetland policy with these elements:

•    Maintain provincial wetland area

•    Retain a “no net loss” policy in grasslands and parklands regions, where there has been historic loss of over 2/3 of wetlands, and introduce more incentives to increase total wetland area there

•    Prevent further wetland loss in the Eastern Slopes mountains and foothills where most of our water originates

•    Outside the mineable oil sands area, prevent further loss due to ‘in situ’ oil sands development and forestry in the boreal forest, where intensive development is proceeding without any protective wetland policy

•    Inside the mineable oilsands area, minimize loss through meaningful on-the-ground peatland replacement with marsh wetlands, plus other offsets

•    Biodiversity gems must be protected: for example, the Suncor-Total-Teck Fort Hills oil sands mine project should not be allowed to mine in the upper watershed of the exceptional McClelland Lake Wetland Complex

When candidates in the upcoming election call or come to your door, why not talk to them about protecting our wetlands?

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