The Government of Alberta has adopted an integrated and coordinated approach to resource management, designed to provide a more holistic view to manage and monitor our natural assets. Alberta’s Integrated Resource Management (IRM) System examines the relationships and impacts of managing multiple resources and forms of land use and is the means by which Alberta will achieve responsible resource stewardship. The system is broadly defined, incorporating the management, conservation and wise use of all resources.
The Integrated Resource Management System is unique in that it considers policy, planning, outcomes, delivery and monitoring as a system. The intent of the system is to provide a scalable holistic view of Alberta’s land use that may be applied at the provincial, regional and sub-regional level.
The IRM system is intended to manage development pressures, cumulative effects, ensuring sustainable use of land and resources for present and future generations, as well as integrating land and environmental decisions across government departments, resource managers and resource users. It offers a shift from project-specific or single media-based (air, water, biodiversity, land) planning to an integrated, coordinated and collaborative system-based approach to setting and achieving management objectives over large spatial and temporal scales.
Cumulative effects are the combined effects of past, present and foreseeable land-use activities, over time, on the environment.
In Alberta, the emphasis has been on reviewing development that requires provincial approval on a "project-by-project" basis. Over time there has been a growing understanding of the importance of cumulative effects, for example under environmental impact assessment, and the province has been moving to ensure it is effectively understanding and managing the cumulative effects of development.
Alberta has been building a more effective and efficient management system that considers the cumulative effects of all activities. The current system is evolving and adapting to place-based challenges, which allows decision-makers to see the big picture and help those on the landscape to be more strategic and responsible in their development activities.
What is Cumulative Effects Management?
Cumulative Effects Management is an approach that establishes outcomes for an area by balancing environmental, economic and social considerations and implementing appropriate plans and tools to ensure those outcomes are met.
Cumulative effects management is:
- Collaborative: building on a culture of shared stewardship, using a shared knowledge base
- Comprehensively implemented: using both regulatory and non-regulatory approaches
- Outcomes-based: clearly defining, desired end-state
- Performance management-based: using adaptive approaches to ensure results are measured and achieved
- Place-based: meeting the differing needs of regions within the province
Cumulative Effects Management
Under a cumulative effects management approach, various tools, resources and relationships work together to comprehensively manage activities that affect the environment, economy and society in a particular place. It is an adaptive management system that follows a "plan-do-check" approach to setting, meeting and evaluating place-based outcomes.
The foundations of this approach are knowledge and performance management, having the best information possible to set outcomes, continuously assess conditions and if outcomes are being met, and determining when adjustments to management actions are required. Outcomes are meant to be measured and evaluated continuously and management actions are determined and adjusted throughout the system.
If the system is working well, the Government of Alberta is better able to:
- Identify and maximize opportunities on the landscape
- Inform, develop and achieve social, economic and environmental outcomes in an area
- Make decisions based on knowledge, performance measurement and evaluation
- Prevent against adverse effect to the environment
- Simplify regulatory requirements and ensure alignment of provincial policies
Through the Land-use Framework, the Government of Alberta has committed to addressing cumulative impacts on the environment and to managing social, economic and environmental realities and priorities in a holistic manner.
This is a cross-government effort and Alberta Environment and Parks has a leadership role on the environmental (bio-physical) component.
Environmental Management Frameworks
The development and implementation of environmental management frameworks is a new approach being used by the Government of Alberta to accomplish cumulative effects management. Environmental management frameworks build on existing provincial environmental policy, legislation and regulation, and provide an understanding of the current state of the environment, as well as emerging trends, challenges and opportunities. They identify desired regional objectives, and set regional thresholds (such as triggers, targets and limits) for key indicators. They set the foundation for ongoing monitoring, evaluation and reporting, including how to communicate the results to Albertans.
Collaboration is an underlying principle for the environmental management frameworks. They are developed with input from local governments, First Nations, Métis organizations, stakeholders, and the public. There are opportunities for input throughout the regional plan development process. The need for involvement continues as management frameworks are implemented.
When a Management Framework is completed, some of its key components will include:
- Regional objectives
- Indicators and triggers that serve as signals of changing conditions
- Monitoring, evaluation and reporting on the indicators
- A management response process to be followed if triggers are crossed
Updated: Jan 25, 2018