Environmentally Significant Areas
Updated: Sept 1, 2009
The following document is an update of the 1997/98 Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs) of Alberta data and map for the province. The original ESA map and data have been widely used since publication by municipal land use planners, energy companies, consultants, environmental organizations, academic institutions etc. Essentially, these ESAs represent places in Alberta that are important to the long-term maintenance of biological diversity, soil, water, or other natural processes, at multiple spatial scales. They are identified as areas containing rare or unique elements in the province, or areas that include elements that may require special management consideration due to their conservation needs. ESAs do not represent government policy and are not necessarily areas that require legal protection, but instead are intended to be an information tool to help inform land use planning and policy at local, regional and provincial scales.
The update of the original 1997/98 compilation data and map identified a total of 754 ESAs using seven defined criteria. Each ESA was assigned a significance rating according to the elements present: (1) International, (2) National, and (3) Provincial. These ratings do not reflect the respective importance, but rather signify the scale at which each ESA is significant or rare. In general, the spatial distribution of the updated ESAs is similar to those identified in 1997/98, but with additional areas also identified. This latest iteration incorporates updated information and changes to the land base that have occurred in the preceding decade.
The application of systematic conservation area design principles using seven well defined criteria resulted in a scientifically defensible portfolio of ESAs in the province of Alberta. Further, the methodology for delineating ESAs was transparent and repeatable, resulting in an ESA network which can be easily updated as new information becomes available for existing criteria (e.g. updates on listings of elements of conservation concern) and as new criteria are added (e.g. human disturbance). The consistent application of this methodology ensures the relevancy of ESAs as a decision support tool for land-use planning and implementation in the province of Alberta over the long term. While further analysis may be required at the regional scale to refine ESA boundaries, prioritize ESAs for management, and develop ESA-specific management strategies, this analysis highlights areas that should be given closer scrutiny by land managers and stakeholders during the land-use planning process.
The updated report, map and GIS data are available at:
Prepared by: Fiera Biological Consulting, Edmonton, AB
The original ESA studies in Alberta were done from 1983 - 1996 and a provincial review and synthesis of ESA work completed in the period was completed in 1997/98. View historical ESA information.