Beaver Hills Initiative - Transfer of Development Credits Program
The Beaver Hills Initiative (BHI) is a multi-stakeholder group that recognizes the significant ecological value of the Beaver Hills moraine east of Edmonton, Alberta. This unique knob and kettle terrain plays a key role as an extensive groundwater recharge area, transferring surface water into aquifers that in turn supply major water features in the region including Cooking Lake, Beaverhill Lake (a RAMSAR site), and the North Saskatchewan River. The Beaver Hills also provide significant ecological services to people including clean drinking water, biodiversity, recreation and cultural values.
In 2007, the BHI initiated a feasibility study for implementing a Transfer of Development Credits (TDC) program in the Beaver Hills/Cooking Lake Moraine with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (as Alberta Research Council). The study concluded that many of the factors for success of a TDC program, including goals and objectives supported by a land management plan, were present in the BHI and that a TDC program was a viable option for conserving valuable cultural and ecological resources in the area.
With approximately 50% of its land base located within the Beaver Hills/Cooking Lake Moraine, Strathcona County, in partnership with the Beaver Hills Initiative launched a pilot project to initiate discussions with stakeholders and test TDC program options within the Beaver Hills area. Miistakis was invited by the BHI to be a part of the project team along with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, the Land Stewardship Centre of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, and Alberta Tourism, Parks, and Recreation.
The project has worked to establish a market-based model for TDC's that allows conservation of the area's natural capital by expanding and creating sustainable business opportunities. The vision of the project is that market based instruments will help balance economic development with the conservation of valuable natural assets of the Beaver Hills/Cooking Lake Moraine.
There are several potential outcomes and benefits to Strathcona County and the Beaver Hills Initiative partners from the development and implementation of this pilot TDC program. They include increased conservation of cultural, recreational and heritage values on rural landscapes and capitalizing on opportunities for smart growth and reduced sprawl. Sharing learnings and methodologies of the project will assist other municipalities in Alberta to adopt similar market-based tools to promote sustainable rural development.
The project will be completed in December 2012 and all related reports will be available on the BHI, the Land Stewardship Centre of Canada and the Miistakis websites.
Photo credit: Beaver Hills Initiative