Conservation Priority Mapping for SW Alberta Landowners
Members of the Livingstone Landowners Group and residents of the Lee Lake region of MD Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta are concerned about the future of their iconic rural landscape.
Their region is facing significant land use changes with expanded power generation and transmission, and mineral development proposed. At the same time, the South Saskatchewan Regional Planning process has identified the headwaters as areas of foremost conservation priority. Local landowners are asked to participate in stakeholder consultation processes with both government and industry, where they frequently feel that they are not given sufficient information to make sound decisions regarding their future.
The stakes are high. Not only is there a strong emotional attachment to the landscape - many local landowners have been in this part of the world for several generations - but moreover, most locals earn their living off the land. And since long before terms like "natural capital" or "ecosystem services" were in vogue they've realized the importance of good stewardship, and of ensuring that land is managed in a way that protects the assets on which their livelihood depends.
A group of concerned landowners were seeking help to better understand the ecological value of the local landscape, and to more effectively bring this value to the table when "stakeholder input" is requested. So in early 2012, they approached Miistakis with the idea of creating a series of maps. The maps would display widely-available data and would depict the conservation priorities - for example wildlife habitat, or native vegetation - of local landowners. Each map would be accompanied by a brief description, identifying the source of the data, explaining how the data was manipulated for display, and highlight any assumptions or limitations inherent to the source data. With these maps, landowners felt they would no longer be limited by what representatives of industry or government bring to the public consultation table. They could quite literally bring their own values to the table, and widen the scope of discussion.
To date, Miistakis has created seven maps in the series: an overview map of the area, maps of five conservation priorities, and a map that illustrates the potential to overlay different priorities on the same map, to visualize areas of more universally high (or low) significance. There is no commitment to produce more maps in the series, but Miistakis will maintain discussion with local landowners and share new data as it becomes available. Another option for future work would be to build interactive mapping tools that allow the user to overlay different priorities.
The maps are currently being used by Livingstone Landowners Group and Lee Lake residents, and will be presented to the MD Pincher Creek at forthcoming meetings. Upon receiving the maps, one landowner remarked that "this has turned out to be an excellent product, perhaps more useful and informative than we might have even hoped at the outset."