The recent growth of the natural resource sector – in a province where 80 per cent of the population lives in urban centres – has resulted in competition between different land uses, not all properly coordinated. Alberta has faced criticism from at home and abroad over the future of the province’s environment and economy, especially in relation to the development of the oil sands. This is the context in which the province announced in 2005 its intention to create a land-use framework. Following an extensive public consultation process, the government released the Land-use Framework in December 2008, identifying seven strategies to achieve the province’s long-term economic, social, and environmental goals:
- Develop seven regional land use plans based on seven new land use regions;
- Create a Land Use Secretariat and establish a Regional Advisory Council for each region;
- Use cumulative effects management at a regional level to manage the impacts of development on land, water and air;
- Develop a strategy for conservation and stewardship on private and public lands;
- Promote efficient use of land to reduce the footprint of human activities on Alberta’s landscape;
- Establish an information, monitoring and knowledge system to contribute to continuous improvement of land use planning and decision-making;
- Include Aboriginal peoples in land use planning.
By itself, the Land-use Framework has no legal authority – it is only a policy document. A year later, the Framework was given legal effect through the Alberta Land Stewardship Act – a legislative framework to support and implement the policies set out in the Land-use Framework.