Biophysical Assessment & Conservation

It is one of the Objectives stated in the Foothills County MDP 2010 that the Municipality "require, where necessary, a biophysical assessment as part of the development process for the purposes of reducing the impact of development on the natural environment". Where a biophysical assessment is defined as follows:

A review of land prepared by an environmental scientist or other qualified professional that identifies and assesses the environmental significance and sensitivity of the lands, and recommends appropriate measures for protecting the environmental features, which may be incorporated into the subdivision review process.

Currently the only policy that the Foothills County has with respect to when a biophysical assessment may be required is in the Environmental Conservation and Open Space section of the MDP 2010. It reads as follows:

Policy 1:

Proponents of development or redesignation of land which the County believes would be located wholly or partly within Environmentally Significant Areas, shall demonstrate to the satisfaction of the County that the proposals would not jeopardize or significantly damage the characteristics of the resource. To this end, the County may commission specialized studies, such as a biophysical assessment, geotechnical assessment and/or environmental impact assessment by an appropriate qualified Professional at the proponent's expense.

Foothills County is currently developing a more comprehensive and specific policy that will describe in what instances biophysical assessments may be required as part of the development approval process. It will also mandate what the required components of a biophysical assessment acceptable to the County will be.

Components of Biophysical Assessments

A biophysical assessment, when required, should be prepared according to the following outline:

Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is a method of limiting certain types of uses or preventing development from taking place on a piece of property now and in the future, while protecting the property's ecological, scenic or open-space values. Any registered owner of land can establish a conservation easement. This includes private citizens, corporations, municipalities and the provincial government. Conservation easements do not apply to unpatented Crown lands.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada defines a Conservation Agreement (also called a conservation easement, covenant or servitude) as follows: "a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and conservation organization that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. "

Unlike other securement methods that require the landowner to sell or donate their property to a conservation organization, conservation agreements allow private landowners to continue to own and use their land and even to sell it or pass it on to heirs.

Conservation easements are made possible by sections 22, 22.1, 22.2 and 22.3 of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (S.A. c. E- 13.3) ("EPEA"). Under EPEA "qualifying organizations" include the provincial government, a municipality, and nongovernmental registered charities formed to hold conservation land interests and complying with other EPEA requirements.

Some Qualified Conservation Organizations

The Nature Conservancy of Canada

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is Canada's leading national land conservation organization. They are a private, non-profit group that partners with corporate and individual landowners to achieve the direct protection of natural areas by securing properties (through donation, purchase, conservation agreement or the relinquishment of other legal interests in the land) and the long-term stewardship of those properties.

Ducks Unlimited

Ducks Unlimited conserves, restores and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl. One of the ways they do this is through conservation easements. They are a qualified conservation organization.

Alberta Land Trust Alliance

Alberta Land Trust Alliance is a not-for-profit charitable organization who's mission statement is as follows: "To represent the land trust community and build capacity in land trusts to conserve diverse and ecologically important landscapes in Alberta. "

Other Useful Links

Selected Common Environmental Issues