Environmentally Significant Land
Definitions of Environmentally Significant Areas (ESA's)
The following definition for Environmentally Significant Areas is found in Appendix D of the MDP 2010:
Environmentally Significant Areas are identified in the Environmentally Significant Areas studies prepared for the Resource Information Branch, Alberta Environmental Protection and local municipalities.
- "Hazard" lands that are unsafe for development in their natural state such as floodplains and steep and unstable slopes; or that pose sever constraints on types of development such as aeolian surfical deposits and permanent wetlands;
- Areas that perform a vital environmental, ecological or hydrological function such as aquifer recharge;
- Areas that continue unique geological or physiographic features;
- Areas that contain significant, rare or endangered plant or animal species;
- Areas that are unique habitats with limited representation in the region or are a small remnant of once large habitats that have virtually disappeared;
- Areas that contain an unusual diversity of plant and/or animal communities due to a variety of geomorphological features and microclimatic effects;
- Areas that contain large and relatively undisturbed habitats and provide sheltered habitat for species that are intolerant of human disturbance;
- Areas that provide an important linking function and permit the movement of wildlife over considerable distances, including migration corridors and migratory stopover points;
- Areas that are excellent representatives of one or more ecosystems or landscapes that characterize a natural region.
- Area with intrinsic appeal due to widespread community interest or the presence of highly valued features or species such as game species or sport fish; and
- Areas with lengthy histories of scientific research.
ESA's in the MD of Foothills
The MD is rich in significant natural landscapes, key wildlife areas and important fish habitats. These resources are part of the Municipality's natural capital which should be conserved. The MD uses the guidelines provided by Alberta Environmental Protection to identify Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs) throughout the Municipality.
One of the Goals stated in the MDP 2010 is as follows:
Protect the Municipal District's natural capital with emphasis on the Environmentally Significant Areas, surface water features and landscapes of high scenic value for future generations.
Parkland and Foothills Environments
Parkland environment provides outstanding biodiversity, and a matrix of wildlife movement corridors in the MD, while the foothills environment is valuable for watershed and habitat protection, as well as providing some of the most spectacular scenery to be found in the Calgary Region.
Water courses and water bodies
Water courses and water bodies refer to, streams, lakes, wetlands and their riparian areas. These areas provide a number of important benefits, some of which include:
- Shoreline vegetation creates natural windbreaks across the landscape
- Visual appeal
- Habitat area for wildlife
- Corridors for wildlife migration
- Allowing aquifer re-charge (wetlands are especially important here)
- Areas of especially high plant productivity which support bio-diversity.
- Breeding and spawning grounds, nursery habitat and food for various species of fish.
- Riparian areas serve as nutrient traps for nitrogen and phosphorus, and filters for surface water pollutants.
- Helping to maintain biospheric stability by supporting plants that are efficient photo-synthesizers which produce significant amounts of oxygen, and bacteria which process excess nitrates and nitrogenous pollutants and turn them into inert nitrogen gas.
- Serving as outdoor laboratories and living classrooms for the study and appreciation of natural history, ecology and biology, and serving generally as an education and research resource.
- Providing recreation areas for fishing, boating, hiking, bird watching, photography, camping and other uses.
- Stormwater management functions e.g. wetlands provide for retention and re-infiltration, while watercourses may provide conveyance of stormwater.
Objectives from MDP 2010
One of the objectives stated in MDP 2010 is to support the development and implementation of science-informed policy regarding the integrity of rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands and the conservation of riparian areas.
To this end, the MD approved the Riparian Setback Matrix Model and provides information in the Developer Guide.