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Calgary's tools for conservation

Nose Hill Biodiversity

Calgary has a long history of conservation policy. Updating documents from the late 1970s, Parks developed the 1984 Calgary River Valleys Plan, which was a culmination of efforts going back 100 years to recognize the value of natural areas — not only along the riverbanks and escarpments, but also ensuring links to major parks and open spaces beyond the river valleys.

The City has developed a number of policies and tools that guide the conservation of biodiversity. Following is a selection of statutory and non-statutory polices and guidelines that collectively guide us at The City to work towards better protection of biodiversity.

Environmentally Significant Areas of the Calgary Region (1983)

This document identifies the environmentally significant areas and formulation of guidelines for their protection.

Calgary River Valleys Plan (1984)
The Calgary River Valleys Plan provides direction for the creation of a comprehensive open space system in Calgary’s river and creek valleys. The principles rooted within this plan laid the foundations for the Urban Park Master Plan.

Natural Area Management Plan (1994)
This plan established a process for identifying and ensuring the long-term viability of Calgary’s natural environments. It contains management guidelines and puts forward a landscape ecology approach to protecting and evaluating Calgary’s natural systems.

Urban Park Master Plan (1994)
The Urban Park Master Plan is The City’s strategic plan for guiding the protection and conservation of our river valley parklands. One of the aims of this document is to balance the dual goals of preserving natural landscape features while providing a variety of accessible outdoor recreation opportunities. The study area includes key natural features within the city, such as the Bow River, the Elbow River, Nose Creek and West Nose Creek river valleys.

Integrated Pest Management (1998)
The City adopted a policy on Integrated Pest Management to promote healthy vegetation and to guide pest control activities on all public lands. It employs a combination of cultural, biological, mechanical and chemical means, as well as plant health care principles.

Open Space Plan (2003)
The Calgary River Valleys Plan, The Natural Area Management Plan and the Integrated Pest Management Plan were foundational documents to the Open Space Plan. This document is the overarching policy for Parks and sets out guidelines for acquisition and management of our parks, natural environments and urban forest through appropriate planning, design, management and education. The Plan outlines The City’s intention to:

  • Provide and maintain the integrity of a high-quality and diverse park and open space system.
  • Protect and enhance the urban forest and natural environment areas.
  • Provide environmental stewardship, education, programs and services.

Calgary Wetland Conservation Plan (2004)
This plan was developed in response to concerns about the rate of wetland loss due to urban growth. The Plan has policies and procedures for the identification of wetlands and their associated environmental significance. It includes a “no net loss” policy and is one of the first municipal wetland policies in Canada.

Parks Urban Forest Strategic Plan (2007)
The Urban Forest Strategic Plan is a non-statutory plan aligned with Council’s 2006 Priorities, the 2003 Calgary Open Space Plan, and the Parks Water Management Strategic Plan. Although the focus of the plan is the public urban forest, trees on private land are recognized to be an important part of the urban forest and many of the same principles and strategies apply. The ultimate goal of the urban forestry program is to achieve a sustainable urban forest.

Environmental Reserve Setback Guidelines (2007)
These Council-adopted guidelines establish a greater setback from wetlands and water courses to prevent pollution discharge into water bodies, and to further protect riparian areas. There is a base setback that can be modified for factoring land quality and slope. Degraded lands and steeper slopes require a greater setback from water bodies.

Parks Water Management Strategic Plan (2007)
Council adopted The City of Calgary Parks Water Management Strategic Plan in 2007 with the implicit intent to keep Calgary’s ecosystem healthy and sustainable by recognizing the relationship between beautiful gardens and water conservation.

Our Biodiversity - Strategic Plan (2015)

Calgary's 10-year biodiversity strategic plan was Council approved in March 2015. The plan supports and directs municipal projects with the ultimate aim of protecting and conserving Calgary’s biodiversity.

Municipal Development Plan (MDP)

Calgary’s 2009 Municipal Development Plan (MDP) established key policies for the protection of biodiversity. Section 2.6.4 Ecological networks reads:

l. Monitor and manage invasive species that pose a threat to biodiversity and undermine an area’s ability to protect water resources.

m. Manage natural areas and open spaces primarily to conserve and promote native biodiversity.

n. Ensure the systematic conservation of land and water to reduce habitat fragmentation and ensure wildlife and fisheries connectivity.

o. Re-establish open space connections, where feasible, to link important habitat areas within the city and region.

The City has supported signing the Durban Commitment, which is,

… a commitment and model by local government, for local government and the communities they serve, to protect and enhance biodiversity at the local level. It recognizes that biodiversity is the variety of life on earth on which human well-being is dependant and that it provides ecosystem services that underpin all of our community’s needs.

By working with Local Action for Biodiversity (LAB) – “a global urban biodiversity programme coordinated by ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability)” –  The City of Calgary has committed to three key biodiversity deliverables, which includes,

...the production by each local government of a long-term local biodiversity strategy and action plan and the implementation of on the ground initiatives.