Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs) Report
Updated Data & Map
Environmentally Significant Areas - Provincial Update
2009 is an update of the 1997-98 Environmentally
Significant Areas (ESAs) of Alberta data and map.
The ESA map and data are widely used by municipal land-use
planners, energy companies, consultants, environmental
organizations, academic institutions and others. Essentially, ESAs
- Important to the long-term maintenance of biological diversity,
soil, water, or other natural processes, at multiple spatial
- Areas that contain rare or unique elements or that include
elements that may require special management consideration due to
their conservation needs.
ESAs do not represent government policy and do not necessarily
require legal protection. They are intended to be an
information tool to help inform land-use planning and policy at
local, regional and provincial scales.
The update identified a total of 754 ESAs using seven defined
criteria. Each ESA was assigned a significance rating according to
the elements present: (1) International, (2) National, and (3)
Provincial. The ratings do not reflect respective importance.
Rather, they signify the scale at which each ESA is
significant or rare.
The spatial distribution of the updated ESAs is generally
similar to those identified in 1997-98. However,
additional areas were also identified. Environmentally
Significant Areas - Provincial Update 2009 incorporated
updated information and changes to the land base that occurred in
the preceding decade.
Application of systematic conservation area design principles
using seven well defined criteria resulted in a scientifically
defensible portfolio of ESAs in Alberta. The methodology for
delineating ESAs was transparent and repeatable. This means
the ESA network can be easily updated as new
- Information becomes available for existing criteria (e.g.
updates on listings of elements of conservation concern), and
- Criteria are added (e.g. human disturbance).
Consistent application of this methodology ensures ESAs are a
relevant decision support tool for land-use planning and
implementation in Alberta over the long term.
Further analysis may be required at the regional scale to
- Refine ESA boundaries
- Prioritize ESAs for management
- Develop ESA-specific management strategies
This analysis would highlight areas for closer scrutiny by land
managers and stakeholders during the land-use planning process.
The original ESA studies in Alberta were done from 1983-1996.
A provincial review and synthesis of ESA work was completed