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1 . What is the process for ACIMS data requests?

2 . What are next steps if Element Occurrences are found? What if none are found?

No Element Occurrences:

If no element occurrences (sensitive or non-sensitive) and/or no Provincial Protected Areas were found in your area, no further request is needed.  Please note that the lack of records in your request area does not necessarily indicate that there are no rare elements in the area - it could just mean that very few inventories/surveys have been done in that part of the province.
Record search as follows, in case proof of search is needed at some future point:

Non-Sensitive Element Occurrences are found:

If Non-Sensitive Element Occurrences are found, document the results as below (no need to contact ACIMS).

Sensitive Element Occurrences:

The locations for Sensitive Element Occurrences have been generalized to a township.  If Sensitive Element Occurrences are found, a full township will be covered and the rare element will be somewhere within that township.  Document the results as described for non-sensitive elements, above.

Detailed locations for sensitive occurrences are only provided based on a demonstrated need.  A request must be submitted to ACIMS ( with rationale indicating why location data are required.

3 . What is the next step if my search location is within a "Provincial Protected Area" and/or a "Crown Reservation/Notation"?

If, after using the ACIMS Search map, a location falls within or adjacent to a provincial protected area and/or a crown reservation/notation and/or a 100 m buffer, the next steps depend on each unique situation.  The following provides general guidelines only; if unsure please contact us.

4 . Why do we need to consult both the Fish & Wildlife Management Information System (FWIMS) and ACIMS?

There are several reasons why.

5 . How do I know if there is anything of interest in my location?

Check the shapefiles, ACIMS Data Search Map and/or downloadable files

If red, orange or green shapes are displayed, check the shapefile and/or table of results for names of element occurrences and/or protected areas found.  Check the FAQ's for next steps. 

If you require different information than that available in the shapefiles, table of results and/or downloadable files, send a data request detailing required information using the web form.

6 . How do I cite ACIMS in reports and publications?

Here's the wording to use when referencing ACIMS data used in figures, reports, etc.

Alberta Conservation Information Management System. Online data accessed (add date data accessed) . Alberta Environment & Parks, Edmonton, Alberta.



1 . What is an Element?

ACIMS defines an element as: a unit of natural biological and physical diversity. Biological elements represent species (or infraspecific taxa), natural communities, or other non-taxonomic biological entities (e.g. migratory species aggregation areas). In addition ACIMS has developed a list of landform elements as units of natural physical diversity.

2 . What is an Element Occurrence (EO)?

An EO is an area of land and/or water in which a species or natural community is, or was, present. An EO should have practical conservation value for the Element as evidenced by potential continued (or historical) presence and/or regular recurrence at a given location. 

Consistency in EOs throughout the range of an element is achieved through the application of standard minimum data criteria and rules of separation specific to that element or group of similar elements.  Documentation on NatureServe's EO methodology standards is available at

3 . What are ‘Sensitive’ vs ‘Non Sensitive’ element occurrences?

"Non-sensitive element occurrences" are locations (i.e. occurrences) of species or communities that are rare (or of conservation concern for some other reason) and for which there are no restrictions regarding public access to location data (beyond the existing External Data Use Guidelines all users must agree to before downloading GIS files from our on-line system).

"Sensitive element occurrences" are also locations of species that are rare (or of conservation concern) but in these instances the precise location details cannot be distributed without due cause. In most cases these locations are not freely available because the species are legally listed under the Alberta Wildlife Act, or under the federal Species at Risk Act, or are of particular concern to Alberta Fish & Wildlife.

It is important to recognize that the term "sensitive" applies only to the spatial data. It is not to be confused with the Alberta General Status Rank designation of Sensitive (assigned by Fish & Wildlife) or with a specific ACIMS/NatureServe status rank (Srank) that is applied to a species or community. The term "sensitive" does not imply any assessment of viability of the occurrence in question, and is not an evaluation of how susceptible the occurrence may be to disturbance.

4 . What defines tracked (T), partially tracked (P) and watched (W) elements?

Tracked elements are species or ecological communities that ACIMS is actively collecting information on and processing element occurrences (EOs) for because they are elements that current information suggests are rare or of conservation concern due to threats to populations or habitats or documented declines.

For example, whitebark pine is found throughout the Rocky Mountains of Alberta but monitoring of populations has shown a considerable decline due primarily to white pine blister rust (a non-native species). So in 2006 this species was ranked as S2 and added to the vascular plant tracking list. For details on ranking methodology, go to

Partially tracked elements are those elements for which only EOs that meet specific criteria are tracked. Potential reasons for partial tracking include

  1. Tracking EOs that have a specific EO rank
  2. Tracking disjunct EOs
  3. Tracking EOs only in selected geographic areas (e.g. watersheds, ecoregions, etc.)
  4. Tracking EOs only on selected sites determined by present or prospective conservation status
  5. Tracking EOs for species which are actually tracked to the subspecies level but where information only to the genus level is available (e.g. Pellaea glabella ssp simplex and Pellaea glabella ssp. occidentalis are tracked (T) and Pellaea glabella is partially tracked (P).

Watched elements are those elements that are currently not considered as high conservation concern but there is some information to suggest that they may become rare should there be significant alterations to the element's habitats or population. Data are collected and entered into the database for retrieval as necessary but not processed as element occurrences.

5 . GIS spatial file explanations for projection and coordinate information:

Here are explanations for the projection of the element occurrence spatial files available for download, and information about the coordinate location within data request responses and shapefiles. Please note these shapefiles and coordinate information should be used by those experienced with spatial information knowledge and any questions to ACIMS will be referred back to this FAQ.

Projection Information for Element Occurrence Shapefiles:

General Name: 10TM NAD83
Datum: NAD 1983
Spheroid: GRS 1980
Prime Meridian: 0.0
Unit: Degree
Projection: Transverse Mercator

False Easting: 500000.0
False Northing: 0.0
Central Meridian: 115
Scale Factor: 0.9992
Latitude of Origin: 0.0
Unit: Meter

Spatial Coordinate Information:

Coordinate points: The coordinates refer to the 'centroid' of the element occurrence - if it's a circular polygon, this is the logical centre. If its an irregular shape (like a crescent moon, or multiple polygons) the 'centroid' may not be the most visually logical, or actually sit outside the polygon - it is correct however based on the mathematic calculations used to define a 'centroid' of an object. The coordinates provided are for general reference only and should be used with caution.

EAST_10TM: The 10 TM (10 degree Transverse Mercator) Easting coordinate of the centre of the element occurrence.

NORTH_10TM: The 10 TM (10 degree Transverse Mercator) Northing coordinate of the centre of the element occurrence.

LAT: The measure of 'Latitude' of the centre of the element occurrence, in Degrees, Minutes, Seconds.

LONG: The measure of 'Longitude' of the centre of the element occurrence, in Degrees, Minutes, Seconds.

UTM_ZONE: The Universal Transverse Mercator Zone in which the majority of the element occurrence falls within. Alberta is covered by Zone 11 (114 - 120 degrees longitude) and Zone 12 (110-114 degrees longitude).

EAST_UTM: The Universal Transverse Mercator Easting coordinate of the centre of the element occurrence.

NORTH_UTM: The Universal Transverse Mercator Northing coordinate of the centre of the element occurrence.

6 . Why is there such a variety of sizes and shapes for polygons displayed on the ACIMS search map and in the ACIMS shape files?

Each polygon is an occurrence for a specific element at a specific location (although there may be several overlapping polygons in one spot). The size and shape of the polygon is determined by the data that were used to define and map the occurrence. Newer data for EOs are usually more specific and based on GPS-recorded locations. But many of the older occurrences were mapped using generalized information, such as a legal description to the section level. The more specific the information received, the more precise an occurrence can be mapped.

7 . What is a ‘Crown Reservation/Notation’?

A 'crown reservation/notation' is the term Parks uses for lands that Parks has a registered interest in, but that are not designated under any 'Protected Area' legislation.  For further information about these terms, please contact us

8 . What software will read ESRI shapefiles?

There are only a few software packages that can read shapefiles properly, and they are usually somewhat costly and technical. Examples are Arcview 3.2, ArcMap 9.3, MapInfo 8.0, etc.

If you do not have software that can read shapefiles or have trouble using it, use the ACIMS Data Search Map  option.



1 . I can't download the data, what's the problem?

Use the ACIMS Feedback form, to help us diagnose the problem by describing specific steps taken, what the expected result was, and what the actual result was.

2 . I can't see the data, after I download it. Why?

You may not have software on your computer capable of reading the files. Shapefiles, for example, can only be read with certain kinds of software, such as Arcview and MapInfo.

3 . Can I search or see 'Sections' within the ACIMS Search map?

ACIMS added the ability to search and see Alberta Township System 'Sections' in September 2011. Click on the "Search Map" link; accept the disclaimer; select a "Requestor" and a "Reason for Request" category (for our statistics on ACIMS use).  You can then select your location of interest, down to the section level.  A table of results will then be displayed, just below the map.  The table shows:



1 . Why is the ‘Data Request PDF report’ not being sent anymore? ACIMS used to send this with most responses.

The new process allows you to access information as soon as you need it, and provides the necessary information required for most purposes including Environmental Field Reports.

If you require the PDF report, please:

ACIMS will evaluate and respond to your request within 10 to 15 business days, or will advise of an approximate timeline.  Such requests will be addressed in a priority fashion, based on demonstrated need. 

2 . Why do I not need to sign a ‘data release’ form now? I had to sign one in the past for any request of more than 100 EOs (element occurrences).

Under the current process we will require users to answer 'yes' to a disclaimer before accessing the website. This removes the need to sign a data user agreement to obtain general data.

However, obtaining certain data may still require additional documents/approval, etc,. ACIMS staff will ascertain the need for this based on the data found.

3 . What is ACIMS, what happened to ANHIC?

The name of the Alberta Natural Heritage Information Centre (ANHIC) changed in April 2010 to the Alberta Conservation Information Management System (ACIMS). The new name of ACIMS confirms the connection to Alberta, our dedication to conservation information management, and the knowledge that ACIMS is a comprehensive system of people, expertise, skills, information and software, housed within the Parks division of the Government of Alberta.

This change is for the name only - the services and data will continue; providing conservation information based on NatureServe methodology to enhance biodiversity conservation in Alberta.

Updated: Nov 2, 2017