Environmentally Significant Areas Study: Leduc County
Environmentally significant areas, or ESAs, are areas determined to be important for the long term integrity of biological diversity, natural processes, and physical landscape attributes. In consultation with internal and external stakeholders, Fiera Biological developed 16 indicators that were considered to be representative of areas in Leduc County that were environmentally significant. These indicators represented areas that contained rare species and habitats, intact and functional ecosystems, rare landforms, as well as other characteristics deemed to be relevant and important to citizens living and working in Leduc County.
Once these indicators were selected, spatial data was used to locate, quantify, and score areas within Leduc County that contained each indicator. These scores were then aggregated to create a final ESA score for each quarter section in the County, with high scores representing quarter sections that were considered to be environmentally significant. These scores were then ground truthed to ensure that the predictions of both high and low scores were representative of environmental significance. We assessed 44 quarter sections for environmental significance in the field, and visited 142 ground control points and 81 wetlands to assess the accuracy of the land cover and wetland inventory that we created as part of the project. The data collected in the field was used to refine the GIS methods to improve the accuracy of predicting ESA locations in Leduc County. Based upon the results of the ground truthing, ESA boundaries were refined and digitized to include only natural features within each quarter section that was identified as an ESA through the GIS analysis.
In order to assist Leduc County in making decisions regarding land use within or adjacent to these areas, we provided management recommendations that were specific to the type of ESA (upland, riparian, aquatic), which were consistent with existing Best Management Practices and local and provincial environmental laws and policies. In addition, we conducted a risk assessment to identify ESAs that are considered to be High, Moderate, or Low Risk of development over the short- and medium-term. This analysis provided decision makers with additional information regarding the type, intensity, and timing of future development that may impact ESAs in the County, such that environmental considerations may be integrated into project planning early in the development process.
Leduc County has made a copy of this report available to the public. A link is provided below.
January 2014 to February 2015