To date, Canadians have been able to have "their cake and eat it too" as natural resource use has grown while many wilderness areas and their attendant ecosystems have remained largely intact, particularly in boreal and arctic regions. However, unprecedented growth in development is now producing signs of resource use conflict and ecosystem stress. Conflicts between resource sectors in many jurisdictions have resulted in the creation of new government departments for coordinating the activities of different land uses, multi-stakeholder consultations, and regional land use strategies to prevent or mitigate such conflicts. While laudable in their intent, few efforts have delivered an effective means to deal with an exceptionally complex range of environmental, economic, and social issues.
The NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Integrated Landscape Management was established in 2001 to produce an ILM toolkit that will form the core of ecologically informed land use planning. The program is a collaboration between NSERC, industry, Alberta Government, and the University of Alberta.
At the heart of this toolkit are Integrated Landscape Management Models (ILMMs) capable of integrating multiple land use activities over broad space and long time scales to allow managers to explore the economic, ecological, and social implications of strategic land use decisions. The models are based on strong science that reduces key uncertainties to allow us to link human actions (land use practices, planning, and policy) to indicators (ecological, economic, and social). ILMMs are needed by stakeholders (public, government, and industry) to understand and explore important trade-offs and devise more robust solutions for long-term societal objectives around economic growth and ecological sustainability. We are also demonstrate the value of ILMMs by exploring how provincial and regional management objectives could be achieved through innovative alternative land use strategies.
We use our strong relationship with the Alberta Chamber of Resources to translate the resource manager's experience and ideas into scenarios and model runs.