The majority of the land base in the current parks system was established during the Special Places program. In many of the sites designated through this program, there were pre-existing land-use activities. The only way to establish these new parks was to honour these existing commitments and then manage the activities to minimize impacts.
While it is preferable to avoid industrial activity in parks, it is generally better to designate a park and then carefully manage existing commitments than to wait for all industrial activity to be completed or to never establish the park in the first place. Through our disposition process, we influence the location of industrial activity and outline conditions to minimize environmental impacts. There is typically not a lot of new surface development because existing surface disturbance can often be utilized. Many companies also voluntarily choose to stay out of a park if possible. In the long-term, resources (such as oil and gas) are depleted and industrial activity is concluded prior to reclamation.
Through careful management, mineral commitments can be honoured while still maintaining natural values, features and species that are important for both conservation and enriching recreational experiences.
Any industrial activity currently occurring in parks is a result of pre-existing commitments - no new activity is allowed. Most parks have a "no surface access" addendum - a restriction to prevent new surface access that is not part of a pre-existing commitment.
The Government of Alberta's policy to honour pre-existing mineral commitments in protected areas is described in the Alberta Energy Information Letter 2003-25. Existing commitments are defined by any subsurface or surface tenure, disposition, right, agreement or approval that existed before a protected area was established.
Existing commitments are typically for oil and gas and may occur in some provincial parks, wildland provincial parks, provincial recreation Areas, heritage rangelands and natural areas. No development is allowed within ecological reserves, wilderness areas or Willmore Wilderness Park.
Open pit mining, including sand and gravel extraction, are not permitted.
Commercial forestry and timber harvesting are not permitted within parks, although in some cases trees may need to be removed for management purposes (e.g. hazardous trees, "FireSmarting", mountain pine beetle damage) or for recreational facility development (e.g. campgrounds, roads, trails). The goal is to minimize tree removal and to make use of the trees that are removed (i.e. for firewood).
Administration and management of industrial activity is done through granting a disposition. Granting the disposition depends on whether the industrial activity relates to an existing commitment, as well as the classification of the park in question and the legislation that applies to it.
Industrial activity may occur in
The Land Reference Manual includes a complete listing of all lands currently under the administration of Parks Division of Alberta Environment & Parks. Links to legal land descriptions are provided for every site. Maps are also provided for visual reference. There is a downloadable map of all protected areas (Protected Areas ArcView Shapefile) as well as other digital layers. This will help you determine if your activity is within a park and what industrial restrictions may apply. You can also use the ACIMS searchable database to enter the location of the activity to determine if it is within a park.
If you think your industrial activity may be within or near a park, contact a Parks land-use technologist who can confirm the location and clarify which process to follow.
*PPA - Provincial Parks Act
**WAERNAHR - Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act
Some projects may be proposed near sensitive plant species or rare elements and it is recommended that a rare plant survey be conducted for all new disturbances. Please see link below for the Alberta Native Plant Council Guidelines for Rare Plant Surveys in Alberta.
Before any work begins, surveyors must obtain consent from Parks Division for access to all lands within natural areas, heritage rangelands, wildland parks, provincial parks, and provincial recreation areas. Surveys are not permitted until all concerns by Parks Division regarding the location or route of the proposed disposition are addressed.
If you have any additional questions please contact the Parks land-use technologist who will be able to assist you.
Once an industrial activity (e.g. wellsite) is completed reclamation begins. Reclamation is the process of converting disturbed land back to its natural state.
Companies are required to develop and carry out a reclamation plan in conjunction with Parks staff in order to obtain a reclamation certificate from Alberta Environment & Parks.
Reclamation standards in parks are guided by the 2010 Reclamation Criteria for Wellsites and Associated Facilities. However, there may be additional site-specific requirements before the reclamation certificate is granted.