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Wetland Policy


What is it?

A Wetland Policy guides land use and development decisions related to wetlands. Recognizing that wetlands provide ecological, societal, and economic benefits, a Wetland Policy has the goal of minimizing the loss or degradation of wetlands. Wetland Policies may require development inventories if not available, and the ranking of wetland value to aid in decisions. These policies will outline the development approval processes and potential compensation requirements. Policies guide requirements for ecological monitoring of impacted wetlands, and guide creation of management plans for areas that include wetlands.

How can municipalities use it?

Naturally occurring, permanent wetlands found on municipal land are the property of the Alberta crown. However, the Municipal Government Act (MGA) guides municipalities in creating land-use bylaws which regulate development that may impact wetlands. This empowers municipalities to create their own wetland plans and policies, while still adhering to provincial and federal regulations. Municipalities can implement policies related to wetland protection as community plans, land use amendments, area redevelopment plans, etc. are developed and approved.

What are the advantages?

A municipal wetland policy has the following advantages:

  • Strengthens a municipality’s commitment and ability to conserve wetlands

  • Helps to conserve wetlands from the impact of development

  • Guides municipal staff on the development approval process with regard to wetland conservation

  • Can clearly communicate requirements for approval to a developer

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. There are issues for municipalities to watch out for with creating a Wetland Policy, including:

  • Municipal wetland policies must adhere to provincial and federal laws and policies, including, but not limited to, the provincial Water Act and, if fish or species at risk are present, the federal Fisheries Act and Species at Risk Act

  • The Alberta government has created a wetland value ranking system which may need to be considered in a municipal policy

  • If easier or more cost-effective for a developer to pay a compensation fee for replacement, it will be difficult to conserve wetlands

  • Wetland inventories are necessary for successful policies, but may be difficult to create and maintain

  • Where the province approves the drainage or destruction of wetlands there may be limits on what a municipality can do

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

A Wetland Policy helps to maintain the natural infrastructure system by prioritizing the protection, restoration, or enhancement of a key natural infrastructure asset - wetlands. While Wetland Policies don't always keep wetlands from being lost to development, they highlight their importance, and provide direction to inventory, monitor, and protect wetlands.


Alberta Wetland Policy – The Government of Alberta’s wetland policy provides strategic direction to conserve, restore, protect, and manage Alberta’s wetlands, Including legal requirements, criteria for ranking wetland value, and establishing replacement fees. The Alberta Wetland Policy also enables the role of municipal and regional planning in the decision making process.

Wetlands Alberta – Website by Ducks Unlimited, Alberta NAWMP, and Government of Alberta that includes information and resources concerning wetland conservation in Alberta. 

Calgary Wetland Conservation Plan – The City of Calgary developed the Wetland Conservation Plan to set priorities and explore alternatives for wetland conservation in order to guide future urban development.

A wetlands and riparian areas conservation and management plan for Cochrane Alberta - The Town of Cochrane Strategic Plan states that the Town will investigate, monitor and implement environmental standards / codes of practice for wetland and watershed management. The document has been expanded to include riparian areas and is not restricted only to wetland enhancement but to all aspects of wetland and riparian area conservation and management.

AUMA Municipal Planning Hub - This Hub was developed to provide members with a basic understanding of land use planning in Alberta. This document discusses wetlands and their importance, as well as indicating other related wetland planning resources.

Battle River Watershed Alliance Drought Adaptation and Management: Implementation Guidelines - This document outlines the BRWA’s implementation guidelines for drought adaptation and management in the Battle River and Sounding Creek watersheds in Alberta. This document includes guidelines for wetland conservation, restoration, and management.

City of Hamilton Proposed Natural Areas Acquisition Fund Strategy – The general purpose of this Natural Areas Acquisition Fund Strategy is to outline the requirements for the implementation of the Natural Areas Acquisition Fund. However, it provides details on the suite of securement tools available, and includes information on wetland conservation targets.

Municipal Powers, Land Use Planning, and the Environment: Understanding the Public’s Role – Municipalities exercise a broad range of powers that have significant direct and indirect impacts on the environment. Created by the Environmental Law Centre, this paper explores a municipality’s role in the regulation and management of natural areas including wetlands, air and water quality, toxic substances, redevelopment of contaminated lands, water conservation, wildlife, and other aspects of the environment within the municipality. It includes a section on municipal jurisdiction over wetlands and a section on conserving wetlands.

Town of Cochrane Integrated Stormwater Management Plan (ISMP) – Cochrane's ISMP is intended to assist Town staff, developers and landowners with implementation of sustainable approaches to stormwater runoff management that can better balance community development and environmental protection within the current regulatory landscape. This document describes integration with the Town’s wetland policy to enable wetland protection.

Combatting Canada’s Rising Flood Costs: Natural infrastructure is an underutilized option – This document provides a case study of estimating the benefits of wetland conservation in rural and urban municipalities in southern Ontario.

Did we miss something?

If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!

Thanks for helping us out!

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