Unit 5 - Alberta's Land-use Framework

Lesson 4: Cumulative Effects Management


What is Meant by Cumulative Effects?

The definition of cumulative effects in the Land-use Framework is: "the combined effects of past, present, and reasonably foreseeable land-use activities, over time, on the environment." 

What types of forest activities can contribute to cumulative effects? In other words, what activities can change the environment of a forest in combination with other past, present, or future human actions? Here are some examples: 

  • power transmission lines
  • pipelines
  • cut blocks
  • roads
  • oil well pads
  • mining operations
  • seismic lines
  • recreational access


Image Source: Pexels

Cumulative effects can occur as a result of the impact of an increase in a single activity (example, the expansion of a coal mine), or as a result of a new activity starting up in an area that already has environmental impacts from other activities (example, a new harvesting operation in an area that already has transmission lines and/or pipelines).

Cumulative Effects Management

In the past, Alberta has assessed the environmental impacts of new developments on a project-by-project basis. This was fine for lower levels of activity, but it does not work well in addressing the combined or cumulative effects of today's multiple activities and high rates of development.

The Alberta government is committed to managing cumulative effects at the regional level. Regional land-use plans will adopt a cumulative effects approach that includes managing the impacts of existing and new activities. Regional management frameworks will be used to provide environmental limits and triggers that will affect decisions about future and existing activities.

Limits and Triggers

Regional management frameworks will establish environmental limits and triggers for
  • air quality
  • surface water quality
  • ground water quality
  • biodiversity

Limits stipulated by these frameworks are clear boundaries not to be exceeded, and triggers are to be used as warning signals to allow for evaluation, adjustment, and management actions on an ongoing basis. If trends in air, water, or biodiversity approach a trigger level, the management response includes assessing the need for action as outlined in the frameworks. This will ensure that the air, water, and biodiversity in the region will remain healthy.

Image Source: Pexels