Unit 2 - The History of Forest Use and Management

Lesson 10: Integrated Resource Plans

In Alberta, efforts were made to better manage the use of Alberta's public land and resources (including forests). As a result, plans were developed by the Province during the late 1970s, '80s, and early '90s. These plans, each relating to a specific region of the province, were known as Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs). Basically the plans considered certain regions of the province and identified appropriate activities for those regions. The intent of IRPs was to encourage multiple use of a given area, yet recognize that not all uses can occur on the same area at the same time. In other words, for a given area, the Integrated Resource Plan designated which activities were appropriate and which activities were to be prohibited.

In an attempt to accommodate growing public interest in how Alberta's forests were being managed, the Province opened up the integrated planning process to include everyone, including special interest groups and the general public. This was very significant because in the past, forest use decisions had been made solely by provincial forest services, either acting alone or in consultation with forestry companies.

Each interest group participating in the planning process had differing priorities and a unique perspective as to how the forest resource should be managed in a given area. For example, logging companies were interested in securing access to timber, the oil/gas sector was interested in developing well sites, and recreational users were interested in preserving the natural beauty of an area. All brought their own unique perspective to the table. These planning processes resulted in Integrated Resource Plans that were intended to guide development in certain areas. We now know, however, that IRPs failed to adequately address the whole problem of cumulative effects.

Integrated Resources Plans

Integrated Resource Plans outline the land and resource management intent for a planning area based on a landscape assessment. These assessments 

  • include the resource, physical, and biological characteristics, and social values within a planning area
  • identify objectives for long-term management of the area to promote responsible use of the land in the future
  • describe the type of activities that are compatible with this land and resource management direction. For example, public land may be designated for recreation, grazing, oil and gas, forestry, or other uses.
Courtesy of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development

The term "cumulative effects" is used to describe the effects of industrial development that "add up" or "accumulate," to produce observable impacts on the forest. In other words, cumulative effects are the changes in the environment that occur as a result of all past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future human activities.

Cumulative effects are not the result of any one activity. While one activity may not be cause for concern in the forest, the addition of many small impacts over time can lead to what we refer to as "cumulative effects."

Digging Deeper

Click on the icon to the left to read an example of cumulative effects.