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Managing the Cumulative Impacts of Land Uses in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin: A Modeling Approach

Richard, R. Schneider, Ministik Environmental Consulting
J. Brad Stelfox, Forem Technologies
Stan Boutin, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
Shawn Wasel, Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc.

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Abstract

This case study from northeastern Alberta, Canada, demonstrates a fundamentally different approach to forest management in which stakeholders balance conservation and economic objectives by weighing current management options from the point of view of their long-term effects on the forest. ALCES®, a landscape-scale simulation model, is used to quantify the effects of the current regulatory framework and typical industrial practices on a suite of ecological and economic indicators over the next 100 yr. These simulations suggest that, if current practices continue, the combined activities of the energy and forestry industries in our 59,000 km2 study area will cause the density of edge of human origin to increase from 1.8 km/km 2 to a maximum of 8.0 km/km2. We also predict that older age classes of merchantable forest stands will be largely eliminated from the landscape, habitat availability for woodland caribou will decline from 43 to 6%, and there will be a progressive shortfall in the supply of softwood timber beginning in approximately 60 yr. Additional simulations involving a suite of "best practices" demonstrate that substantial improvements in ecological outcome measures could be achieved through alternative management scenarios while still maintaining a sustainable flow of economic benefits. We discuss the merits of our proposed approach to land use planning and apply it to the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin.

Key words

Alberta, Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, boreal forest, cumulative industrial impacts, forestry industry, integrated resource management, petroleum industry, simulation model
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087