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Cumulative Effects Management


Regional plans are developed and implemented using a cumulative effects management approach by setting and integrating the economic, environmental and social outcomes that Albertans want to achieve, and managing new and existing activities on the land to achieve these outcomes. This approach includes defining threshold values for identifying adverse impacts on the land base to determine appropriate management actions.


This direction is the foundation of the Land-use Framework, where the Government of Alberta is committed to manage the cumulative effects of development on air, water, land and biodiversity at the regional level. Cumulative effects management focuses on achievement of outcomes, understanding the effects of multiple development pressures (existing and new), assessment of risk, collaborative work with shared responsibility for action and improved integration of economic, environmental and social considerations.




Cumulative Effects Management Approach


Alberta’s system for assessing the environmental impacts of new developments has a history of being done on a project-by-project basis. This approach worked at lower levels of development activity. However, it has not worked as well in addressing the combined or cumulative effects of multiple activities and high rates of development that we have come to experience in Alberta.


Regional plans will adopt a cumulative effects approach that includes managing the impacts of existing and new activities. It will be based on our understanding of environmental risks and socio-economic values which will be used in setting environmental objectives, and then managing within those objectives.




Elements of a Cumulative Effects Management System




Driven by clearly defined outcomes for the desired quality or state of the environment now and in the future, while recognizing the economic, environmental and social implications of meeting those objectives. Activities will be managed to achieve outcomes.


Different regions may have different needs and outcomes.


Foundation of the system is a sound knowledge base and performance management, composed of information and evaluation to determine if outcomes are being met or management actions required.


The system can adapt to change when performance results are not achieving outcomes, or there is a risk of not achieving outcomes in the future or when circumstances change.

Shared Stewardship:

A collaborative process to inform development of outcomes and build commitment for the shared responsibility to achieve outcomes.


- Excerpt from Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (2012) -



Visit Alberta Environment and Parks for more information about cumulative effects management, environmental management frameworks and support for regional planning.