Alberta wetland functions

10 things to know about wetland valuation in Alberta (ABWRET)

In 2013, the Government of Alberta published its Wetland Policy, which was fully implemented by mid-2016. This meant that Water Act application requirements following the Wetland Policy protocols were in effect throughout Alberta [with the small exception of federal lands].

A central theme of the Wetland Policy is that impacts to wetlands and subsequent mitigations are based on wetland value and historical losses of wetlands in the area, as well as the area of wetland loss or impact. This new approach thrust a large body of wetland science into the centre of wetland management. The concept of relative wetland valuation is based on a lot of things, which makes it hard to wrap your head around. Here are ten things you should know about wetland valuation in Alberta.

  1. Wetland value depends on a suite of wetland functions as well as historical wetland loss in the same land assessment unit, known as the Relative Wetland Value Assessment Unit.

  2. Wetland value is relative to other wetlands in the same area: green area (including the Boreal Forest, Rocky Mountains and Parklands [in part]) and white area (Grasslands and Parklands [in part]).whtegreenareas

  3. The relative value of a wetland is represented by one of four value categories: A, B, C or D, with A being the highest valued.

  4. There are three ways that Alberta Environment and Parks can apply a value category to a wetland:

    • Estimated by Alberta Township System (ATS) section using a suite of spatial data layers and historical aerial/satellite imagery, known as the ABWRET-E, where the E stands for Estimated or Estimator.

    • NOTE: ABWRET-E is NOT used for any practical purposes now that ABWRET-D is available.

    • Estimated per wetland using a suite of spatial data layers and the proponent’s wetland delineation, known as the ABWRET-D (Desktop).

    • Estimated per wetland using a suite of spatial data layers, the proponent’s wetland delineation, and field observations of the wetland, known as ABWRET-A (Actual).

  1. ABWRET-A combines field and spatial data, from which well over 100 indicators are used to predict wetland value category.

  2. A suite of wetland functions, such as surface water storage, streamflow support, and plant and wildlife habitats are evaluated using wetland function indicators.

  3. Wetland function indicators are things you can see on the ground or in imagery that indicate specific conditions of the wetland, such as types of woody vegetation, species at risk and open water.

  4. Wetlands with the highest value require greater consideration when proposing certain activities, such as urban/commercial development or activities that change water inputs to the wetland.

  5. Wetland practitioners that complete ABWRET-A assessments are required to identify whether they have taken ABWRET training, as described in both the ABWRET-A Guide and in the cover page of the ABWRET-A Excel Workbook.

  6. Authenticating professionals must have a strong understanding of ABWRET and its use.