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Winter 2015

Newsletter Archive


Research Theme Profile: Linking Landscapes and Communities

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Why this is one of our themes

It's impossible to separate the health of a community from the health of the landscape within which it sits. Yet we try to do just that all the time; community or economic planning happens in one place, environmental conservation in another. However, when we conceive communities in such a way that they are sustainable - truly sustainable - socially and economically, we tend to have communities that are healthy ecologically, as well.

In this program area, Miistakis seeks to understand and promote the links between healthy landscapes and healthy communities. The basis of this research area is sustainability - linking the sustainable health of humans (socially, economically, and physically) with the sustainable health of landscapes. When we throw all of this into a pot and stir, we tend to see things float to the top like ecological infrastructure, resilience-based planning, sense of place, community hub development, walkability, transit-oriented development, landscape connectivity, water management, etc. These concepts don't fit neatly into only one of environment, economy or society, because they largely exist along the linkages between those realms.

Our work in this research theme area generally includes:

  • Seeking to better understand these linkages,
  • Supporting deliberate planning that integrates landscape and community,
  • Providing information and raising awareness about problems and possibilities, and/or
  • Creating tools to help decision-makers.

These efforts have led Miistakis to work with community planners, economists, developers, conservation groups, landowners, and a variety of others. Not surprisingly, in this research theme area, we work extensively with municipalities.

What we've been doing

Though the projects under this research theme vary widely, they all have the common thread of seeking to link community sustainability and landscape sustainability. We have worked extensively on the Transfer of Development Credits tool, which provides a way to reconcile development and planning goals in ways that are beneficial to both conserving and developing landowners. Our Developable Lands Tool provides a GIS-based process for community members to identify, weight and map areas valuable for development versus those valuable for conservation. Our ALSA Tools Workshops gives municipalities scenario-based experience with how the Conservation and Stewardship tools under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act could be applied locally. The Adapt-action online tool helps municipalities understand the impact of climate change on their community, then plan for becoming more climate resilient in cost-effective, ecosystem-based ways.

What is coming up

This year we have begun a new collaboration with the Calgary Regional Partnership on their Ecological Conservation and Protection Initiative, helping them with an update of the ecological data for the region, and with drafting a plan to conserve those valued features in the face of significant landscape change. Miistakis has also begun to develop a practical, community-based measurement tool for peri-urban communities called the Healthy Community Checklist, which allows community members to articulate and track what they want to see developed in their community. We are working to revive the ALSA Tools Workshops so we can deliver them to a broader array of municipalities. With our partners at the Environmental Law Centre, Miistakis is working on developing a Municipal Conservation Research Collaborative that will give municipalities on-going access to information regarding vexing conservation policy issues. Finally, we have started scoping a research project that examines the needs for creating an Upstream Natural Infrastructure Framework between Calgary and the Rocky Mountain headwaters.

Lots on the horizon, and we will keep you updated through the eNews! If you want more information on any of this, just contact us.