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Partnership Opportunity Demonstration of a Healthy Landscape Approach to Land Management A Foothills Research Institute, Natural Disturbance Program Project Prepared by: David Andison, Rick Bonar, Laird Van Damme, Margaret Donnelly, and Tom Moore. April, 2009

What does “Healthy Landscape” mean? The Healthy Landscape concept presumes that maintaining a healthy landscape is the best way of ensuring a sustainable flow of natural resource-based goods and services. Landscape health is embodied as the natural range of patterns of disturbance, landscape conditions, and biological consequences. How does this translate to reality? By using natural patterns as the ultimate ecological benchmarks, we can generate Disturbance Plans based on the primary objective of sustaining or restoring landscape health. What is a ”Disturbance Plan”? An outline of where, when, how much, how big, and how severe all disturbance activities - cumulatively - will take place. Harvesting, prescribed burning, etc are only tools with which to make it happen. Disturbance plans are not necessarily bound by existing policies, practices, or administrative boundaries. Aren’t there many possible manifestations of natural patterns? Yes, which is why a Healthy Landscape plan develops and evaluates several Disturbance Plan scenarios. What about social and economic values? They function primarily as output, but can also be included in a policy analysis as input. Who creates Disturbance Plans? A partnership of the agencies involved in land management & regulation activities for a given landscape. Where do you propose demonstrating this concept? The general area of the southern portion of the Upper Athabasca watershed. Do the Alberta land use folks know about this? Yes. We are sharing ideas, indicators, and output.

Core Study Area

Analysis Window

Is this just a forest management “wood basket” plan? Much more in fact. It embraces all parts of a landscape, including commercial forests, non-commercial forest, non-forested areas, and water. What are the opportunities? You will get a full NRV assessment of your landscape, and the opportunity to influence the nature and direction of the local regional land use plan, and ultimately, key natural resource provincial policy issues. What about existing management practices? Existing best management practices and the protection of site-level values are essential, but not enough to ensure sustainability. Healthy Landscapes is about the diversity and resilience of the landscape ecosystem as a whole. What are you asking of potential partners? Participation and/or financial support.


Introduction Early in 2008, the Foothills Research Institute (FRI) Natural Disturbance (ND) Program was invited to expand on the concept of using natural disturbance patterns as a foundation for land use planning. More specifically, the request included 1) describing the concept, and 2) providing implementation guidance. We responded to the first challenge by assembling a panel of national experts to flesh out the concept. The resulting report (Andison et al. 2009) defines a Healthy Landscape approach as an alterative land management model that focuses on ecosystem health as the primary and universal management objective, not unlike Aldo Leopold’s land ethic (Leopold 1949). The approach is predicated on the idea that ecological goods and services are outputs of a healthy landscape ecosystem, which can be represented as natural patterns of a) disturbance, b) landscape conditions, and c) biological consequences as shown in Figure 1. Thus, landscape health is the ultimate measure of sustainability, and can be evaluated by comparing historical natural range of variation (or NRV) of landscape (disturbance) patterns, conditions, and responses to current and future disturbance patterns and conditions. A Healthy Landscape model is by design collaborative and holistic, appropriate for any landscape in Alberta, and is particularly well suited for the new provincial Land Use Framework (GoA 2008). To the second challenge of providing implementation guidance, we propose in this document a demonstration exercise that generates a Healthy Landscape plan for a multi-jurisdictional landscape. Figure 1. The Landscape Process Hierarchy.

Disturbance Patterns

Landscape Condition

Biological Consequences

Economic and Social Consequences

• Type • Frequency & Periodicity • Size & Shape • Severity • Tendencies • Seral-stage levels • Old forest patch sizes • Edge density • Coarse woody debris • Suspended sediment & O2…

• Fire risk • MPB risk • Water quality • Caribou habitat • Grizzly bear habitat… • Recreation • Oil and Gas Extraction • Clean Water Supply • Fishing • Timber Harvesting • Grazing…

(Adapted from: D.W. Andison, L. Van Damme, D. Hebert, T. Moore, R. Bonar, and M. Donnelly. 2009. The healthy landscape approach to land management. Foothills Research Institute Natural Disturbance program, Hinton, Alberta. January, 2009.)


Objectives and Deliverables The goal is to demonstrate the application of the Healthy Landscape concept on a landscape ecosystem. The objective is to collaboratively develop 3-5 disturbance plan options for the southern portion of the Upper Athabasca Landscape based on Healthy Landscape principles. We are not proposing a new layer of planning, but rather an alternative way of creating and/or contributing to core strategic planning exercises.

Exactly what is a Healthy Landscape Plan? A Healthy Landscape plan defines and compares the likely issues and opportunities of a series of biologically based disturbance plans for a sub-regional landscape area. A disturbance plan describes the Figure 2. A Disturbance Plan First Defines where, when, how much, how the Attributes of All Disturbance Activities, severe, and in what form and Only Then Identifies the Tools. disturbance takes place. It is inclusive of all disturbance activities (Figure 2), and not necessarily Prescribed Harvesting bound by jurisdictional boundaries or Burning existing policies and practices (although the impact of such Roads assumptions can be tested). Bridges & Disturbance plans are developed Disturbance Culverts collaboratively, and realized through Plan the available disturbance tools at the Response to disposal of the partnership Natural Disturbances (prescribed burning, harvesting, Seismic Lines etc.). Each disturbance plan can Pipelines include the needs of many different values, but its’ primary objective is to define disturbance scenarios that sustain or restore landscape health.

Landscape health is represented by a series of NRV indicators at all three levels of organization; disturbance, condition, and response (Figure 3). The relationship between these three levels is critical. A landscape that has experienced disturbance patterns within the natural range must, by definition, be within NRV for all associated landscape condition and biological response indicators. Similarly, if one ore more landscape condition indicators are beyond NRV, it can only be because one or more disturbance pattern indicators has gone beyond NRV at some point. It is also likely that one or more biological response indicators are beyond NRV as a result. One of the advantages of a Healthy Landscape approach is that we can summarize these biological relationships in management and planning terms: 1) Management plans (or disturbance patterns) create, 2) Desired future forest conditions (or landscape condition), which provide, 3) Ecological goods and services (or biological consequences). Note that the bottom circle in Figure 3 can include desired ranges of other ecological, economic and social values since they are a product of both disturbance activities and landscape condition.


Figure 3. Example of a Series of Hierarchal Natural Pattern Indicators (the “pie” wedges), their Natural Range (Shaded in Green), and their Current Status (Black Dots). Response to Topography




Disturbance Attributes Duration



% Old Non-Forest

Response to Vegetation % Old Forest

Water Sediment

Landscape Condition Responses

% Young Forest

% Young NonForest

% Old in Riparian Zones Soil Bulk Density MPB Threat

Biological & Other Responses

These are all management controls; the “levers”.

These are primary management effects; “Desired Future Forest / Water / Land”, etc

Density of Intact Old Areas Wildfire Threat

Woodland Caribou

Grizzly Bear

Wood Supply

These are the key management outputs; Values.

Bull Trout Access


The direction of flow described above (in Figure 3) is one of the things that make a Healthy Landscape plan unique. Consider that a traditional planning approach starts with the indicators listed in the bottom circle, representing the needs of the various ecological goods and services (i.e., access to well sites, harvesting levels, recreational opportunities, aesthetics, and so on). In contrast, these goods and services are the outputs of a Healthy Landscape plan. The Healthy Landscape process begins with an evaluation of landscape health via a series of NRV indicators. For example, landscape A is “healthier” than landscape B in Figure 4 because more landscape condition indicators are within NRV. For landscape B, the next step is to identify in what ways and to what degree landscape health will be restored / sustained. The objectives of a Healthy Landscape disturbance design team for landscape B may be to focus on a) water sediment, b) old forest levels, and c) young non-forest levels. The design team must then correctly identify which of the disturbance attributes to manipulate to achieve these objectives. For example, the team may decide to create a Disturbance Plan scenario that combines an increase in disturbance frequency, a decrease in severity, and disturbance to non-forested areas.


Figure 4. Comparison of Two Landscape Conditions. Landscape A is “Healthier” than Landscape B, and the Blue Arrows on the Left Represent the Chosen Design Objectives for Disturbance Plans for Landscape B.

Landscape A % Old Non Forest

Water Sediment

Landscape B % Old Non Forest

% Old Forest

% Young Forest

% Young Non-Forest Large Woody Debris

% Old in Riparian Zones Density of Intact Old Areas

Water Sediment

% Old Forest

% Young Forest

% Young Non-Forest Large Woody Debris

% Old in Riparian Zones Density of Intact Old Areas

Once a disturbance design is developed, it must then be run through a spatial model that generates the future value of each NRV indictor to see whether the landscape health objectives were achieved. This process also evaluates the impact of the disturbance scenarios on more traditional land management values such as timber, access, or development. As stated earlier, these biological goods and services are outputs of a Healthy Landscape plan. On the other hand, the approach does offer opportunity to account for societal values in the process. As one can imagine, there are many possible combinations of disturbance scenarios that could achieve the desired healthy landscape objectives. Similarly, there are many possible combinations of objective choice and priority (as per the blue arrows in Figure 4) that could restore or sustain landscape health. This subjectivity is the reason the Healthy Landscape approach involves a “design” process, and also why a Healthy Landscape plan includes multiple Disturbance Plans. The flexibility creates a planning solution space within which the needs of other values may be accounted for. Two disturbance plans may be equally “healthy” from an NRV perspective, but may generate very different types and levels of goods and services. One may also choose to include in a Healthy Landscape plan the impact of various policies on landscape health. For example, how does landscape health planned under existing tenure agreements compare to that without? Thus, a Healthy Landscape plan does not require all disturbance plans to stay within NRV. Deviations from NRV may be selected to achieve one or more social, economic, or ecological values. However, such decisions can now be made with full understanding of the risks to landscape health, represented by the frequency and severity of such deviations. More importantly, we are now able to fully understand the relationship between risks to landscape health and societal choices.


Where Does a Healthy Landscape Plan Fit into Reality? In the real world, we envision a Healthy Landscape plan serving at least two needs; 1) as the biological conscience of a regional land use plan, and 2) context for all strategic plans of resource management agencies (such as DFMPs or Park Plans) (Figure 5). In fact, a Healthy Landscape plan could well serve as a bridge between the two levels of planning. The exact location and width of the green zone in Figure 5 will depend on the degree to which, and in what way(s) regional land use plans and/or other strategic plans use output from a Healthy Landscape plan.

Figure 5. Relationship Between a Healthy Landscape Disturbance Plan and the Existing Planning Framework. Proposed Regional Land Use Plan


Planning Level

Healthy Landscape Plan

FMA Y LongTerm Plan


National Park LongTerm Park Plan

FMA X LongTerm Plan

Prov’l Park P Plan

Partner E Plan

Partner F Plan

Integrated development plans, annual plans, operational plans, burn plans, etc.

Partnership Base for the Landscape

Study Area The southern portion of the Upper Athabasca Region for the LU exercise (Figure 6) is the ideal candidate for a Healthy Landscape demonstration exercise; •

The Alberta land use planning exercise will not begin in the Upper Athabasca until 2010. Output from this project (and all of the data, models, and methods) can feed directly into this planning exercise.

At least three of the partners (West Fraser, ANC, and Jasper National Park) are responsible for developing new strategic plans within the next year. A Healthy Landscape process would provide some of their regulatory requirements.

There are at least two interagency organizations already discussing collaborative opportunities in this landscape; 1) the Foothills Landscape Management Forum, and, 2) the Yellowhead Ecosystem Group (YEG).

The landscape represents most of the original core of the Foothills Research Institute land base. With that benefit comes knowledge, data, related program support, partnerships, and familiarity.


Figure 6. Details of Proposed Healthy Landscape Demonstration Area. Upper Athabasca LUF Landscape

Core Study Area

Ecological Zone Summary Natural Sub-Region

Analysis Window

Upper Athabasca LUF Landscape

Core Study Area

Alpine Sub-alpine Montane Lower Foothills Upper Foothills Central Mixedwood Dry Mixedwood TOTAL

# Ha.

521,000 712,000 94,000 1,312,000 864,000 36,000 64,000 3,603,000

Administrative Area Summary Management Agency

Analysis Window

# Ha.

Jasper National Park 1,088,000 West Fraser (Hinton) FMA 988,000 Sundance F.P. FMA 200,000 ANC Timber FMA 38,000 Weyerhaeuser (Drayton) FMA 66,000 Weyerhaeuser (Edson) FMA 427,000 Miller Western FP FMA 181,000 Other provincial land 595,000 Other municipal land 20,000 TOTAL 3,603,000

The landscape is of sufficient size and content to represent a true landscape ecosystem.

The study area is flexible. The core study area includes nine area-based management partners (plus dozens of potential energy sector partners), and the analysis window contains at least 15 (Figure 6). The core study area is designed to allow expansion to include all or part of the analysis window.

Methods There are four phases to this project; technical / science, partnerships, disturbance design, and communication.

Phase 1: Technical: Develop NRV (as per Figure 3) for the Analysis Window •

Acquire spatial data for the analysis window. o Existing disturbance history. o Vegetation. Base layer compiled for the Grizzly Bear program is already large enough and seamless. FRI has this.


o o o o o o o

Watersheds. Available from the FRI F&W Program. Administrative boundaries. Available from FRI. Natural Sub regions. Available from FRI. Linear features. Most recent spatial inventory. If the FRI does not have this (through the FLMF or the Grizzly Bear Programs), U of A may have it. Existing oil and gas reserves. Alberta Energy. Coal reserves. Energy Utility Board. Existing subsurface tenure. Alberta Energy.

Quantify the historical, natural fire regimes (type, frequency, size, and severity have already been completed for the study area).

Define the final form of the NRV targets in Figure 3. Confirm the number and form of the indicators for a) disturbance attributes, b) landscape condition responses, and c) biological responses. Solicit advice from a socio-economic expert(s) as required for the socio-economic indicators.

Gather prediction models for the following critical fine-filter issues in this area; woodland caribou, grizzly bear, wildfire threat, mountain pine beetle threat, water sediment, water quantity, bull trout, rainbow trout, and white bark pine. Reject models that are incomplete or not simple to use or explain.

Establish the NRV “dots” in the targets at the three levels using the LANDIS disturbance simulation model and/or available empirical evidence.

Phase 2: Identify Partnerships: Solicit Partnerships and Funding •

Develop a Healthy Landscapes communication plan focused on explaining the concepts and soliciting constructive feedback and input.

Distribute this proposal to all potential land and resource management partners. Partners can join the process at any time during Phase I.

The input required of partners is outlined in Table 1.

Expand the core study area to include the area represented by the final partnership (by July 31, 2009).

Table 1. Partnership Input Summary for the HL Demo Project. Input Type




At key project milestones, we will present our progress, assumptions and any output to partner representatives. All feedback is welcome.

4-6 two-hour meetings spread over the next 12 months.

Parameter Advice

Provide us with direct input and/or assistance at several key junctures in the process (model parameters, data, terms-of-reference, indicators, policy assumptions, etc)

3-5 one-day meetings – mostly in the first half of 2009.

Disturbance Design Involvement

Partners can be involved directly with the process of designing disturbance plan scenarios for modelling.

4-6 one-day workshops – mostly in the last half of 2009.


July 31st is the last possible date to commit to being involved.


Phase 3: Disturbance Design: Develop HL Disturbance Plans •

Engage the partnership to design disturbance plan options for the landscape via a series of workshops. The objective will be to develop at least three, but no more than six disturbance plan options. Depending on the level of involvement by partners (see Table 1) and the funding (see Table 2 ahead) this could take many different forms. For example, it is possible to engage an existing public input group in the exercise.

Run the disturbance design scenarios through Patchworks (a spatially explicit scenario model) to understand the impacts of disturbance choices on the landscape condition and biological, social, and economic impacts.

Present the scenario model results to the consultation group for further discussion and analysis. Review and revise disturbance plan options (cycling through design and model output) at least once, but no more than three times.

Phase 4: Communicate: Share Output, Analysis and Lessons Learned. •

Summarize the output, the process, and any lessons learned via reports, presentations, workshops, briefing notes, and manuscripts.

Pass on to the Upper Athabasca land use planning team all data, output, and findings as per their needs.

Pass on to each participating partner all relevant data, output, and findings, as per their needs.

Deliverables • •

Compilation of data, current condition, and state of knowledge as per each indicator in Figure 3 for the entire analysis window. Natural, historical range of variation for key indicators of a) disturbance patterns, b) landscape condition, and c) biological response for the entire analysis window. In other words, all of Figure 3. A Healthy Landscape plan (co-authored by the partnership) that includes: o A full description of the process, partnerships, data, and models used. o The input, output, and design process details for 3-6 disturbance plans for the study area. This will include the predicted future landscape condition and biological responses to each scenario as per the three targets in Figure 3, and any significant policy implications of each one. o A summary comparing the attributes of each disturbance plan. A final FRI report (co-authored only by the FRI team) explaining the Healthy Landscape process, the results, output, and lessons learned. A series of presentations and workshops describing the data, models, methods, assumptions, output, partnerships, and results.


Budget and Timeline Options The Healthy Landscape initiative was granted $200,000 by ASRD in April of 2008 as seed money to deliver the original twofold mandate of 1) describing the concept, and 2) providing implementation guidance. Part 1 of this project has been completed in the form of the Healthy Landscape concept paper (Andison et al. 2009) – the costs of which are outlined in italic red in Table 2. Table 2. Projected Costs of a Healthy Landscape Demonstration on the South Upper Athabasca Watershed. ITEM

COST ($)

Healthy Landscape concept development Demo project proposal development Communications plan development Develop partnerships Develop & test NRV indicators Gather spatial data Identify and validate NRV models Define NRV for stated indicators Build scenarios & Engage stakeholders Evaluate scenarios & re-build scenarios Present findings Final report Ongoing communications of findings

70,000 15,000 3,000 18,000 9,000 10,000 18,000 37,000 56,000 49,000 10,000 20,000 25,000







Already completed in red italics.

Funding required in blue bold.

The remainder of the seed funding will cover phase I (Technical) and II (Identifying Partnerships) of this proposal, but only a minimal version of phase III and IV. Specifically, the budget will not cover the partnership interaction items bolded in blue in Table 2 such as; a) Engagement of stakeholders / partners, b) Creation and evaluation of multiple disturbance plans, c) Interplay between scenario input/output and the partners, d) Identifying land use policy issues for testing, or e) Presenting and communicating the findings. The budget shortfall is the difference between an academic exercise and a practical one. The additional funds will allow all eligible land and resource partners to provide important input and direction throughout the last two phases of the project. Since Phase I will take until July 31st to complete (Figure 7), we have until then to determine the size of the partnership and the funds we have to work with. We also have until then to discuss with partners exactly how, and to what degree they wish to engage in this project. However, the sooner we establish the partnership base, the greater chance we have of success as both a demonstration project, and as a meaningful strategic planning exercise.


Figure 7. HL Demo Project Tasks and Timelines. (The ‘Green Zone’ Represents the Window of Partnership Involvement Opportunity). Timeline Tasks 2008 2009 May-Dec. Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun

Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Develop & Distribute Concept Paper Develop Demonstration Workplan Write Communications Plan Solicit Support and Funding Identify Landbase and Land Partners Discuss HL Concepts with Land Partners Produce NRV Maps & Target Graphs Develop Preliminary Planning Team TOR

The 'green zone' represents the partnership engagement opportunity window (see Table 1)

Identify Disturbance Scenarios via a Distrance Design Process. Policy Analysis via Spatial Scenario Modelling and NRV Analysis. Write Report Communications


Partnership Options There are two ways of becoming involved in this project; participation and funding. We would strongly prefer to have both funding support and participation from each willing partner, but a) funding restrictions are a reality these days, and b) both the wisdom gained from, and practical value of, this project are directly related to the size of the partnership. Depending on the number of agencies wiling and able to contribute, we anticipate the cost per partner to be $5-10,000. Participation levels are at the discretion of the partnership, but ideally involve the type and frequency of input as outlined in Table 1. Any agencies interested in becoming partners in this project, or would like additional information, should contact the project lead, Dr. David Andison at 604-225-5669 or,

Literature Cited Andison, D.W., L. Van Damme, D. Hebert, T. Moore, R. Bonar, S. Boutin and M. Donnelly. 2009. A healthy landscape approach to land management. Foothills Research Institute Natural Disturbance Program, Hinton, Alberta. Government of Alberta. 2008. Land Use Framework. Government of Alberta, Calgary, Alberta. Leopold, A. 1949. A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. Oxford University Press. NY.


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