Habitat Protection, Restoration and Climate Resiliency
Habitat protection is vital to ensuring bird's continued presence in our urban areas. With urbanization continuing and climate events becoming more frequent, ensuring there is adequate, high quality habitat in our cities becomes even more important. While there is plenty of work to do in this area, Calgary has already put a lot of effort into supporting biodiversity and working towards climate resiliency. Learn more below
Natural areas within the municipal boundaries are protected within the Municipal Plan and there is a commitment to increase this area. Plan distinguishes between natural areas and other types of municipal space such as recreational parks
The City of Calgary's Municipal Development Plan contains an ecological network designed to support the movement of wildlife, including birds in the City. The plan also discusses our parks and distinguishes between protected natural areas and other types of municipal green spaces. This plan supports the BiodiverCity Strategic Plan which has a goal within it to restore 20% of Calgary's open space for biodiversity.
Municipality has an official strategy to protect the biological diversity in its parks and natural areas. The strategy includes measures such as promoting connectivity between natural areas, buffering core biodiversity hotspots from harmful human activities, increasing the number of protected areas, and periodically monitoring birds on some city parks to assess the success of the strategy.
Calgary's BiodiverCity Strategic Plan supports increasing ecological resilience and habitat connectivity for wildlife. As noted above the Plan has a target for success of restoring 20% of Calgary's open space for biodiversity. The Municipal Development Plan also has goal of supporting biodiversity and maintaining habitat connectivity which can be found with the recent inclusion of the ecological network in the plan.
There are also a couple of programs in place for biodiversity monitoring including a collaborative project called Calgary Connect. This program partners the City of Calgary with the Miistakis Institute for the Rockies, Friends of Fish Creek Park, Weaselhead / Glenmore Park Preservation Society and Alberta Environment and Protected Areas to support ecological connectivity in and around Calgary. This study includes a long term remote camera monitoring component which works to engage citizen scientists. In addition, birds are monitored in the city by the Calgary Bird Banding Society and changes over time are documented.
Climate Change Adaptation Strategy
Municipality has a climate change adaptation stratedy that includes specific measures including nature-based climate solutions. Examples of this include wetland creation to absorb and retain flood water, or planting trees to create shade and lower the surface air temperature
On November 2021, the City of Calgary declared a climate emergency. While work has been ongoing to bring forth policies and implement supports for our changing climate, this declaration set into motion the development of Calgary's Climate Strategy. Stay tuned as we learn more about how this will affect our biodiversity.
Habitat Management Strategy
Municipality has a habitat management strategy based on ecological and climate considerations. These considerations include:
A. Increasing the number of trees and area of the urban forest canopy
The City of Calgary's tree canopy is currently at 8.25% (including public and private trees), and the city is trying to increase that to 16%. The city has an inventory of all public trees, and a management plan for these trees.
B. Snag protection - leaving snags standing in cases where public safety is not jeopardized
Calgary promotes leaving snags or portions of trees after tree removals in certain areas (and where public safety is not jeopardized). . Guidance for the protection of standing and fallen dead trees can be found in the Natural Area Management Plan
C. Protecting trees on private and public lands
Calgary has tree bylaws that protect city-owned (public) trees. They also have programs to promote protection of private trees in the city
D. Responsible vegetation management - Prohibiting active vegetation management during breeding season on municipal lands, including forests, storm-water management facilities, and easements
The City of Calgary has an Urban Forestry Pruning Plan where City and contractor crews are engaged to prune/remove trees. City crews operate year round while contractors are brought in on an as needed basis, primarily for large tree removals that the City lacks equipment for. Both contractors and City crews are expected to adhere to Federal and Provincial regulations regarding birds. For instance, compliance with the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act and the provincial Wildlife Act is mandatory. City crews have a protocol which must be followed; if single trees are being removed they are examined for an active nest. If a nest is present, the tree remains and is checked in 30 days to see if the nest is empty. If the trees are in a natural area, a biologist does a nest check to determine any nests in the area. If nests are found again it is left and checked again after 30 days to see if it is fledged. If there is a near miss, a biologist is contacted to determine the impact, and self report to the appropriate authorities if necessary (April 2020, Julie Guimond, Urban Forestry Lead, Personal Communication)
Important Bird and Biodiversity Area
Municipality has an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) within or adjacent to its boundaries. A local partnership promotes the protection and stewardship of this area.
The City of Calgary has over 551 designated Natural Area Parks, including over 10,000 hectares of parkland and natural areas (found here). Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) within close proximity to Calgary include Eagle, Namaka and Stobart Lakes (AB078), located 50 km east of Calgary, and Frank Lake (AB079), located 50 km south of Calgary. Frank Lake is managed /taken care of by Ducks Unlimited along with Namaka, Stobart and Ballina wetlands
Frank Lake, Alberta
Native Flora on Municipal Lands
Municipality promotes the importance of planting native local flora on municipal lands, especially where new development is occurring through development and landscaping guidelines and standards in areas near natural features. Subdivision permits should include conditions protecting existing natural habitat and promote use of native vegetation and include measures to discourage illegal disposal of yard waste (a source of invasive exotic plants) in natural areas.
Through the development process, any area that is designated as an Environmental Reserve (ER) is required to remain natural, or if disturbed returned to natural using the Corporate Habitat Restoration Guidelines. Municpal Reserve lands adjacent to an ER are required to have native species and no invasive species are allowed in any reserve lands. Developers are required to provide Habitat Restoration Plans (HRP) for any disturbed Environmental Reserve lands. These plans are approved by City Parks Ecologists in Calgary Parks, Urban Conservation. Developers have access to The City of Calgary Plant Lists and City of Calgary Seed Mix guidelines that provide guidence on appropraite plants and seed mixes for Calgary's diverse habitats.
Calgary is also working on native plant projects on major thoroughfares, including Canyon Meadows Drive, Bridgeland and 16 Avenue NE
Native Flora on Private Property
Demonstrate widespread community participation in initiatives to encourage native plant habitat that supports native birds and pollinators on private property, to increase the urban tree canopy on private land, and to support other “green infrastructure” initiatives to address climate change.
Ecoschools Canada is an environmental certification program that provides teachers with a framework to engage their students and entire school community in environmental and climate action projects. 50 schools in Calgary have signed up for this program. In addition, the City of Calgary participates in the Butterfly Flyway Project. Thanks to the efforts of concerned citizens, this project has helped to establish Alberta’s first official butterflyway: the Beddington Butterflyway.
The City of Calgary is a certified ‘Bee-City’ and provides resources to encourage pollinator-friendly practices. Belvedere Parkway became Calgary’s first Bee City School (2019); and University of Calgary and SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) are Bee Campuses. There are also a number of naturalization programs in place in addition to riparian restoration and invasive plant removal programs.
The City of Calgary has developed resources to help citizens naturalize their yards and regularly provides native wildflower seeds at outreach events.
Local native plant focused businesses also support private citizens aiming to incorporate native plants into their yards.
Stopover and Nesting Habitat
Bird City partner groups implement stewardship to increase or improve breeding or stopover habitat for bird conservation priority species from your Bird Conservation Region Plan. Example species include Species at Risk (e.g. Chimney Swift) and other aerial insectivores, Eastern Meadowlark and other grassland birds and shorebirds. Example actions including providing housing (e.g., maintained Purple Martin condos), and maintaining bird-friendly hay production.
The City of Calgary's focus for supporting birds is on habitat creation. This is done through restoration projects and the use of appropriate native vegetation. Parks have been prioritized for restoration based on their potential for supporting biodiversity and habitat connectivity. As can be seen in the Biodiversity Strategic Plan, the expansion of habitat and habitat connectivity is a key part of supporting biodiversity, including birds in the City. Whether at risk species will use Calgary for stopover or nesting may not be dictated by the availability of any habitat but rather habitat size and disturbance. Bylaws preventing off leash dogs and encouraging people to stay on designated paths can lessen disturbance and increase the likelihood that at risk or sensitive species will stop in the City. One of our partners, the Weaselhead/Glenmore Park Preservation Society works to educate people about the impact of our footprints and strongly encourages limited areas of use by domestic dogs in the park. Outside of the City, the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area has a birdbox program which is currently being updated.