Alberta is changing before our eyes. More people are living in the province than ever before, and as they come here to build lives, raise families, and find futures, the landscape shifts around them. Cities grow, land is repurposed, water is allocated, and governments create policy.
Sometimes the changes are almost unnoticeable, except to those paying closest attention to them. Sometimes they are obvious – when land that was farmed for a century gives way to a neighbourhood, where children might grow up without realizing what came before.
Is this a loss, or an evolution? When land changes, have we harmed our society, or gained a new future? Can policy help us keep what matters, or will policy force us to give up what’s most important?
Answers cannot be purely objective. For each of us, the value of land in one form or another will be different. Some values are expressed through markets while in other cases markets cannot provide measures of the value of land uses. It is the business of governments, duly elected and consulting with their people, to help determine the best ways forward. This often-complex process involves engaging stakeholders, input from independent science, and the processes of civil society. Embracing and balancing the diversity of thoughts, emotions, and ideals of Alberta’s growing population is not a simple task. But at the Alberta Land Institute, we hope to make it just a little bit easier.
An effective land use policy making process should consider the available research evidence and the implications of different management choices. Introducing this knowledge into the policy process will assist leaders in making the best possible decision in the context of the many factors that must be considered.
Will a certain policy be effective? That decision must be taken in view of both its objective outcomes, and the reactions of those whom it will affect. To make a decision based on one factor, without understanding the other, can lead to greater confusion, and deeper division.
Objectively studying outcomes is ALI’s strength. We are an independent research institute, with an innovative and impartial investigative approach.
We know that research can only be truly objective when it is approached with a question – not with an answer already in mind.
We realize that academic research cannot answer every question, so we strive to address those issues where objective study can make the greatest contribution.
We understand that many difficult land use questions in Alberta – and beyond – do not confine themselves to the framework of a single academic field. Economic outcomes of policy options often depend on and affect environmental and social aspects.
At the same time, achieving environmental outcomes may have economic consequences. In most land use research questions, multiple disciplines will be involved, and in recognition of this, we seek researchers from different fields, often working in interdisciplinary teams.
We support our researchers both with funding, and with assistance in securing additional research grants. We help facilitate consultation with experts and stakeholders. When our research teams are ready to report their findings, we share what they have learned with policymakers, stakeholders, and the public. They are entirely free to publish any of the research they conduct with our support, without interference.
Transferring knowledge to those who can make best use of it, and building research capacity so that more knowledge can be found, are essential parts of our mission. We do not lobby for any particular policy, but are dedicated to the active sharing of objective knowledge – outlining the consequences of alternative policies.
Land management is not simple – not in Alberta, not anywhere. As Albertans strive to make decisions that will shape this province’s landscape for generations to come, ALI is proud to contribute an objective foundation for discussion, consensus, and decision-making.
At the Alberta Land Institute, we connect research with policy for better land management.