Environment File

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St. Albert continues to struggle when it comes to getting people to ride the bus, suggests a new report.

City officials published the 2016 Report on the Environment today. The annual report card tracks the city’s progress towards the nine air, land and water goals outlined in the St. Albert environmental master plan.

As reported last month, city residents diverted a record amount of organic waste from the landfill using their green bins last year and used slightly less water per person last year than the one before.

The report shows that transit ridership fell for the fifth year in a row, dropping 1.4 per cent relative to last year. The city’s goal is to have its transit ridership grow at a rate equal to or greater than its population, which grew 1.1 per cent last year.

Low transit use was reflected in the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, which rose some three per cent relative to 2008 levels. The report found that transportation was the biggest source of growth for residential emissions, with transport-related emissions growing 40 per cent since 2008 despite only a 12 per cent rise in the city’s population.

City environment manager Christian Benson was confident that the newly-announced south-side park-and-ride and the city’s acquisition of three electric buses would spark interest in public transit and get more people on the bus.

“In the future, we definitely see the trend reversing.”

The report found that St. Albert’s air quality was rated “low risk” 95 per cent of the time last year, suggesting that the city’s air was pretty good, Benson said. The few times that it was rated high/very high risk were due to smoke from the Fort McMurray wildfire.

The report notes that nitrogen and phosphorous levels in the Sturgeon continued to be well above the guidelines for protecting watershed health, which Benson said was largely the result of fertilizer use. While chloride levels continued to be high in Carrot Creek (likely due to Hwy. 2 road salt), levels in the Sturgeon within St. Albert were acceptable, suggesting that the city had successfully reduced the river’s salt intake.

Benson said the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee would likely recommend a new target for the city’s engaged residents goal (which tracks the number of people who take part in events such as the Clean and Green Riverfest), which the city had more or less achieved for three years in a row.

The full report is in today’s issue of the Gazette.

City residents now have a powerful online tool that can help them find where birds and beasts are around Big Lake.

The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute launched a new online mapping and animal profile tool this week.

The institute has for years tracked trends in plant and animal life across Alberta with a network of 1,600 monitoring sites spaced 20 kilometres apart, said Tara Narwani, acting director of the group’s information centre.

Previously, this data was only available in raw form or as high-level maps. The new tool lets users call up reports on individual species to see how different sorts of development affect them, and creates zoom-able heat maps that show where those species are most likely to show up. The tool also lets users see how the abundance of a species would change were humanity’s influence removed.

“This is the first time we’re really getting that visual information on where a species is predicted to be in the province right now,” Narwani said.

The map tool suggests that moose and pine siskins would become more common around St. Albert without humans, for example, whereas crow and magpie numbers would fall. The profile tool shows that blue jays benefit from urbanization whereas gray jays suffer.

Narwani said this tool should help governments and industry make better land-use decisions and track which species are vulnerable to development.

The new tools are available at abmi.ca.

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St. Albert Gazette

The St. Albert Gazette has been the source for news and community information in St. Albert and area since 1961. Today the twice-weekly full-colour tabloid delivers award-winning journalism in print, online and on mobile.