Lethbridge’s first State of the Environment report explores key indicators so that we can better understand our environment, the strengths we have within our community and the weaknesses we face as we work towards becoming more sustainable. An indicator is a piece of evidence that tells us about the conditions around us. It gives us a way of seeing the “big picture” by looking at a small piece of the puzzle, or at several pieces together. An indicator reveals something of importance that is not otherwise immediately detectable. By looking at these indicators we are able to assess Lethbridge’s strengths and areas where improvements are needed. For this report, we reviewed 32 different indicators from seven different themes: biodiversity, local food, water, air, waste, energy and climate change in order to get an overall picture of the state of the environment in Lethbridge.
As this report represents the first attempt to consolidate and review environmental indicators for the City of Lethbridge, we have chosen to take a broad approach to selecting and including indicators. Wherever possible, we have tried to focus the indicators and information in this report specifically on the City of Lethbridge. However, in some instances, local information was not available or the context of the information required a broader approach.
In some areas, data gaps have prevented us from drawing conclusions about Lethbridge’s environmental health. These gaps have been noted as priorities for future data collection. We have also attempted to articulate the relationship between the different themes that have been included in this report. In many cases, different aspects of the environment interact with one another, and changes in one area may have positive or negative implications for others.
For each indicator in the report, we made an assessment of the overall trend for that indicator, whether it was improving, declining or static. Of the indicators we considered, 10 were improving, 5 were static and 10 were declining. An additional 7 indicators did not currently have enough information to make an assessment.
The ten indicators that are declining present the primary opportunities for improvement of environmental sustainability in Lethbridge. These opportunities include:
• Improving the condition of riparian areas along the Oldman River;
• Controlling invasive species, particularly in areas of native grassland, wetland and riparian habitats;
• Supporting native pollinators by encouraging the planting of pollinator friendly species and the preservation of remaining native habitat;
• Reducing the amount of food waste that enters the landfill;
• Monitoring and planning for decreasing water flows in the Oldman River;
• Working with regional and provincial representatives to develop regional strategies to improve air quality;
• Encouraging increased use of green transportation options such as transit, cycling and walking;
• Developing cycle-friendly pathways and commuter options through the Cycling Master Plan; and
• Planning for and adapting to changes that will be caused by climate change.
Seven indicator areas were unable to be assessed because of a lack of data. Gathering data in these areas will help with future decision making and priority setting. These areas include:
• Gathering data regarding the condition of wetland and grassland habitats within the city;
• Supporting the collection of species-at-risk sightings and habitat use within City limits;
• Conducting additional and regular water temperature monitoring to determine if water temperatures are changing over time;
• Following the confirmation of air quality standards for NO2, reviewing existing data to determine if this is impacting Lethbridge’s air quality; and
• Gathering data related to vehicle emissions in Lethbridge to determine the local impact of climate change.