$4.9-million donation launches Alberta Land Institute

(Calgary) Calgary philanthropist David Bissett has donated $4.9 million to the University of Alberta to establish the Alberta Land Institute and support research into land use and land-use policies, in recognition of the need for more informed decisions in the face of continuous growth in Alberta.

“I came to Alberta 30 years ago and since then I’ve seen first-hand the changes in the province’s landscape,” said Bissett at the launch of the institute. “What we need is research and evidence that demonstrates to land users and policy makers how to balance all the competing interests for Alberta’s land base. With its strong research capacity, the University of Alberta is well positioned to provide tangible solutions to address these challenges.”

“We are so grateful for this gift,” said University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera. “It will allow the institute to grow into an internationally recognized leader in the research and development of practical policy options for land use.”

“As Alberta’s population grows, our land-use decisions need to consider what is healthy for the economy, the environment and society to ensure Albertans continue to enjoy an excellent quality of life," said Diana McQueen, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. "Research from the Alberta Land Institute will help inform the responsible and long-term planning in our province that ensures vibrant and healthy communities for families to live in."

Thanks to this donation, the Alberta Land Institute has already undertaken some significant baseline research, and has been able to establish immediate research priorities for further exploration and the identification of solutions to Alberta’s key land-use challenges, according to Andre Tremblay, the institute's executive director.

Those priorities include the following:

  • Agriculture - Supporting economic and social viability of agriculture while increasing environmental performance on the land base, including a focus on irrigation
  • Municipal Development - Supporting more efficient planning of commercial, industrial and residential infrastructure
  • Governance & Regulation - Identifying potential enhancements to the governance and regulatory framework required to increase land stewardship within Alberta and Canada

The institute will also support a research program on property-rights issues arising in Alberta based on current land-use regulations—a topic of considerable discussion in recent months—and host an International Land Use Symposium in Edmonton with land-use experts from around the world in late 2013.

“I’ve given time, money, energy and land to many land-use groups in the past; now it’s time for the gift of information at the highest levels of decision-making for all stakeholders,” said Bissett. “The Alberta Land Institute will provide the information in an unbiased way and prompt serious discussions about the kind of province we want to live in, and what tools, policies and strategies we need to get us there.”

The institute will continue to investigate relevant land-use issues that are complex and often controversial. In time, the institute will also work to fill in research gaps related to land use in the areas of energy, recreation, transportation and utilities, and forestry.

The Alberta Land Institute will be housed at the University of Alberta’s north campus in Edmonton.