Government of Canada

 

Habitat Compensation and Habitat Banking Shortcomings

Submitted By: Community mapping network December 20, 2016

Habitat compensation ("off setting") specified in an environmental assessment (EA) and habitat banking intended as compensation in an EA are often inadequate for several reasons. It is a classic "Tragedy of The Commons" that planned habitat compensation and habitat banking seldom provides the ecological functions or ecosystem services that were planned or promised.

This submission speaks to two specific questions under:
Conduct of Environmental Assessment:
Q3 - How can environmental assessment processes be improved to ensure a timely, yet thorough process has been conducted?

Decision and Follow-Up:
Q5 - Given that environmental assessment decisions are made in the planning phase of proposed actions, how should these decisions manage scientific uncertainty?

Please review a recent Globe and Mail article by Mark Hume "Fraser River estuary being maintained to benefit people, not wildlife: Dec. 18, 2016 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/fraser-river-estuary-is-being-maintained-to-benefit-people-not-wildlife-study/article33360430/

It summaries a recent report published by The Community Mapping Network (CMN), based on CMN's 2015 study of marsh and riparian habitat compensation in the Fraser River estuary (attached).

To avoid habitat compensation and habitat banking shortcomings (failures) a CEA must require extensive habitat and population inventories using methods established by regulation not by the preference of environmental consultants or project proponents, for the EA and continue long after the project is completed.

These inventories have to be closely coupled with on-going adaptive management to ensure adequate habitat compensation in the very long term, 20 to 30 years depending on habitat characteristics. The same principle applies to habitat banking intended for future habitat compensation requirements.

These actions above will provide Canadians reassurance that "a timely, yet thorough process has been conducted" (Q3). These actions will also ensure that "decisions are made in the planning phase of proposed actions" that will help "manage scientific uncertainty" (Q5).


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