Newly-published professional practice guidelines from the provincial regulator aim to ensure that British Columbia’s engineering and geoscience professionals are considering natural asset management in their planning and decision-making processes alongside their engineered green and grey infrastructure, says the CEO of Engineers and Geoscientists BC.
The regulator also partnered with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) to produce a companion document that offers detailed guidance on how to effectively integrate natural assets into asset management for local governments. These integrations would assist in a recovery from the impacts of the pandemic as they can lower costs, accelerate local response to climate change, and enable residents to keep enjoying the core services that they will depend on for decades to come, the regulator says. Integrations can also improve clean air, natural habitat and biodiversity.
“[…] We believe this represents great progress on mainstreaming natural asset management in the engineering and geoscience fields in B.C.,” announced Heidi Yang, CEO of Engineers and Geoscientists BC, in a statement.
For example, natural assets such as urban green spaces, parks, wetlands and protected areas can provide important stormwater management services, reduce flooding, offer recreation spaces, and buffer the effect of extreme heat in urban settings, thus reducing the prevalence of respiratory infections and heat-related illnesses, MNAI states in its companion document.
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B.C.’s wetlands currently comprise around 5.28 million hectares, or approximately 5% of its land base.
A group of subject-matter experts formed an advisory group, co-chaired by Engineers and Geoscientists BC and MNAI, to help develop both the Professional Practice Guidelines and the Natural Assets Management Considerations. The group comprised representatives from the engineering, landscape architecture, asset management, provincial government and university fields.
“We have growing evidence that natural assets can sometimes do the same work as built infrastructure, last longer, are more resilient to climate change, and sometimes cost millions of dollars less,” announced MNAI executive director, Roy Brooke, in a statement. “Healthy, well-managed ecosystems and natural assets can also provide a variety of other vital services on which our communities and economies depend, including biodiversity and carbon storage, to name just two,” he added.
MNAI also states that in addition to integrating natural assets effectively into local government asset management, the new companion document acknowledges and values Indigenous peoples and their relationship with the natural environment, which often positions them as “rightful advocates of the land being managed,” the group says.
MNAI’s work also looks at how engineers and geoscientists can effectively access tools and resources for integrating natural asset management.
The new guidelines for natural assets also look at ones not owned or managed, but relied on for services. As an example, the Comox Lake Watershed is a multi-use, multi-owner watershed that is the drinking water source for more than 45,000 people in Comox Valley, but the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) owns little of the land in the watershed.
To help address this, CVRD chairs a Watershed Advisory Group consisting of the K’ómoks First Nation, landowners, regulators, the Comox Valley Land Trust, Comox Valley Conservation Partnership, and technical advisors. This group has developed a watershed protection plan to ensure the watershed continues to provide a valuable source of clean drinking water in perpetuity, MNAI says.