CEMA Announces Plan to Protect the Ecosystem in the Oil Sand Region.



    EDMONTON, June 5 /CNW/ - The Cumulative Environmental Management
Association (CEMA) announces an Ecosystem Management Framework for the
Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. The Plan is CEMA's recommended approach
to managing the cumulative effects of development and resource use on
ecosystems and landscapes in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. The
Plan protects the environment while enabling oil sands development and
maintaining social and cultural needs of Albertans. Woodland Caribou, Black
Bear, Native Fish, Moose, Old Growth Birds, Fisher, and Old Forests are
expected to decline with continued development in the region, in the absence
of management intervention. Modeling results demonstrate that strategies are
available to manage impacts and this Plan provides strong recommendations on
ways to prevent a decline. CEMA has forwarded the Ecosystem Management
Framework to the Government of Alberta and encourages regulators to move
forward immediately with key elements of the Framework towards full
implementation by 2011.
    The Plan calls for three land use zones to be established in the
Municipality: an intensive zone that would include all bitumen development, an
extensive zone that includes a number of other activities related to resource
development, infrastructure, social and cultural developments, and a
development free - protected zone. The Triad Land Management Approach is the
main element of the Framework. The Plan recommends that the intensive zone be
constrained to between 5% and 14% of the region; that the extensive zone
represent at least 46%; and the development free - protected zone be expanded
from its current 8% to cover 20% to 40% percent.
    The management strategies in the plan include expanding Protected Areas,
Access Management through the reduction of the number of linear corridors and
the use of off-highway vehicles, the use of innovative technologies including
faster reclamation to reduce the size and duration of development footprints
and the restoration of hanging culverts to reduce watercourse discontinuities.
    CEMA Vice President Judy Smith adds "Since CEMA's inception ecosystem
management has been a major focus. I want to praise the hard work of all CEMA
members and especially the Sustainable Ecosystems Working Group (SEWG)."
    CEMA would like to highlight the importance of its multi-stakeholder
forums where a diversity of perspectives can be shared, understood and
reflected upon. CEMA members include industry, governments, Aboriginal
communities and environmental non-governmental organizations. This Framework
is the result of all stakeholders working together to balance protection of
the environment with economic and social needs. CEMA's members have reached a
high degree of consensus on the majority of recommendations in the document.
    "This living document is an important guideline to protect the ecosystem
in the region" CEMA Executive Director Glen Semenchuk stated. "CEMA has
produced a strong plan to deal with the implications of oil sands development
and hopes that it will be adopted without delay".

    CEMA is a nonprofit association based in Fort McMurray, Alberta. CEMA's
mandate is to develop frameworks and guidelines to manage cumulative
environmental effects from development in the region and to presents these
recommendations to the government for implementation. To date CEMA has
produced hundreds of reports and seven Management Frameworks and Guidelines.
    For additional information please see the backgrounder or visit
www.cemaonline.ca to download of CEMA's reports.

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    BACKGROUNDER
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Terrestrial Ecosystem Management Framework (Framework) is the
Cumulative Environmental Management Association's (CEMA) recommended approach
to managing the cumulative effects of development and resource use on
ecosystems and landscapes in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB).
The Framework aligns with the stated direction of the Government of Alberta
(GoA) to enable oil sands development while maintaining ecosystem integrity
and social and cultural needs. The Framework is intended to complement the
existing policies and regulatory system currently in place.

    
    The Framework has been guided by principles that were designed to ensure:

    -   Stakeholder and societal values are understood and are reflected in
        regional environmental, economic, and social goals;

    -   Trade-offs amongst competing goals are deliberate and transparent,
        because the maintenance of ecological attributes is not
        simultaneously possible on all landscapes with the projected rates of
        development;

    -   Ecological integrity is managed predominately at the regional scale;

    -   Management strategies are based on science and Traditional Ecological
        Knowledge (TEK); and

    -   Flexibility to adapt to future reality as it unfolds.
    

    The Framework is based on a detailed analysis using models describing
development over the next 100 years, and acknowledging energy development as a
dominant driver of land use. Three hypothetical management scenarios were
developed and contrasted with a base case model to understand indicator
performance. Most environmental indicators of terrestrial ecosystems are
expected to decline with continued development in the absence of management
intervention. Modeling results demonstrate that options are available to
mitigate impacts.
    The Framework recommends a regional management objective, broad regional
strategies, and the application of specific management measures at a
sub-regional scale. Establishment of a regional monitoring program is also
recommended to measure achievement of desired outcomes.
    The concept that healthy ecosystems, and therefore indicators, vary
naturally over time has informed the definition of the regional environmental
management objective. CEMA recommends that environmental indicators are
maintained within 10% below the lower limit of the natural range of variation.
This target recognizes that in some areas of the RMWB indicators would be far
outside NRV while in other areas they would be within NRV. A system of
management response triggers is recommended involving three levels: green
being acceptable; yellow being cautionary, indicating that management response
planning should be initiated; and red indicating immediate action is required.
Trigger conditions are assigned based on a combination of the current
monitored levels of an indicator, and the timeframe within which any
reductions are predicted (through modeling) to occur. Four out of the seven
identified environmental indicators are currently in a yellow or red condition
based on available information, thus requiring immediate action.
    In response, the primary recommended regional strategy is the application
of a Triad land management approach that is the core of this framework. The
Triad approach involves the identification of three land use zones: Intensive,
Extensive and Protected.

    
    CEMA recommends

    -   An Intensive Zone characterized by bitumen extraction comprising 5%
        to 14% of the RMWB at any time;

    -   An Extensive Zone characterized by ecosystem forestry and other
        natural disturbance based activities comprising at least 46% of the
        RMWB at any time; and

    -   An expanded permanently Protected Zone where industrial activities
        are excluded comprising 20% to 40% of the RMWB.
    

    CEMA also recommends further work to refine the sizes of the Intensive
and Protected Zones, the application of the Intensive Zone constraint, and
specific boundaries for new protected areas.
    Aggressive management of off-highway vehicle access is also recommended
as a powerful strategy to mitigate impacts on several indicators. Approaches
to minimize the extent and duration of footprint, through technological
innovation, integrated planning, and improved reclamation are also key. It is
vital to engage Aboriginal people in developing strategies for conserving or
managing opportunities for traditional land use, particularly in proximity to
communities.
    Further, CEMA recommends areas of public policy that require adjustment
to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive approach to achieving the objectives
of the Framework. Application of management strategies is recommended
consistent with the management intent for each Triad zone.
    Based on the current and forecast condition of indicators, CEMA
recommends a variety of immediate and concurrent actions. The Framework
includes a schedule of recommended actions and timelines to enable full
implementation of the Framework by 2011. This Framework should be reviewed and
renewed every five years.




For further information:

For further information: Corey Hobbs, Communications Director,
Cumulative Environmental Management Association, (780) 881-4943,
Corey.hobbs@cemaonline.ca

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