New conservation tool proposed in Alberta's Oil Sands

    Industry leaders, Aboriginal communities and environmental groups agree
    that biodiversity offsets are vital to manage environmental impacts in
    Alberta's Boreal Forest

    EDMONTON, June 10 /CNW Telbec/ - In an effort to prevent irreversible
decline of species and biodiversity in Alberta's Boreal Forest, industry can
take important steps to offset their environmental impacts by setting aside or
restoring areas of equal or greater value to the lands disturbed. So says a
report, Catching Up: Conservation and Biodiversity Offsets in Alberta's Boreal
Forest, released today.
    The report, commissioned by the Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI) and
authored by the Pembina Institute and Alberta Research Council, brings
together experiences from the application of offset policies in other
jurisdictions with perspectives from industry, First Nations, government,
academics and environmental groups in Alberta. It concludes that biodiversity
offsets should be considered to address the growing impacts on biodiversity
from resource development in the Boreal, including in Alberta's oil sands
    Biodiversity offsets, also called conservation offsets, allow resource
companies to compensate for the unavoidable impacts to biodiversity from their
development projects by conserving lands of equal or greater biological value,
with the objective of having no net loss in biodiversity.

    The main findings of this study are:

    - Biodiversity offsets could result in tangible conservation results to
      mitigate development impacts;
    - A successful offset strategy relies on effective land-use planning to
      establish conservation objectives, cumulative effects targets and
      thresholds, and is embedded in a range of other policies and actions to
      support conservation goals;
    - Representatives from the oil and gas industry said that their companies
      were either already implementing or considering investing in
      biodiversity offsets;
    - Several key issues need to be resolved in creating an offset program:
      defining offset program objectives, determining future availability and
      cost of offsets, and identifying options for distributing risks of the
      environmental liabilities created by offsets. These issues should be
      explored through a well designed pilot study.

    "Experience in private land conservation in Alberta and from around the
world demonstrates that biodiversity offsets can be a cost-effective and
efficient method to secure important conservation outcomes," said Larry Innes,
executive director of CBI. "Our report suggests that there is also an
important opportunity to consider biodiversity offsets on public lands. "
    "Managing development to maintain biodiversity is a significant challenge
in Alberta's Boreal Forest because of the combined and growing effects of
energy and forest sector development," said Simon Dyer, oil sands program
director at the Pembina Institute and a lead author of the report. "There is
also a real need for conservation to 'catch up' to the pace of development.
Within Alberta's Boreal Forest, the amount of land now licensed for
development has doubled to 2.8 million hectares over the past five years, and
unless key lands are soon secured for conservation, there will be real
consequences for wildlife and traditional uses. Conserving forests to offset
impacts associated with development projects is a tool industry can use to
compensate for their impacts."
    The Catching Up report was supported by Canadian-based energy company
Nexen Inc., who are actively looking for ways to reduce the industrial
footprint from their oil sands operations.
    "Real opportunities exist now to pilot biodiversity offset projects in
Alberta," said Garry Mann, general manager of health, safety and environment
at Nexen. "Industry is ready to invest in offsets, and we need government to
support these initiatives by establishing clear land use policies and
regulations that will enable this tool to be broadly applied."
    Nexen, Pembina, and CBI are part of a working group advancing two pilot
biodiversity offset projects in northeastern Alberta that seek to protect
large areas of Alberta's Boreal Forest from industrial activity in order to
offset some of the biological impacts of development within the region. Other
members of the working group include Suncor Energy, Alberta-Pacific Forest
Industries Inc., the Little Red River and Tall Cree First Nations, and the
Nature Conservancy of Canada Alberta Region.
    The working group's efforts are timely. In May, the Government of Alberta
announced a draft Land-use Framework that identifies biodiversity offsets as a
"key strategy" to encourage stewardship and conservation.
    "The draft Land-use Framework recognizes that biodiversity offsets are a
valuable tool, but has focused on private land stewardship," stated Innes. "We
hope the Government of Alberta will take the necessary steps to make
biodiversity offsets a viable tool for achieving similar land stewardship on
public lands."
    The full report is available at:

    About the Canadian Boreal Initiative

    The Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI) works with First Nations,
governments, conservation organizations, industry leaders and others to link
science, policy and conservation solutions across Canada's Boreal Forest. CBI
works to advance the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework as a balanced vision
for conservation and sustainable development.

    About the Pembina Institute

    The Pembina Institute creates sustainable energy solutions through
research, education, consulting and advocacy. It promotes environmental,
social and economic sustainability in the public interest by developing
practical solutions for communities, individuals, governments and businesses.
The Pembina Institute provides policy research leadership and education on
climate change, energy issues, green economics, energy efficiency and
conservation, renewable energy and environmental governance. More information
about the Pembina Institute is available at or by contacting

For further information:

For further information: Marie-Hélène Bachand, Canadian Boreal
Initiative/Edelman, (514) 844-6665 x240,;
Source: Larry Innes, Executive Director, Canadian Boreal Initiative; Simon
Dyer, Oil Sands Program Director, The Pembina Institute, and lead author of
the report; Marian Weber, Investigator, Alberta Research Council, and
co-author of the report; Garry Mann, General Manager, Health, Safety &
Environment, Corporate HSE & SR, Nexen Inc.; Shawn Wasel, Director,
Environmental Sciences, Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc.; Jim Webb,
Senior Policy Advisor, Little Red River/Tall Cree First Nations

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Canadian Boreal Initiative

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Pembina Institute

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