Call for Expressions of Interest: Municipal Natural Assets Initiative Watershed roll-out in BC

In municipalities across Canada, infrastructure is aging, capital and operating costs are rising, and service delivery is strained by growing populations and shifting conditions. Solutions may be all around us: there is growing evidence that natural assets provide, or could be restored to provide, services just like engineered assets, often at lower costs.

However, most local governments lack policies and methods to measure services provided by natural assets or the risks to services if the natural assets become degraded.

The Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) offers a methodology and support for local
governments to integrate natural assets into core asset management and financial
processes using the same systems as for engineered assets.

MNAI is now offering a watershed-level program in BC focussed on the needs and capacities of
smaller / rural local governments, in a single geographic region.

Additional details and the Request for Expressions of Interest (due date: August 17), to be submitted by a group of local governments, is available at this link.

Visit this link for more information and to read the Request for Expressions of Interest.

Applications from groups of local governments in a single region or watershed are due by August 17th. Please contact [email protected] for additional information and questions.

A game-changing approach

British Columbia, as with other Canadian provinces, is looking at ways to meet its emissions reduction targets. When the province’s auditor general assesses how well it’s doing, people pay attention. The auditor general’s latest report, Managing Climate Change Risks: An Independent Audit, released earlier this year, found that the B.C. government is not adequately managing the risks posed by climate change and is very likely to miss its 2020 emissions reduction target.

The auditor general points out, “local governments are on the frontlines of the effects of climate change, but a lack of financial support, reliable data and provincial policies create challenges.” The report also calls for comprehensive risk assessment and floodplain mapping to prioritize risks. The report identifies the importance of working both to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.  Risks to the province of not acting decisively include an increase in extreme weather events, more frequent and severe heat waves, and higher risk of wildfires and rising sea levels, among other possibilities.

There are solutions for strong action on both fronts with an approach based on managing municipal natural assets.

Early results from pilot studies across Canada under the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) indicate that the practice of municipal natural asset management offers a solution to the twin problems of aging infrastructure and ecosystems decline. In many cases, natural assets such as forests and wetlands can provide the same services (e.g. stormwater management, flood mitigation) as engineered assets, but at a lower lifecycle cost.

Municipal natural asset management supports ecosystem health and mitigates climate change impacts by:

  • ensuring that natural assets’ full service value is recognized in local government decision-making
  • ensuring they are effectively managed, monitored and maintained to provide municipal services
  • encouraging and providing a financial rationale for rehabilitation and restoration.

Healthy natural assets, in turn, can act as carbon sinks, mitigate climate extremes and provide many co-benefits. Local governments are finding that the value of their natural assets are in fact increasing over time because of their adaptive capacity in the face of climate change.

Local governments across Canada can better manage climate risk by: understanding services that come from natural assets yet are unaccounted for; having in place assets that can withstand the effects of climate change while delivering a reliable and sustainable stream of services; and, lowering capital and operating expenditures.

It’s looking like municipal natural asset management could be a game-changing approach as efforts to tackle climate change ramp up across the country.

Towards a Collaborative Strategy for Municipal Natural Asset Management: Private Lands

The Municipal Natural Assets Initiative aims to equip local governments across Canada with the tools needed to identify and account for natural assets at the community level, as well as the best practice guidelines for working with community stakeholders to increase natural asset management.

As part of series of guiding documents being developed in collaboration with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI), this report highlights how local governments can include private land and private landowners in a comprehensive municipal natural asset management framework.

PDF icon Read the Report

Private lands are key for a comprehensive and collaborative municipal natural asset management strategy

February 7, 2018

Article source: Smart Prosperity Institute

By Sara Jane O’Neill

Communities rely on nature’s services for long-term health, well-being and resilience. When those services disappear as a result of pollution, development, or unsustainable resource use, local governments are on the hook for coming up with ways to replace them. To avoid this risk, local governments are improving how they identify, value, and manage their natural assets by incorporating them into financial and asset management planning decisions. But natural assets do not abide by jurisdictional boundaries or lot lines, so what about the portions of natural assets not owned or managed by local governments?

To effectively manage natural assets, a collaborative approach that includes all stakeholders is needed. This includes private lands and private landowners. While managing natural assets on private lands for public goods and services has historically been a challenge, local governments have access to a number of tools and incentives that can ensure private landowners are partners in the development of an effective strategy that balances private costs with public benefits.

Land acquisition can quickly turn private land to public land, but it requires a funding source. The City of Edmonton and the City of Surrey have made acquisition of significant natural areas a priority and are working on dedicated funding to match that priority. Conservation easements may be a more cost effective alternative. The natural asset remains in private ownership but its management is set out in a legally binding agreement that is unique to each property.

When land cannot be purchased or managed under an easement, local governments have a range of land use planning tools, such as Official Community Plans, specialized plans, and development controls that can be used for protecting natural assets on private lands. These land use planning tools, while critical for outlining the vision of how the community manages its natural assets, are generally only useful when land is undergoing development or redevelopment

What can be done for lands that are not developing or not for sale? Incentives such as payments for ecosystem services, tax incentives, and water quality trading markets build on a beneficiary pays system where those who benefit from natural asset protection (the public) pay those who protect the natural asset (private landowner). User fees, stormwater utilities, and development cost charges are all revenue streams available to local governments for funding natural asset management on private lands. Other sources of funding such as green bonds or provincial/federal grants can help local governments build capacity or invest in new projects and programs.

Private landowners are a critical component for any effective management strategy for natural assets. Bringing them to the table early and applying a new lens to existing tools with a focus on costs and benefits and overall service delivery can ensure the natural services we all rely on are available for generations to come.

Welcome

We are pleased to announce the launch of our brand new website!

We have intended the website to be simplistic and easy to navigate so that you can find the information you need quickly and easily.

We will be updating our blog to keep you up to date with all new things happening at MNAI.