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Natural asset management – are we moving forwards?

Natural asset management purports to provide cost-effective, reliable services to local governments, as well as many co-benefits based on healthy, connected and biodiverse ecosystems. But is it really doing that? And how do we find out? 

The answer is harder than it looks.

What results should we monitor – local government policy change? New projects? Land acquisition?  Staff hires? How do we demonstrate causation? Is it a good result if a local government puts in place a natural asset management policy? Or restores a watershed to provide stormwater management services? Has a local government done three times better if they restore three watersheds instead of just one?

In partnership with MNAI, Dr. Michael Drescher and his team at the University of Waterloo have sought to answer some of those questions. The result is a comprehensive monitoring framework and its initial application on MNAI’s first five natural asset management projects (national cohort 1). The framework focuses on:

  • the implementation of asset management strategy /plans (e.g., financial, bylaw change) 
  • changes in investment (e.g., land acquisition) 
  • operational/governance changes
  • ecosystem changes to the extent possible

The results show where progress is being made, where it is still needed, and will, over time, help us collectively ensure that natural asset management is as rigorous and effective as it can be. Of course, not all these items can be properly tracked yet; ecosystem changes as a result of a given intervention, for example, may take years to appear. 

Dr. Drescher and his team are now replicating the exercise for MNAI’s second national cohort.  We are also exploring how this monitoring framework can be extended over time so it provides more than a snapshot, and over projects, given how many more projects exist now compared to five years ago.  

Thanks to the Real Estate Foundation of BC for supporting this work.

Municipal Natural Asset Management Monitoring Report - cover

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