Pilot to protect species at risk & reduce flooding through natural asset management takes big step forward

The Western Painted Turtle, Great Blue Heron, Morrison Creek Lamprey, Little Brown Bat, and other species at risk and their habitat could get better protection while surrounding communities also get better services such as flood protection.

(Western Painted Turtle photo from Wildlife Preservation Canada)

The mechanism is a tool that the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) is developing to help local governments protect endangered species while they deliver infrastructure services through natural asset management.

The tool will include maps and data that identify species and their habitat, analysis of how that data relates to natural assets that provide infrastructure services such as stormwater management, and ultimately result in management options to maximise both.

The project took a big step forward this month through an online expert community advisory group meeting. Participants from the Comox Valley Land Trust, Comox Valley Regional District, City of Courtenay, Village of Cumberland, K’ómoks First Nation, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, BC Conservation Data Center, Morrison Creek Streamkeepers, Fundy Aqua Services, and MNAI all attended.

The goal is to develop and pilot the tool in the Comox Valley’s Morrison Creek watershed, and then refine it so it can be used in any community that is undertaking natural asset management.

“It’s essential to optimize natural asset management resource allocations so they maximize both the services they provide to local governments, as well as the many other benefits to other values on the landscape,” says Tim Ennis, Executive Director Comox Valley Land Trust, and a member of the MNAI team developing the tool. “Species at Risk protection and recovery can be a key component of that if we plan and implement natural asset management programs accordingly.”

The advisory group reviewed initial findings and maps linked to asset management data that illustrate foraging areas and nesting sites of the at-risk species, which will help stakeholders make informed land management decisions.

(nesting sites for the Barn Swallow)

The City of Courtenay’s upcoming Official Community Plan update and Integrated Stormwater Management process provide examples of where the tool could potentially be applied. The opportunities for implementation will differ between communities.

The Morrison Creek watershed is 98% privately owned. It comprises wetlands, meadows and open beaver dams and flows from the Village of Cumberland, through the Comox Valley Regional District, then through the City of Courtenay. The watershed is home to the endemic Morrison Creek lamprey, an eel-like aquatic species that has existed for close to 350 million years but which is now endangered, with threats including urban development.

(photo: Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

The year-long project to develop the tool will also result in a road map for how other local governments across Canada could integrate it into their asset management planning and enable them to enhance services to both their citizens and to the species at risk – both of whom share the same environments and habitats.

The need for the development of this tool was identified as part of a broader MNAI watershed-scale natural asset management project in the Comox Valley that includes as core partners the Comox Valley Regional District, City of Courtenay, Village of Cumberland, K’ómoks First Nation, and the Town of Comox.

The development of the tool is funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada.