Implementation of the Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring
The Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta are working together on enhanced environmental monitoring in the oil sands region to ensure that this important resource is developed in an environmentally responsible way.
The Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring (Joint Plan) strengthens environmental monitoring programs for air, water, land and biodiversity in the oil sands region. It will result in improved knowledge of the state of the environment in the oil sands area and an enhanced understanding of any cumulative effects and environmental change, including future impacts arising from multiple stressors, which will become more important to understand as development continues.
The strategic environmental assessment conducted for this proposal concluded that the monitoring program in and of itself is not expected to result in any important direct environmental effects - either positive or negative. However, the implementation of the proposal is expected to have a positive impact on the environment in the oil sands region over the medium and long term, and support responsible resource development. In the short term, better environmental data will inform Canadians and specifically resource users. Improved understanding of any cumulative environmental effects identified and, their causes and management will result in important contributions to the medium and long term environmental sustainability of oil sands operations and the use of natural resources by all stakeholders. In the longer term, it is anticipated there would be indirect benefits of cleaner air, improved water quality and enhanced management of terrestrial biodiversity and cumulative effects in general. Such improvements, related to implementation of integrated joint monitoring, will accrue throughout the oil sands area and across all regions of the country, including Canada’s North, wherever complex cumulative effects monitoring of multiple stressors can be undertaken to inform environmental management.
The proposal will indirectly contribute to the achievement of Federal Sustainable Development Strategy goals 2, 3, 5 and 6, for air and water, among others and associated targets. Specifically, positive effects are expected in the medium and long term associated with these goals:
Goal 2: Air Pollution - Minimize the threats to air quality so that the air Canadians breathe is clean and supports healthy ecosystems components:
- decreased contaminant loadings and reduced terrestrial and aquatic effects
Goal 3: Water Quality - Protect and enhance the quality of water so that it is clean, safe and secure for all Canadians and supports healthy ecosystems:
- improvements in fish status and health, benthic invertebrates, and other aquatic biota that are indicators of overall aquatic ecosystem health and their relation to contaminants and other environmental stressors(e.g., landscape disruption, climate change)
Goal 5: Wildlife Conservation - Maintain or restore populations of wildlife to healthy levels:
Target 5.1: Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Conservation
- improvements in wildlife populations that may be at risk of health impairment
Goal 6: Ecosystem/Habitat Conservation and Protection - Maintain productive and resilient ecosystems with the capacity to recover and adapt; and protect areas in ways that leave them unimpaired for present and future generations.
- improvements to status and trends in biodiversity and habitat disturbance.
The Implementation Plan will be delivered based on the principle of inclusion of Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and the training and involvement of members of local communities in the actual monitoring activities.
Opportunities to enhance indirect environmental benefits expected from the joint integrated monitoring program may be provided by:
- Leveraging and collaborating with provincial/territorial, Aboriginal, academia and industry to maximize benefits and synergies of integrated cumulative effects monitoring and management of sources of effects;
- Sharing methodologies, data, results and lessons learned;
- Engagement of Aboriginal communities in monitoring activities;
- Communicating benefits of integrated cumulative effects monitoring;
- Improving the understanding of the variety of stressors associated with cumulative effects to the public.
Air, water and biodiversity monitoring is a key element of the proposal and will generate data that will provide state-of-the-environment information and interpretation of environmental trends over time.
The monitoring program will be evaluated at regular intervals and will be improved as scientific and technical knowledge evolves and as circumstances change. In addition to maintaining a certain degree of long-term monitoring capacity, additional monitoring can and will be added if important changes are detected at a given site or region, or alternatively reduced where repeated sampling has shown no significant changes are occurring, no new activity is planned, and monitoring in the area is not needed for control purposes.
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