The province of British Columbia is a hub to many natural resource sectors such as forestry, mining and oil and gas. While these sectors provide substantial social and economic benefits, they also cause inevitable environmental impacts. Although there are many policies, laws and regulations around natural resource management, they are typically focused on sector specific effects, unless the projects are large enough to require formal environmental assessments. The lack of thorough inter-sector considerations may allow accumulation of unintended consequences to our environment, as well as our social and economic values – leading to Cumulative Effects.
Cumulative Effects are changes to the environmental, social and economic values (eg water quality, cultural, economic wellbeing and biodiversity) caused by the combined effect of past, present and potential future human activities and natural processes. I have always been fascinated by the beauty of nature and the animals that live in our many ecosystems. My passion for natural resources management and conservation eventually led me to enrol in the Natural Resources Conservation program in the Faculty of Forestry. With many possible career paths available to me, I joined the Co-op Program, which is uniquely positioned to connect me with employers in the forestry sector, NGOs, government and in research.
The BC government is currently in the implementation phase of the Cumulative Effects Framework, which guides and supports the management of Cumulative Effects (CE) in natural resource decision-making by identifying the important values to residents, Indigenous communities and stakeholders while outlining current policies and guidelines concerning those values. Part of my role was to research existing Best Management Practices for 3 pre-identified CE values – grizzly bears, aquatic ecosystems and old growth forests – for which the Cumulative Effects Assessment protocols have received interim approval. Cumulative Effects Assessment is the process that compares the current conditions and trends of each value to existing management objectives and science-based benchmarks. Essentially, the Cumulative Effects Framework allows the province to move away from single-sector and project-focused decision-making to area-based and value-focused governance.
We are at an interesting time as we begin to understand the importance of Cumulative Effects and its relationship with natural resource decision-making and environmental stewardship. I am glad that I have had the opportunity to take part in this process. This exposure has confirmed my interest in natural resource management, given its complexity and constant challenges. Although the management processes are in the early stages of development, I believe that we are well on our way to developing holistic strategies that allow for economic and social benefits from our natural resource sectors while ensuring the long term sustainability of our shared environment.
For more information on our co-op programs, contact Chiara Longhi (Director of Student Services) at firstname.lastname@example.org.