Oil sands producers take extensive efforts to minimize impact to wildlife habitat.
Industry recognizes that, working with the government and others, it can play a constructive role in positively impacting wildlife and biodiversity on the landscape through:
- Participating in multi-stakeholder land use strategies
- Participating in environmental monitoring programs
- Improving operational performance
- Investing in research
Land use strategies
Industry is an active participant in regional land use planning and is supporting implementation of the Alberta government’s Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP). Implementation of this plan will enable the balanced land use planning and cumulative effects management of the region.
The Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) is responsible for wildlife and biodiversity monitoring in the oil sands region and administers the Joint Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM) program, which industry funds.
AEMERA evaluates the cumulative effects of operations on biodiversity, based largely on data gathered by the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI).
The ABMI facilitates collaboration between government, industry, academic and environmental groups on maintaining Alberta’s biodiversity.
Learn more about AEMERA’s biodiversity and land activities.
Oil sands producers take extensive efforts to minimize impact to wildlife habitat by optimizing the area needed for well sites and working with other landscape users to reduce the disturbance footprint by sharing roads and pipelines.
Oil sands operations have specific wildlife mitigation and monitoring plans in place that require regulatory approval before operations occur in the landscape. These programs are developed for each project with applicable results and progress reported to the regulator. The programs typically include habitat enhancement and restoration work, and monitoring.
Industry is addressing complex issues related to integrated land management within Alberta’s boreal forests. Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) Land Environmental Priority Area (EPA) is focused on reducing the footprint intensity and impact of oil sands mining and in situ (in place) operations on the land and wildlife of northern Alberta.
Northern Alberta is home to a great deal of wildlife. In order to minimize disruptions to these creatures and their habitat, oil sands companies need to know where they are. Which means locating and assessing habitat use for many animal species. Until recently, monitoring wildlife was a labour-intensive and specialized skill. The development of new guidelines and ways of working for acoustic recording units (ARUs) allows wildlife details to be gathered more accurately, anywhere, anytime. The easier local animals can be found, the easier it is to plan around their lives.
Innovation has also led to new technologies that minimizes the impact oil and natural gas development has on habitats.
Boreal caribou are one of Canada’s most recognizable national symbols, but their populations are falling across Canada. Declining caribou herds are a complex issue and all stakeholders, as well as the provincial and federal governments, have a role to play in working towards collective and broad-based solutions.
Population and distribution of boreal caribou in Canada
- Caribou are affected by changes to their habitat. These natural and man-made disturbances can range from seismic lines used to explore the underlying geology to forest fires that naturally regenerate the forest.
- Large animals like moose, deer and caribou use old seismic lines as transportation corridors as they are easier to move through and have edible shrubs along the edges. However, these corridors serve to concentrate predator-prey interactions as predators learn to use them to hunt more efficiently.
- Caribou have low reproduction rates. Females don’t produce young until three years of age, and then have only one calf per year. This means boreal caribou herds can’t compensate for large swings in population.
The oil and natural gas industry are collaborating to increase the pace of recovery of the national population of boreal caribou over the long-term and are willing to go beyond the confines of their immediate lease areas to do so. Industry will continue to use collaborative engagement and innovative problem solving to restore caribou habitat, augment caribou population and implement operational mitigation measures.
Through the Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration (RICC) members are working with academia, the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) Caribou Monitoring Unit to prioritize areas for caribou habitat restoration and coordinate research and monitoring efforts at a regional scale.