+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 15-16F

Species at Risk and the Need for an Overall Socio-Economic Impact Assessment

Date:
November 16, 2016
Expiry Date:
December 1, 2019
Active Status:
Active
Sponsors:
MD of Greenview,
Mackenzie County,
County of Northern Lights
District:
4 - Northern
Year:
2016
Convention:
Fall
Category:
Environment
Status:
Accepted in Principle
Vote Results:
Carried
Preamble:

WHEREAS the forest industry is key to economic success for families and communities throughout Alberta, employing 15,000 Albertans directly and creating 30,000 additional jobs through economic activity, and contributes over $4 billion to the economy; and

WHEREAS forestry is Alberta’s third largest resource industry and the lifeblood of 50 communities throughout the province, providing important jobs and wealth creation; and

WHEREAS having a strong forest industry helps the province’s economy to continue employing Albertans when prices for other commodities drop; and

WHEREAS the provincial government has released several recovery plans for species at risk, as well as a structure retention plan which all have the potential to decrease wood supply, increase costs, and create job losses or mill closures; and

WHEREAS each of these recovery plans and policies are completed in isolation and independent of directly affected operators, communities, and municipal governments; and

WHEREAS the provincial government has not undertaken a complete due diligence Socio-Economic Impact Assessment prior to putting these various recovery plans into action; and

WHEREAS every part of wood fibre loss affects the entire industry and subsequently the spin off economy; and

WHEREAS the economic contributions of the forest industry in Alberta would be negatively impacted by a reduction in the annual allowable cuts and a subsequent decrease in wood fibre supply; and

WHEREAS the recommendations for the permanent protected areas for Woodland Caribou simply follow Forestry Management Unit (FMU) boundaries with no consideration for the existing and future local Oil and Gas dispositions, mineral exploration, tourism, agriculture, and interprovincial/territorial infrastructure and corridors;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties works with the Government of Alberta in a timely fashion, to complete an overall Socio-Economic Impact Assessment based on all the species at risk recovery plans and retention plans currently affecting the operations of all industries in the Province of Alberta, including but not limited to oil and gas, forestry, agriculture, tourism and mineral exploration.

Member Background:

Alberta is recognized as a world leader in forest stewardship and management. Over 60% of Alberta is forested, providing many values including economic, social, and environmental.

The forest industry is a key contributor to the economy and standard of living for many Albertans, particularly families living in rural Alberta in and near forested regions. In addition to providing timber resources that support the forest products industry, the province’s forests provide a range of other resources and benefits that are important to Albertans, including wildlife, biodiversity, water and recreation.

Recently, the Government of Alberta has been working to identify areas in Alberta where caribou habitat protection is a priority and to develop strategies that protect caribou populations. As various species at risk management strategies are contemplated, it becomes clear that there is potential for sustainable timber supply in the region to be impacted. Various alternative strategies reflect scenarios where reductions in annual allowable cuts (AAC) for Forest Management Units (FMUs) and Forest Management Areas (FMAs) are possible.

Wildlife habitat is a key component in the development of 200-year management plans for the forest. In the case of species at risk, such as caribou and grizzly bear, forest companies must ensure that habitat increases over the life of the plan.   Range plans support a working landscape where species at risk and industrial activity co-exists, with strict regulation investment in aggressive and innovative approaches, and careful monitoring of outcomes.

Alberta has prepared a draft Little Smoky and A La Peche Caribou Range Plan, the first to directly address federal recovery requirements in Canada which requires each province and territory develop range plans that protect, over time, at least 65% of that habitat.  These ranges include important forest and energy resources that continue to support local Alberta communities and the provincial economy.

Twenty-three percent of the overall provincial’s allowable annual cut are within caribou ranges alone, in which numerous forestry operations rely on to fulfill their quotas.    Although the actual percentage of wood sourced from caribou ranges may seem low, these numbers become cumulative when you consider all the other Species at Risk Recovery Plans as a whole.  On top of that, forestry’s work supply and land base is also affected by the new Draft Structure Retention Directive, Mountain Pine Beetle, Land Use Framework and Protected Area recommendations, the energy sector, fire, and insect and disease agents.  The extent of forest resources and the challenges forest managers have in balancing these inter-related uses is evident all across Alberta.

The Alberta Newsprint Company conducted an Alberta Forest Sector Economic Impact Study in January 2016 which provides some astounding stats based on wood supply reduction scenarios.  In developing these scenarios, they identified the average lumber production in Alberta and extrapolated this to the province as a whole. Using that base data, they modeled a series of reduction scenarios including Allowable Annual Cut reductions between 10% and 100%. This represented reduction in the total annual harvest volume ranging from approximately 419,000 m3/yr. to 4,200,000 m3/yr.

Forest products made in Alberta are some of the highest quality in the world and are shipped globally every day.  The companies operating are highly inter-dependent, exchanging wood fibre in various forms to enable efficient operation of sawmills and pulp mills, and other facilities including biomass power generation and composite wood products.

A sustainable flow of wood supply is the basis for a healthy forest products industry.  Creating an overall socio-economic impact assessment along with long-term forest management planning as a whole, including the development and ongoing review of the annual allowable cut, is necessary to ensure sustainable forest management and a reliable flow of wood fibre to processing facilities.

References:

Alberta’s Caribou Action Plan, Government of Alberta

Alberta Forest Products Association

Alberta Forest Sector Economic Impact Study, Prepared by MNP LLP, January 2016

Alberta Newsprint Company

Draft Little Smoky and A La Peche Caribou Range Plan, Government of Alberta

Setting Alberta on the Path to Caribou Recovery, Eric Denhoff, May 2016

Weyerhaeuser Grande Prairie

RMA Background:

4-14S: Species at Risk Act

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties and the Government of Alberta lobby the federal government to repeal the current Species at Risk Act and rebuild it in a way that better respects the socio-economic reality, seeking a balanced approach (economic, environmental, social).

DEVELOPMENTS: The response received from Environment Canada outlined the Ministry’s recovery strategy and supporting action planning process for endangered and threatened species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The action planning stage includes evaluating the social and economic costs and benefits of actions and the integration of provincial management plans. Though this process works towards the request of this resolution, a recovery strategy is not a regulatory document and as such, it lacks enforcement. Based on this information, the AAMDC assigns this resolution a status of Intent Not Met and will continue to advocate to the federal government and assess Environment Canada’s process to seek a balanced approach to enforcement and implementation related to SARA.

16-15F: Species at Risk Act (SARA)

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties facilitate a round table discussion with representation from the federal Environment Minister and provincial Environment Minister to rebuild the current Species at Risk Act to improve it in a way that seeks a balanced and cooperative approach (economic, environmental, and social) to species protection that focuses on ecosystem protection; limiting impact on agriculture, industry, rural development, and land use in Alberta.

DEVELOPMENTS: The Government of Alberta response indicates a willingness to work with the AAMDC and the federal government to take a collaborative approach to aligning species at risk protection with the need to address social and economic impacts. This is encouraging and will be followed up on by the AAMDC. As a response from the Government of Canada has not yet been received, this resolution is assigned a status of Incomplete Information. The AAMDC is continuing advocacy efforts at the provincial and federal levels to move this issue forward.

Government Response:

Environment and Parks: The Species at Risk Act (SARA) mandates that Alberta manage 65 per cent of its critical habitat by October 2017. At that time, the federal government can impose a plan that would stop industrial development until 65 per cent of caribou habitat is reclaimed.

This is an unacceptable outcome that would result in serious layoffs and harm to industry and communities in the region. That is why the Government of Alberta (GOA) hired a mediator and worked with stakeholders to come up with strategies to protect caribou and preserve good paying jobs.

Part of the mediator’s report included a draft directive for the Little Smokey and A La Peche range. The intent of the directive is to minimize social and economic impacts to local communities and families, while meeting the federal requirement to protect caribou habitat under the SARA.

The GOA received feedback from thousands of Albertans through an online survey about the draft Little Smokey and A La Peche range plans. The GOA is working to incorporate their input, and we are continuing to work with industry on its development. We are taking the time to get it right.

Socio-economic information is considered in all species at risk recovery planning processes. Implementing provincial approaches that achieve effective protection of species at risk and critical habitat is necessary to minimize the risk of federal intervention. It is anticipated that provincially developed approaches to species recovery will enable more flexibility for the province and affected industries, along with fewer impacts to industries than if orders under the federal SARA are issued.

Development:

The Government of Alberta response summarizes the work done to date to develop strategies to comply with the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as it impacts Alberta’s caribou population, and acknowledges that socio-economic impacts of habitat protection formed a component of the recovery planning process. In March 2018, the Government of Alberta delayed the development of caribou range plans to further understand the socio-economic implications of such plans. Though it is unclear if this is emblematic of broader change within the province’s processes, it is a recognition of the importance of understand the impacts of SARA policies on local communities. A socio-economic study of caribou recovery plans is currently underway. Therefore, this resolution is assigned a status of Accepted in Principle, and the RMA will continue to monitor the development of the socio-economic study.

Provincial Ministries:
Environment and Parks
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