With a diverse wildlife population throughout Canada's natural gas and oil producing areas - including offshore - protecting species and habitats is an important consideration in project planning.
Minimizing Impacts on Wildlife
Canada’s oil and natural gas industry minimizes impacts of operations on land and wildlife by:
- Reducing development size through sharing roads and drilling pads (drilling multiple wells from a single well pad).
- Scheduling work to avoid key nesting, calving, denning or migration seasons.
- Maintaining mammal and bird deterrents to keep wildlife away from active operations.
- Participating in multi-stakeholder land use planning and environmental monitoring programs.
- Prompt vegetation recovery following disturbance.
- Improving operational performance.
- Investing in research and innovation.
- Including wildlife and habitat feature considerations in development planning stages.
Species at Risk Act
The Government of Canada introduced the Species at Risk Act to protect and provide recovery of wildlife species that:
- No longer exist in the wild.
- Are threatened as a result of human activity.
- Are at risk of becoming endangered or threatened.
In both Alberta and B.C., governments have policies, strategic plans and regulations in place to protect at-risk species. Industry also participates in a number of initiatives that focus on long-term strategies to protect wildlife.
Responsible Development in Atlantic Canada's Offshore
Atlantic Canada’s offshore industry is committed to developing resources responsibly and strives at all times to mitigate potential impacts on the environment. The industry is governed by a robust regulatory regime and companies meet or exceed all environmental protection regulations while also adhering to global best practices.
Protecting Wildlife Habitats
Oil sands operations have site-specific wildlife mitigation and monitoring plans in place that require regulatory authorization and reporting of results. These plans typically include footprint reduction initiatives, wildlife deterrents, habitat enhancement, on lease reclamation, off lease restoration, and monitoring.
Oil sands operators are working to continually reduce impacts, for example via the COSIA Near Zero Footprint exploration tools challenge and workshops conducted over recent years.
Non-oil sands natural gas and oil producers implement wildlife mitigation and complete assessments of areas prior to construction as needed in an effort to minimize impacts to wildlife habitat. The development of multi-well sites has significantly decreased the area needed for these developments over time, and producers minimize the number of access roads required by using each road to access as many sites as possible.
COSIA: Innovative Minds
Not Just Bird Watching
Over 1,000 sites are monitoring air quality, water quality and changes in wildlife and plant life in Alberta’s oil sands region as part of North America’s largest environmental monitoring program. In this episode, Ty Veness, COSIA’s Senior Technical Advisor for Monitoring and Ole Mrklas, COSIA’s Monitoring Director, share their involvement in the Oil Sands Monitoring Program (OSM).
Caribou in Canada
Caribou are among Canada’s most recognizable national symbols, but populations are falling across Canada. There is much research and data being collected in Canada in order to learn more about these animals, the complexities of the threats they may be facing and how to recover local populations and their habitat.
Threats Facing Caribou Populations
Recovering caribou populations requires unprecedented collaboration between industry, Indigenous communities and provincial and federal governments to find collective solutions.
Caribou are affected by changes to their habitat. These man-made and natural 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 may use old seismic lines as either travel corridors or feeding areas, as these disturbances are easier to move through than heavy forest, and have edible shrubs along the edges. Wolves also use linear features to travel and hunt more efficiently and this is believed to increase their encounter rate with caribou.
Caribou Population Recovery
The natural gas and oil industry is collaborating to increase the pace of caribou population recovery. In Alberta and British Columbia, industry is working to restore legacy land disturbances such as seismic lines, and supports programs such as the Klinse-sa maternity pen in B.C. Through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), initiatives are underway to address legacy linear disturbances and return the boreal forest to high quality caribou habitat.
Through COSIA and with the services of the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) Caribou Monitoring Unit, members are working with the forest industry and the Government of Alberta to prioritize areas for caribou habitat restoration. At the Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration (RICC), members are working to co-ordinate research and monitoring and restoration efforts at a regional scale in northeast Alberta.
Biodiversity is the variety of life in a habitat or ecosystem. Natural gas and oil development can affect biodiversity in a number of ways; including disturbing habitat, making predator movement easier through travel corridors such as roads or seismic lines, or degrading habitat quality.
Natural gas and oil activity occurs in diverse landscapes that are home to many species of plants and animals, including species at risk. Managing biodiversity is guided by the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, and the federal Species at Risk Act, plus provincial policy and legislation. Natural gas and oil companies strive to protect biodiversity by minimizing habitat disturbance and finding means of prompt vegetation recovery.
Industry in Action: Kristen is Speeding up Reforestation to Improve Caribou Habitat
Industry In Action
Teck Resources, Imperial and Cenovus Energy’s collaboration with Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Government of Alberta, led to the conservation of over 1,600 km2 of land in the Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Park. Together with several surrounding parks, these form the world’s largest protected area of boreal forest of over 67,000 km2
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 operations on the land and wildlife of northern Alberta.
Northern Alberta is home to a diverse array of wildlife. In order to minimize disruptions to all kinds of wildlife and habitat, oil sands companies need to better understand them. Until recently, monitoring wildlife was a labour-intensive and specialized skill. New technology such as acoustic recording units (ARUs) and the development of new guidelines for working with them allows wildlife data to be gathered accurately and continuously.
Other prominent types of industry-led research include:
- Wildlife use and movement responses to habitat restoration treatment.
- Habitat (trees and herbs) response to restoration treatment.
Operators in Canada support sound scientific data collection and are collaborating with each other, and with government, communities and scientists to understand challenges and explore solutions.
Environmental Monitoring and Reporting
In co-operation with Indigenous communities and the oil sands industry, the governments of Alberta and Canada have committed to monitoring the environmental impacts of oil sands development through the Oil Sands Monitoring Program (OSM).
Through an agreed to Operational Framework and governance structure, environmental monitoring is designed and implemented to continually evaluate the cumulative environmental effects of operations, including effects on biodiversity. The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) is involved and conducts data gathering and compilation.