Increasing development pressure from a number of small to large scale industrial activities including mining, oil and gas extraction and refinement, related pipeline and shipping activity, transportation and warehousing (including port development and expansion), utilities (power generation, distribution and transmission), forestry, and renewable energy projects, as well as climate change are impacting important core values to the Nations. There have been significant concerns regarding cumulative effects, defined as “changes to environmental, social, economic, health and cultural values caused by the combined effect of the present, past and reasonably foreseeable human actions or natural events” .
North Coast First Nations, including Gitga’at Nation, Gitxaała Nation, Haisla Nation, Kitselas Nation, Kitsumkalum Nation and Metlakatla Nation have been deeply involved in various independent and collaborative initiatives related to cumulative effects monitoring, assessment and management in the North Coast and in 2016, came together to identify a suite of over 200 common values that are at risk from cumulative effects. In order to tackle
them, the Nations have actively sought to build relationships with Provincial and Federal entities and initiatives to begin the work of collaboratively monitoring, assessing and managing cumulative effects.
Current work is proceeding under an integrated collaborative stewardship initiative that is co-led between six participating Nations and the Province of BC. This initiative is called the North Coast Cumulative Effects Program (NC CE Program). This work is evolving to include the Federal government through their support under related initiatives, specifically the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund. The hope is that work on cumulative effects becomes aligned across multiple jurisdictions, therefore removing barriers and allowing for coordinated management responses. For more information, please see the NCCE Backgrounder.
Footnote:  As defined in the MaPP Regional Action Framework and MaPP Cumulative Effects Framework (Wilson, 2017).
With the North Coast of British Columbia (BC), Canada being a hub of increasing industrial activity over the past decades there is a critical need to break out of the silos of traditional approaches to addressing impacts in a case-by-case basis and instead engage collectively with Partner First Nations to understand and address the cumulative effects in the region.
First Nations are a fundamental aspect of the resource management landscape. Their perspectives and interests are formed from a reliance on the waters and lands for community sustenance, wealth, culture, and health.
Their perspectives and interests are formed from a reliance on the waters and lands for community sustenance, wealth, culture, and health.
On the North Coast of BC, First Nations have fostered opportunities such as the Marine Plan Partnership and the Environmental Stewardship Initiative to work closely in collaboration as Partners with the Province of BC to monitor, assess and manage cumulative effects on shared values.
The primary vision of the NC CE Program is to enable resource decision-making to be tuned in and responsive to cumulative effects on core coastal and marine values, and improve the stewardship of marine ecosystems and resources and the human well-being of the coastal communities.
The process of the program is framed around implementation of the MaPP Cumulative Effects Framework (MaPP CEF). The MaPP CEF identifies nine components organized in four phases (Foundation, Assessment, Management, and Monitoring) that constitute a comprehensive cumulative effects assessment and management program for the marine and coastal environment.
Creating and Strengthening Relationships
Strengthen existing or create new relationships to support implementation of the MaPP CEF for core coastal and marine values.
Cumulative effects assessment evaluates the extent to which individual actions or events (including climate change), create stress on valued components of socioeconomic and/or biophysical systems.
Collaboratively identify management objectives for ecological, social and cultural values and utilize assessment results to improve decision making.
The NC CE program uses an ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach to evaluate and predict the effects not only of any single project that would ordinarily trigger environmental assessments, but of all such projects that have already occurred or are likely to occur in the future
The NC CE EBM is adaptive and utilizes both science and Aboriginal ecological knowledge and includes three important elements:
An initial suite of four values were identified to tackle within the NC CE
Program: Food Security; Access to Resources; Aquatic Habitat: Estuaries; and
Salmon. The NC CE Field Program, the NC Data Management System (NC
DMS), and Data Governance are all crucial pieces to the program that
support the ongoing value-based work
Food Security and Access to Resources are core values within the North Coast CE Program. The value-based assessments underway provide an understanding of current conditions and barriers impacting NC Nations Food Security and Access to Resources.
A primary goal of the program is addressing these barriers while also managing healthy ecosystems and communities.
The FS/AtR team has completed a Cumulative Effects Assessment report with the intentions of carrying forward management recommendations into the next steps of implementation. The team also proposed and implemented an immediate pilot project of Community Harvesting Grants to help offset barriers to food security and access to resources.
Work is underway to move forward on engagement with key decision- makers on management recommendations that arose from the CE Assessment.
In progress. Will be posted here when available.
A significant component of the North Coast Plan Area is the Skeena River Estuary, which is part of one of the most productive and biologically diverse watersheds in Canada.
Besides the immense ecological importance of the
Skeena Estuary, the estuary also supports commercial and recreational industries, provides ecosystem services, and has high cultural and historical significance to First Nations.
The broad objective for the Aquatic Habitat: Estuaries value work is:
“Protect and restore habitat and ecosystem function for species that are highly valued for their ecological and cultural significance.”
Work on the Estuaries value has included the completion of a current condition assessment that integrated desktop research and five years of NC CE Field Program data. The Project Team has also developed a suite of initial management recommendations.
Work is underway to finalize the current condition report and a protocol for future assessments and to carry forward the management recommendations into the next stages of stakeholder engagement and implementation.
In progress. Will be posted here when available.
The Skeena Estuary supports some of the largest fish populations on the coast, including juvenile and adult salmon, that are ecologically, economically, and culturally important to First Nations on the North Coast.
Multiple and increasing pressures result in significant impacts on salmon as well as the vulnerable but essential ecosystems within the Skeena watershed. Understanding cumulative effects in the North Coast is key for supporting not only healthy salmon populations, but also for addressing First Nation Food Security and Access to Resources and protecting the health of the Skeena Estuary.
The broad objective for the Salmon value work is “Protect, restore and foster healthy salmon habitats and diverse populations to support healthy ecosystems, cultural values, and sustainable harvest, and meet the needs of First Nations and local communities, now and in the future.”
Work is underway that will build on the results of the Estuary CE Current Condition assessment to engage partners and key decision-makers to develop a Skeena Estuary Habitat Management and Protection Plan and implement two priority salmon habitat restoration projects.
In progress. Will be posted here when available.
Monitoring is critical for the North Coast as it provides information on the current status of values through the measurement of indicators, assists with
the identification of new environmental concerns, the prioritization of issues and development of management decisions, and the evaluation of trends over time. Monitoring data also can provide the information and evidence needed to determine what is working and what is not, so that policies and management actions can be adapted if necessary.
Having the communities that are most dependent on values involved in the
monitoring process offers a way in which to build situational awareness. This in turn, can lead to receiving important feedback on the values foundation, which can lead to continuous improvement of the monitoring itself and also the capacity to make appropriate decisions that have the greatest impact.
Each field season (summer) technicians from partner Nations conduct field sampling to collect data throughout the North Coast. The 2022 summer season marked the 6th year of the field program and resulted in the collection of monitoring data across 15 sites in the Skeena Estuary that included eelgrass, soft bottom, and kelp habitats. Since the beginning of the program in 2017, 51 total sites have been sampled for eelgrass and soft bottom sampling, as well as 29 kelp sites.
Warren Bolton, a Kitsumkalum band member, GIS technician, and drone operator, undertakes eelgrass survey work near Ridley Island on the North Coast. Bolton’s involvement with the NC CE Program dovetailed perfectly with formal studies in the sciences.
Field teams involved in NC CE work often bring together members of several First Nations and communities, as well as people from the North Coast Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) and the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP).
To facilitate the assessment and management of cumulative effects in the North Coast, and improve and coordinate data collection and management, a comprehensive, integrated, user-friendly North Coast Data Management System (NC DMS) was built to support this diverse group of partners that includes First Nations and the Provincial government.
Ongoing North Coast Communications and Engagement focuses on reporting on the progress, process and accomplishments of the NC CE Program. Consistent ongoing communications and engagement activities support the successful implementation of the North Coast Marine Plan, including: public and stakeholder communication and engagement, media relations, and the use of updates, success stories, newsletters, annual reports, and performance reporting to communicate the progress, process and achievements of the NC CE Program.
Cumulative effects (CE) are the impacts that occur from present, past, and reasonably foreseeable human actions or natural events that result in changes to environmental, social, economic, health and cultural values (MaPP, 2016). Cumulative effects assessment evaluates the extent to which individual actions or events (including climate change), create stress on valued components of socioeconomic and/or biophysical systems. These assessments are important because even though the effects of individual actions may be considered insignificant upon assessment, the incremental and combined effects of individual actions or events may be significant.
Communities in the North Coast are already dealing with the impacts and changes that occur as a result of cumulative effects. Some of these changes include: degradation of food harvest areas; barriers to harvest, negative interactions between industry and culturally important places and resources, and negative changes to the health of community members.
In 2017, the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) joined the North Coast Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) to form the North Coast Cumulative Effects (NC CE)
Program. The merging of these two initiatives arose from a shared goal of developing and fully implementing a cumulative effects framework to continuously monitor, assess, and manage the impacts of industrial and non-industrial development in the North Coast.
The North Coast Cumulative Effects (NC CE) Program was initiated through the integration of the Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) and the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) on the North Coast of British Columbia (BC). The merging of these initiatives arose from a shared goal of developing and implementing a cumulative effects framework to continuously monitor, assess, and manage the impacts of past, current and future development, human activities, and climate change in the North Coast on core coastal and marine values.
The NC CE Program is led by representatives from Gitga’at First Nation, Gitxaała Nation, Haisla Nation, Kitselas First Nation, Kitsumkalum First Nation, Metlakatla First Nation and the Province of BC (together, the Partners), with coordination and technical support from the North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society. The Program is also supported through initiatives such as the British Columbia Salmon Innovation and Restoration Fund (BCSRIF) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Ecosystems and Oceans Science Contribution Framework.
In 2019, the integration of the North Coast MaPP and ESI programs was formalized as the NC CE Program, including the identification of shared roles and responsibilities. The North Coast Stewardship Forum (NCSF) functions as a management committee that oversees the projects and provides leadership and accountability. The NC CE Program is comprised of representatives from Gitga’at First Nation, Gitxaała Nation, Haisla Nation, Kitselas First Nation, Kitsumkalum First Nation, Metlakatla First Nation and the Province of BC (together, the Partners), with coordination and technical support from the North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society.
Overarching program management is supported by a First Nations staff under contract with the North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society and for the related MaPP and ESI initiatives, is co-managed alongside a Provincial staff member. The NC CE Project Team consists of representatives from each of the six North Coast Partner Nations and Province (as represented by the Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship and the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation). Related projects have separate technical and management tables that may include the same NC CE project partner representatives at the appropriate levels such as for regional MaPP projects and the British Columbia Salmon Innovation and Restoration Fund (BCSRIF) project.
The NC CE Program is working to break down silos, recognizing the authority of Provincial, Federal and First Nations governments. The Project Team is actively working to seek out and engage those management levers that enable management actions to be implemented, taking advantage of the authorities at the table that until recently was the six North Coast Partner First Nations and Provincial government and more recently with support from a Federal funding source, is slowing bringing in Federal partners to the table as well. The intention being to eliminate the jurisdictional barriers that limit CE management.
The Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast (MaPP) initiative is a partnership between 18 member First Nations and the Province of British Columbia that
began in 2015. Together, the group have co-developed and are implementing four sub-regional Marine Plans, and a Regional Action Framework. The North Coast Marine Plan can be accessed here. In general, the goals of MaPP are to protect the marine environment; help create opportunities for sustainable economic development and support the well-being of coastal communities. To learn more about MaPP, visit http://mappocean.org/
The Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) is an initiative created in 2014 as part of the Province’s strategy to advance Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) development through collaborative work to address First Nations’ environmental concerns that arise during the regulatory process for natural resource developments. There are four regions in ESI, one of which is the North Coast, which involves the same six Nations that are involved in MaPP’s North Coast sub-region. The broad goals of ESI are to establish positive environmental legacies across the north by investing in four key areas: ecosystem assessment and monitoring; ecosystem restoration and enhancement; ecosystem research and knowledge exchange; and stewardship education and training. North Coast ESI has prioritized work on two projects: Ecosystem Restoration and Cumulative Effects. More information about ESI can be found here.
The North Coast Plan Area includes the area from Portland Inlet to the south end of Aristazabal Island, including the communities of Prince Rupert, Terrace and Kitimat and the land and marine territories of the six partner Nations. Other Nations also have territories in the North Coast Plan Area including Lax Kw’alaams, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo, and Nisga’a Nations but are not participating directly in the NC CE Program. See North Coast Plan Area
Within the North Coast, a wide range of activities occur including: commercial fisheries, including processing; logging; port activities; recreational fishing, and tourism; mining; oil and gas extraction and refinement; pipelines and shipping activity; utilities, and renewable energy projects. Concerns about cumulative effects in the NC are exacerbated by the recent boom of port and liquified natural gas (LNG) activities in Kitimat and Prince Rupert.
The North Coast is subject to development pressure from numerous small to large scale industrial activities and proposed projects are assessed project by project, essentially negating to account for any possible compounding effects that may occur as a result of these ongoing projects. Cumulative effects on core coastal and marine values are not well understood nor consistently addressed through monitoring, assessment, or management programs.
Cumulative effects are a priority concern and affect many values on the North Coast. The NC CE Program is working on an initial suite of shared values to assess, monitor and manage cumulative effects under a cumulative effects framework collaboratively developed by Partner Nations and the Province under the Marine Plan Partnership. The framework establishes the collaboratively defined goals and principles of CE management and offers high level guidance on the key components of work.
The foundational work of the NC CE program included selecting values (objectives) and indicators relevant to the NC and delineating the appropriate spatial and temporal scales. Through multiple phases of engagement, 33 initial common values were identified with four values that were prioritized as a starting point for implementation during the foundation phase. These include: Aquatic Habitats (Estuaries); Salmon; Food Security; and First Nations Access to Resources.
The assessment phase involves working to gain an understanding of current conditions, historical trends, and future scenarios in the NC. Management recommendations are developed with the intention to inform decisions and develop assessment recommendations, which are based on the assessment results,
and in order to manage the values and mitigate cumulative effects.
The monitoring phase includes monitoring of the indicators themselves and also monitoring the effectiveness of management actions. The process is iterative and adaptive, meaning that management pathways may be further revised with each iteration over time to create a more complete picture of the NC.
Long-term environmental monitoring, evaluation, and reporting are fundamental to understanding and documenting environmental changes, and assessing the
effectiveness of management actions. Monitoring of data can assist with the identification of new environmental concerns, the prioritization of issues and development of management decisions, and the evaluation of trends over time. Monitoring data also can provide the information and evidence needed to determine what is working and what is not, so that policies and management actions can be adapted if necessary.
The NC DMS was developed to enable project team members to contribute, house, aggregate, analyze, and visualize a wide range of regional monitoring data. A key intent of this tool is to improve technical collaboration on cumulative effects and the accessibility of collaboratively-generated data and assessments for decision-makers. This will facilitate evaluation of project proposals and management of cumulative effects
on the North Coast.
The North Coast Data Management System provides:
Indicators were selected for the NC CE monitoring program that represented key ecological components of the Skeena River Estuary that are likely to be affected by CE
and also selected based on their suitability to assess and monitor those CE. Indicators selected also were: representative of critical habitat components or were indicators of habitat quality for organisms that use the estuary; responsive to potential impacts that were identified for the estuary; assessed previously in studies so that baseline data existed already; cost-effective to monitor; and representative of Partner First Nations values.