The Cumulative Effects Management Association (CEMA) 2006-2008

The Terrestrial Ecosystem Management Framework (Framework) is the Cumulative Environmental Management Association’s (CEMA) recommended approach to managing the cumulative effects of development and resource use on ecosystems and landscapes in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB). The Framework aligns with the stated direction of the Government of Alberta (GoA) to enable oil sands development while maintaining ecosystem integrity and social and cultural needs. The Framework is intended to complement the existing policies and regulatory system currently in place.

The Framework has been guided by principles that were designed to ensure:

  • Stakeholder and societal values are understood and are reflected in regional environmental, economic, and social goals; 

  • Trade-offs amongst competing goals are deliberate and transparent, because the maintenance of ecological attributes is not simultaneously possible on all landscapes with the projected rates of development; 

  • Ecological integrity is managed predominately at the regional scale; 

  • Management strategies are based on science and Traditional Ecological 
Knowledge (TEK); and 

  • Flexibility to adapt to future reality as it unfolds. 
The Framework is based on a detailed analysis using models describing development over the next 100 years, and acknowledging energy development as a dominant driver of land use. Three hypothetical management scenarios were developed and contrasted with a base case model to understand indicator performance. Most environmental indicators of terrestrial ecosystems are expected to decline with continued development in the absence of management intervention. Modeling results demonstrate that options are available to mitigate impacts. 
The Framework recommends a regional management objective, broad regional strategies, and the application of specific management measures at a sub- regional scale. Establishment of a regional monitoring program is also recommended to measure achievement of desired outcomes. 
The concept that healthy ecosystems, and therefore indicators, vary naturally over time has informed the definition of the regional environmental management objective. CEMA recommends that environmental indicators are maintained within 10% below the lower limit of the natural range of variation. This target recognizes that in some areas of the RMWB indicators would be far outside NRV while in other areas they would be within NRV. A system of management response triggers is recommended involving three levels: green being acceptable; yellow being cautionary, indicating that management response planning should be initiated; and red indicating immediate action is required. Trigger conditions are assigned based on a combination of the current monitored levels of an indicator, and the timeframe within which any reductions are predicted (through modeling) to occur. Four out of the seven identified environmental indicators are currently in a yellow or red condition based on available information, thus requiring immediate action.

In response, the primary recommended regional strategy is the application of a Triad land management approach that is the core of this framework. The Triad approach involves the identification of three land use zones: Intensive, Extensive and Protected.

CEMA recommends

  • An Intensive Zone characterized by bitumen extraction comprising 5% to 14% of the RMWB at any time; 

  • An Extensive Zone characterized by ecosystem forestry and other natural disturbance based activities comprising at least 46% of the RMWB at any time; and 

  • An expanded permanently Protected Zone where industrial activities are excluded comprising 20% to 40% of the RMWB. 
CEMA also recommends further work to refine the sizes of the Intensive and Protected Zones, the application of the Intensive Zone constraint, and specific boundaries for new protected areas. 
Aggressive management of off-highway vehicle access is also recommended as a powerful strategy to mitigate impacts on several indicators. Approaches to minimize the extent and duration of footprint, through technological innovation, integrated planning, and improved reclamation are also key. It is vital to engage Aboriginal people in developing strategies for conserving or managing opportunities for traditional land use, particularly in proximity to communities. 
Further, CEMA recommends areas of public policy that require adjustment to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive approach to achieving the objectives of the Framework. Application of management strategies is recommended consistent with the management intent for each Triad zone. 
Based on the current and forecast condition of indicators, CEMA recommends a variety of immediate and concurrent actions. The Framework includes a schedule of recommended actions and timelines to enable full implementation of the Framework by 2011. This Framework should be reviewed and renewed every five years.