Avoidance is meant to be the first and most important step in the mitigation hierarchy. In practice however, some decision-makers often fail to prioritize avoidance and minimization efforts prior to offsetting, or simply skip this critical step. Shari Clare (PhD, PBiol, Sr. Biologist and Owner of Fiera Biological Consulting Ltd., Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Science at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), has studied this issue in the context of wetlands in Alberta. In this webinar she’ll present the findings from the paper “Where is the avoidance in the implementation of wetland law and policy?” and share thoughts on recent developments.
As usual the webinar is part of the BBOP community of practice (all previous webinars are archived there if you want to listen to them later).
When and how does the BBOP webinar take place?
(8:00am Alberta; 10:00 am EDT)
Some information on the BBOP webinar
Wetlands are increasingly being recognized for the ecological goods and services that they provide to society, which range from drought and flood protection, to climate regulation and biodiversity maintenance. Recently found awareness of the social and ecological value of wetlands calls for greater sociological attention to the decision-making processes that permit wetland alteration and loss, particularly when considered within a climate change paradigm. A common strategy for managing wetlands in North America is to first screen projects that have the potential to impact wetland habitats on the basis of the proponents’ capacity to avoid significant harm; secondly, regulators consider plans and design features that minimize impacts; and thirdly, the proponent may be required to compensate for the loss of wetland habitat through wetland creation, restoration, reclamation, or a cash payment. Despite the continued reliance on this “mitigation” sequence, there is broad agreement that the first and most important step, avoidance, is ignored more often than it is implemented. Drawing on evaluative literature on wetland policy implementation in the US, and more specifically, from a case study involving a set of interviews with key wetland policy actors in the Alberta context, I will summarize common decision-making practices that explain why wetland avoidance is commonly overlooked in the permitting process, and why as a policy directive, avoidance is seldom effective. By critically examining factors that influence wetland permitting decisions, improvements can be made to wetland law, regulation, and policy such that losses can be prevented, rather than simply following a pattern of permitting losses, and hoping that compensation will replace or off-set lost wetland area, values, and functions.