Environment Committee on May 17th, 2012
Evidence of meeting #37 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was conservation.
On the agenda
- David Collyer President, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
- Murray Elliott Vice-President, Health, Safety, Environment and Sustainable Development, Shell Canada Limited
- Gordon Lambert Vice-President, Sustainable Development, Suncor Energy Inc.
- Richard Dunn Vice-President, Canadian Division, Regulatory and Government Relations, Encana Corporation
- Brenda Kenny President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
- David Pryce Vice-President, Operations, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
- Larry Sears Chairman, Alberta Grazing Leaseholders Association
- Lorne Fitch Provincial Riparian Specialist, Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society - Cows and Fish
- Bob Jamieson As an Individual
- Jake Veasey Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Research, Calgary Zoo
- Kevin Strange Senior Advisor, Conservation Outreach, Calgary Zoo
- Doug Sawyer Chair, Alberta Beef Producers
- Rich Smith Executive Director, Alberta Beef Producers
- Lynn Grant Chair, Environment Committee, Canadian Cattlemen's Association
- Alan Gardner Executive Director, Southern Alberta Land Trust Society
- Stephen Vandervalk Alberta Vice-President, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association
- Bill Newton Member, Board of Governors, Western Stock Growers' Association
- Norman Ward Member, Board of Governors, Western Stock Growers' Association
- Fawn Jackson Manager, Environmental Affairs, Canadian Cattlemen's Association
Vice-President, Sustainable Development, Suncor Energy Inc.
Yes, absolutely. We want certainty of where we can develop and under what conditions. We also recognize that conservation of important natural areas is an important part of the landscape and the mix. There's always this balancing of our economic, social, and environmental interests, but we know conservation has to be part of the mix. Getting clearer of what that outcome is, and sooner, is absolutely important to us as investors.
Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB
President, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
The point I would make is that the point of integration or the point of balance differs across different interest groups. I would say the level of alignment we have with groups like the Nature Conservancy is quite good. I would make a similar comment about the Alberta Conservation Alliance. We don't have that same point of commonality or interest, if you will, with all environmental groups, but a number of those would be seen as very reputable, very credible conservation groups in Canada, with whom we're quite well aligned, as Mr. Lambert has suggested.
The Chair Mark Warawa
Thank you, Mr. Toet.
François Pilon Laval—Les Îles, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I have three short questions about points that require clarification.
The first question is for you, Ms. Kenny. When you build a pipeline, you have to restore the land to the extent possible. Is there any legislation requiring you to restore a site in the event of a leak or something similar? Is all you have to do fix the pipeline? Are you required to fix environmental damage, if there is any?
President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
Very extensive regulations and an array of actions are taken if there is a leak. That includes extensive cleanup and repair, so there's assurance that if the pipeline is opened again for operation, it's high integrity and will be safe, and that it is completely restored in the locale where there may have been some damage. That is in place in a range of regulations and requirements, and frankly, it's the right thing to do.
The only other thing I would add is that some people might look at the picture of a leak on day one and think it is horrific and permanent damage. It is something we work extremely hard to avoid, but I can assure you it is not permanent damage. In fact, I'm aware of several instances when the cleanup left the landscape cleaner than it had been. A good example of that is in the port of Vancouver, following an incident when an oil pipeline was struck by a contractor. It was not the company's fault, nor was there any need to be concerned about the safety of the pipeline itself, but that was a very industrial port area, and by the time it had been cleaned up it had been very much improved from the state it was found in at the time.
François Pilon Laval—Les Îles, QC
My next question is for you, Mr. Dunn. You said you were going to use saline water as much as possible. What do you do with it after it becomes contaminated? How do you dispose of it?
Vice-President, Canadian Division, Regulatory and Government Relations, Encana Corporation
That's a good question.
While we hydraulically fracture the well, we produce the water back into a secure containment. That water is then recirculated and pumped back into that same reservoir in a slightly different location, an 800-metre-deep reservoir. So we dispose of the water that comes back from our hydraulic fracturing operation back down into that same-source reservoir. It's a closed-loop system and it's recycled back into that saline aquifer, right back into the source. Again, the integrity of the pipelines and the well bore is engineer-designed, but also well regulated to protect the fresh water.
François Pilon Laval—Les Îles, QC
I have one last question for you, Mr. Dunn.
You work with aboriginal communities. Can you give me a tangible example of that cooperation?
Vice-President, Canadian Division, Regulatory and Government Relations, Encana Corporation
Yes. Again looking at the Fort Nelson First Nation area, where we have the Horn River, certainly as we go forward to do our development, we consult extensively in terms of understanding first nations' concerns. If there are any sensitive areas that we need to avoid, for example, areas that are important to first nations, be they spiritual sites and such, we integrate their traditional knowledge into the development. We will consult, and it will affect our development.
Then, as I mentioned, we work to make sure that both the aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities get to benefit from our activities as much as possible. This might include opportunities from a business perspective, that they understand the contracting opportunities, for example. I know both Shell and Suncor do that extensively as well, to build up that capacity. We will be ensuring they have that understanding.
We also have programs to build that capacity in the aboriginal community. One good example is that we sponsor a program called the Ch’nook business school, out of the University of British Columbia, which starts to build up management capacity for aboriginal businesses. Oftentimes this ability to effectively manage and run a business is one of the critical success factors. That's one example of a program that we sponsor.
The Chair Mark Warawa
If there are no additional comments, I want to thank the witnesses for being with us today.
Thank you for your commitment to a sustainable development of our natural resources. Your suggestion that our study be called a national conservation framework, not a plan, will be taken into consideration.
We will suspend until 11:15.
Thank you so much.
The Chair Mark Warawa
I'll call the meeting to order.
This is the 37th meeting of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
I welcome the witnesses who are with us today as we continue our study on the creation of a national conservation plan.
There are 12 members on the committee, and five of us around the table today. We are looking forward to hearing from the witnesses. Each witness has up to 10 minutes, but you don't have to take the full 10 minutes, which will be followed by questions.
I will hand it over to the witnesses, beginning with the Alberta Grazing Leaseholders Association. Mr. Sears, you have 10 minutes.
Larry Sears Chairman, Alberta Grazing Leaseholders Association
Good morning, everyone. Thanks for the opportunity to appear before you today.
First, to give you a little background about me, I'm a fourth generation rancher from the foothills of southern Alberta. My boys are the fifth generation pursuing agriculture in Alberta. This is a bit of an unusual situation as we've had a great deal of trouble keeping our youth in agriculture. My family celebrated a hundred years in the province in 2010.
I'd like to tell you a little about my association, the Alberta Grazing Leaseholders. There are roughly 5,700 grazing leases, which is crown lands under agricultural disposition, in Alberta. That's about 5.2 million acres. Alberta’s land mass is estimated to be roughly 150 million acres, not including water. This would put the grazing lease acreage at less than 5% of the land base. The beef cattle industry generates roughly $3 billion in farm cash receipts. The success of our industry relies on an efficient and productive cow herd with access to an extensive feed supply. Approximately 20% of the grazing requirements come from the use of crown grazing leases. These crown lands have a designated priority for agriculture, and most are best suited for cattle grazing. The average lease in Alberta is just over a section and supports approximately 50 cows.
I would like to take this time to offer some insights on the benefits of livestock grazing and its role in maintaining and, in fact, conditioning habitat on the range for other wildlife species. Most ungulates and many of the cherished and so-called endangered species, or endangered animals and birds, are reliant on cattle grazing for their particular habitat to be favourable for them. Grazing is not only complementary, but is beneficial to lots of wildlife. That isn’t the message that is being pushed by the species at risk folks, but it is factual knowledge based on more than 130 years of grazing in this province. If we were to believe some environmentalists who want to eliminate cattle because they threaten wildlife, you would wonder how wildlife continues to thrive with cattle in the equation at all.
That brings us to the contentious issue of $50 million being channelled to species at risk programs. We happen to think there are more beneficial and efficient methods of conservation than putting money in the hands of preservationists.
Let me give you a quote from Ayn Rand to give you some clarity as to why many of us dislike and mistrust that policy and the direction of the species at risk legislation. She said: Economic power is exercised by means of a positive: by offering men a reward and incentive, a payment of value. Political power is exercised by means of a negative: by threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman's tool is values; the bureaucrat's tool is fear.
I think the classic example is when a farmer is faced with a slough or wetland he has to make an economic decision on. In the past, it was very clear: drain the slough, get rid of the ducks and geese that are eating your crop, and get more income from additional acreage harvested. That was the mindset of the wheat monoculture in the past. There are now some other options available through incentive programs that may work well enough for you to maintain a wetland for groundwater recharge, depending on your skill as a negotiator with outfits such as Ducks Unlimited.
So here we are. The truth is not for all men but for those who seek it, and I hope you will seek it. That being said, why wouldn't we have incentives for those who maintain habitat through grazing cattle or sheep, as long as it is done sustainably? Those stewards of the land have been doing this for more than 100 years and have maintained wildlife habitat in spite of well-intentioned but naive environmentalists and bureaucrats who try their best to expand their pet parks or nature reserves.
There are more efficient and effective ways of ensuring that the stewards of the land who are already there will continue to maintain habitat for most species. The regulatory environment we all find ourselves under is not business friendly, nor is it conducive to maintaining future generations in agriculture. Quite frankly, there needs to be a total revamp of the balance between economics and the environment. While we applaud the recent announcement of the streamlining of the approval process for projects, we believe that the balance is still tilted towards those in the green movement, who have no understanding of economics and no skin in the game, so to speak, except ideologically.
I believe that the tipping point was reached in 1973, when the Endangered Species Act was passed in the United States. While initially supported, and believed by many to be the right thing to do, it was quickly hijacked by the anti-business green crowd and has foisted literally billions of dollars of unnecessary and irrational costs on all business and activity in the United States. Putting mice, lizards, insects, etc., above and in front of humans is insanity. Our species at risk legislation has tried to mirror some of the same approaches, claiming subspecies that are bogus, numbers that are ridiculously low, etc.
What started out as a game for some of these folks, because these groups didn't have any economic skin in the game, has become big business. Many of these groups fearmonger to raise money and bully to get grants and handouts. These green groups will eventually grind the economy to a halt.
All conservation efforts that get taxpayer dollars should have community support and be able to verify results. Giving money to large green groups, such as the Nature Conservancy to purportedly protect ranches and farms from being subdivided is sheer folly. Some of the land they have purchased conservation easements on will never be in danger of being subdivided. They merely needed to pad their portfolio to look better to fundraisers. It is far better that those initiatives have private donors who are naive enough to donate to frivolous causes.
Taxpayers should demand more effective use of their dollars. If government feels the need for effective conservation measures, they need to enable a landholder to continue to do the right things as far as management goes, and encourage, not discourage the person from doing so.
That's my presentation today. Thank you very much.
The Chair Mark Warawa
Just before we proceed with additional witnesses, I would like to share with you the scope of the study of the committee. We sent out six questions.
What should be the purpose of a national conservation plan? What should be the goals? What are the guiding principles that would govern a national conservation plan? What conservation priorities should be included? What should be the implementation priorities? And what would the consultation process the minister should consider look like?
I encourage the witnesses to consider that scope as they make their comments, because the mandate of this committee is to report back, using those six questions as our guidelines for our trip here to Calgary.
We'll next hear from the Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society—Cows and Fish.
May 17th, 2012 / 11:25 a.m.
Lorne Fitch Provincial Riparian Specialist, Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society - Cows and Fish
Thank you, and good morning. In your sweep across Canada coming from the west, thank you for bringing rain. It brings joy to our prairie souls.
Canada has some core natural resources, such as biodiversity, fresh water, fertile soil, breathable air, and a comparatively benign climate, which have no real substitutes. The suite of ecological goods and services, or natural capital, underpins the economy and society of this nation, although there is a significant reliance, particularly here in Alberta, on non-renewable resource extraction.
There is an ecological infrastructure in need of investment in Canada. Concern about damage to the economy needs an accompanying level of reflection about loss of natural capital. The credit crunch has a parallel meaning for society living beyond its ecological means. Our economic soundness is a direct function in the short-term and long-term of the strength of our ecological foundation.
A national conservation plan can create an objective for conservation in Canada, while opportunities and options still exist to create balance, awareness, and a future for subsequent generations. The Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society, better known as Cows and Fish, has worked for 20 years to engender a stewardship ethic towards shared resources of water, watersheds, and biodiversity.
Cows and Fish is a non-governmental organization that operates at ground level on public and private lands, in both rural and urban settings, on the essential task of conserving and managing riparian areas—the interface between land and water. We think our experience, which also includes helping other areas in Canada to develop capacity and tools for watershed conservation, has applicability to this initiative for the national conservation plan.
We appreciate the opportunity to briefly share some of our learnings. They may be useful in the deliberations on the elements, principles, priorities, and implementation of a national conservation plan. Our work revolves around stewardship, as this national plan should. Stewardship is an amalgam of awareness, ethics, and action. These elements are not divisible; they are related and are a continuum.
The first, awareness, is achieving a level of understanding or knowledge that provides the foundation for the next two. The second is the development of a set of ethics, an encoded sense of responsibilities and obligations, to care for land, water, and air as part of our conscience. The third, action, is exhibiting appropriate choice, embodying balance, restraint, and a sense of legacy.
The way Cows and Fish applies these elements of stewardship assists in community-based conservation through a process of engagement that creates opportunity to move from conflict to cooperation. Stewardship opportunity is created through a five-stage process, beginning with ecological awareness. Engagement begins with awareness, an effort to help people understand some of the ecological processes that shape the landscape they live on, and from which many make a living.
The second step is assisting in the development of teams or partnerships at a community or watershed level. A network of resource professionals, landowners, and others who value riparian landscapes has to form in order to solve issues and problems in a multidisciplinary fashion.
Step three is the assemblage of technical advice and tools for management changes to provide options and alternatives to current practices. Much of the information is gathered from innovative, progressive and practical solutions already being used by a select group of landowners. The task is one of locating those individuals involved, understanding the management action taken, and translating that action into an alternative for others to assess for possible application to their operation.
Other tools help the community group link biodiversity, economics, and water quality to management actions and alternatives.
The fourth step is critical. It is a transfer of responsibility for action to the community that is in the best position to make the changes and benefit from them. Part of the critical initial messaging is that there are choices and alternatives to current management practices. As the antithesis of the centralist or top-down approach, Cows and Fish encourages the formation of local or community teams, composed of technical, producer, and other local interests, to engage with each other to drive the process.
Although the process steps are constantly repeated, the fifth step is the monitoring phase using ecological measuring sticks to assess riparian function or health. Those measuring sticks allow an objective review of watershed condition to set benchmarks, link ecological status to management, help galvanize community action, and provide a monitoring framework for landowners and others.
The essence of the Cows and Fish program is bound within the five elements of the process I've just described. The program has a watershed or landscape focus relating to restoration and management of landscape health. Science is applied to assist in ecological understanding, including measuring sticks for landscape function. Our process changes the way we engage with landowners, to move from situations of conflict to areas of cooperation. Through the process, communities and others begin to see, value, and use landscapes differently and create a landscape vision that includes elements of ecological restoration and maintenance.
Cows and Fish is not a government program but works with agency staff to increase their effectiveness in communities. The program and its elements undergo periodic evaluation to monitor progress and determine impediments or barriers to stewardship actions. The Cows and Fish process has direct and proven application to conservation efforts in agricultural communities. The process also has utility for the resolution of other land-use issues to achieve a stewardship and conservation outcome.
Riparian and, by association, watershed actions need to be community based, locally driven, and largely voluntary. To help a community to arrive at this point requires knowledge-building, motivation, acknowledgement of problems, and empowerment. The reasons for positive action may be enhanced awareness, motivated self-interest, concern about legislation, marketing opportunity, or altruism. The net effect will be a return to a landscape that maintains a critical ecological function and provides a greater measure of support for agricultural operations.
The following are the principles upon which Cows and Fish operates. It is science-based and ecologically relevant. It uses stewardship as a driver. It is built on ecological literacy, building awareness within communities. It is system-oriented towards watersheds. It is scope- and scale-driven, that is, driven by restoration of ecological function. It is long-term and future-focused. It is community-based and delivered. It links sustainable actions to economics, and it is measurable and measured. These principles may have direct applicability to the design of a national conservation plan.
Cows and Fish is about building a cumulative body of knowledge that we all should have, including that on how riparian systems function and link us, how watersheds work, the vital signs of landscape health, the essentials of how people need to work together, how solutions need to benefit us all, as well as the kinds of information that will enable us to restore or maintain natural systems and build ecologically resilient communities and economies. These might also characterize the outcomes of the national conservation plan.