The Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Network hosted a webinar in collaboration with the Municipal Natural Asset Initiative (MNAI), looking at enhancing municipal natural asset management in Canada. In case you missed it, we’ve pulled together some quick facts around what municipal natural assets are, why we should manage them and how the Town of Gibsons, B.C. is a shining example for municipal natural asset management in Canada.
What are Municipal Natural Assets
Natural Assets, often referred to as Natural Capital, are the stock of natural resources such as land, water, minerals and plants that provide humans with ecosystem services that support our well-being. (mnai.ca)
Municipal natural assets, are the stock of natural resources that provide services to support a specific community and its residents. Roy Brooke, Executive Director of the MNAI explains that municipal natural assets are important because they can provide services to municipalities that would otherwise need to be delivered through an engineered asset.
Why Should We Manage for them?
From a municipal perspective, when we hear the term ‘asset’ we often think of the built infrastructure that serves a community through roads, bridges or water treatment plants. But, there are many forms of natural assets that are providing the same municipal services in a way that is sustainable and more cost effective.
Let’s think about a wetland for example.
Wetlands are a natural asset that can provide services such as water storage and storm water management. By managing and maintaining wetlands in a given community, it reduces the need for storm water drains and engineered retention ponds. As an added bonus, they do so with virtually no capital costs and lower operating costs, according to Brooke.
If natural assets are also providing important service that support a community just as well as engineered assets can, then managing these natural assets should be equally as important as managing the engineered assets.
So how do we manage for them?
MNAI leads a case study in Gibsons, BC that is doing precisely this.
Municipal Natural Asset Management in Canada: Case Study in Gibsons, B.C.
The town of Gibsons, British Columbia is the first community in Canada that is “undertaking an assessment of its natural assets to incorporate them in the town’s asset management plans.” (https://mnai.ca/media/2018/01/TownofGibsons_CaseStudy.pdf)
While going through their required asset management process, the local government realized there are several important natural assets that have been protecting and providing services to the community. For example, the nearby forests store runoff water from upper Gibsons and the aquifer provides drinking water to the community.
This realization led to the first Natural Asset Management Policy in Canada. According to Brooke, this policy ensures that both natural and engineered assets are being managed equally by understanding their condition and preserving their integrity for the future.
The MNAI is now working with 5 municipalities in B.C. and Ontario to develop a repeatable process for municipal natural asset management so that more communities across Canada can begin to manage for and benefit from their own natural assets.
Learn more about the Gibsons Case Study here.