A number of wildlife species are vulnerable to oil sands development activities and have been affected by disturbances to their habitats.
Oil sands development can affect plants and wildlife in several ways. Impacts occur when operations disrupt the habitat of a species – for example, by clearing land for well sites or mining. Linear developments such as roads, cutlines and pipeline rights-of-way can affect wildlife by creating travel corridors for predators such as wolves.
Oil sands producers avoid sensitive habitats, optimize the area needed for well sites, and work with other users to reduce the disturbance footprint by sharing roads and pipelines. They also maintain site hygiene to deter animals, and use deterrence tools and programs to keep wildlife from harm.
The first priority is to identify the species and habitats needing protection. Industry associations and companies work with scientists, government officials, landowners and interest groups to accomplish this.
The industry funds and supports research on species such as woodland caribou and grizzly bears to determine how they are affected by operations.
CAPP – and industry – is an active participant in regional land use planning. The Alberta government Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) represents a milestone step forward in the implementation of balanced land use planning and cumulative effects management in Alberta. Since September 1, 2012, the LARP provides clarity and predictability regarding Alberta’s vision for development in this region of the province having significant oil sands resource potential.
Meet a man who helps keep "feathers and fuzzies" free from harm
Wildlife Habitat Council’s Wildlife at Work Certification
Last November, Imperial Oil’s Kearl operation became the first oil sands mining development to receive the Wildlife Habitat Council’s Wildlife at Work certification. The WHC is an international non-profit organization that works with conservation groups and business to promote wildlife habitat enhancement and education programs.
Since construction began in 2008, Kearl’s employees and contractors have made it a priority to protect wildlife and increase awareness of local wildlife species.
“This certification recognizes that Kearl’s wildlife programs have gone above and beyond regulations, especially in promoting wildlife awareness among employees and the community,” says Julie Mammino, Kearl’s environmental and regulatory advisor.
In a letter to Imperial last fall, the WHC commended the “efforts at Kearl, particularly the Critter Card Program, the artificial nest box project and the involvement of First Nations in reclamation plans.”
Mammino says that, over the last four years, the company has used the Critter Card Program to encourage workers to report wildlife observations at the project site, which is frequently visited by bear, moose, deer and waterfowl. In 2011 alone, the company received more than 2,300 observation cards for nearly 4,800 wildlife sightings by workers.
Employees have also worked with students at the nearby Fort McKay School to build nesting boxes for waterfowl at the lake. And to prepare for land reclamation and future wildlife habitat at the site, the company has established a reclamation planning group to gather input from local First Nations.
The project has also created its first wildlife team, including Mammino and 11 other Kearl employees. The group now plans to meet four times a year to share ideas on how to improve wildlife protection and education at the site.
Mammino says the recent certification signifies that Kearl’s various wildlife programs are headed in the right direction.
“Receiving this award from WHC reinforces Imperial’s commitment to protecting tomorrow, today. To receive this certification while we’re still in our project phase shows our employees’ commitment to wildlife habitat and environmental protection,” she says.
In 2010, Imperial Oil’s Cold Lake Wildlife at Work program was certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council, the first ever Upstream oil and gas site to be so recognized in Canada.
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