BC’s guidance for provincial land use plans – here is what you need to know

“The purpose of land use planning is to guide land and resource management decision makers to regulate the use of land in consideration of the needs of communities, the economy, and the environment.”

Hemmera’s Social Sciences Practice Lead, Nina Barton, was asked to attend an expert elicitation workshop on changes to BC’s guidance for Socio-economic and Environmental Assessments (SEEA) for provincial land use plans. SEEA are conducted to assess how implementing a land use plan will affect people, communities, the economy, and ecosystems in the plan area. The workshop was hosted in Victoria by the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD).

The updated SEAA guidance will address a range of critically important considerations including climate change, Indigenous interests and cumulative effects. Hemmera has the expertise to support clients with SEEA, whether for land use plans alone or for projects that require environmental impact assessment.

Land Use Planning in BC: A Brief History

The purpose of land use planning is to guide land and resource management decision makers to regulate the use of land in consideration of the needs of communities, the economy, and the environment. Most of BC’s land area (about 94%) is Crown or public land; however, before the 1990s, most resource management decisions in BC were on a valley-by-valley basis and were made to resolve specific land use conflicts. The Province initiated a comprehensive, large-scale planning process in the 1990s that used a consensus-driven model. The main goals of land use planning at the time were to increase protected areas across BC while maintaining the economic stability of resource industries. By the early 2000s, higher-level, regional Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMP) covered more than 90% of the provincial land base. Many sub-regional, component-based planning processes were also conducted for smaller areas or specific issues, such as management plans for community watersheds or establishment of wildlife habitat areas.

Modernized Land Use Planning

In 2017, FLNRORD and the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation (MIRR) launched a revitalized approach to land use planning called Modernized Land Use Planning. They recognized that previous land use planning processes had generally lacked First Nation involvement, consistent monitoring programs, and mechanisms for legal enforcement. Other important issues identified included water sustainability, socio-economic stability for rural communities, and climate change implications for land use.

Since 2017, the Province has engaged with Indigenous groups to identify critical areas for updated planning, and several pilot projects to update LRMPs are now in progress. The new approach to land use planning is designed as a government-to-government approach between Indigenous groups, FLNRORD, and MIRR. There is also close communication between the two ministries and the BC Environmental Assessment Office – updated SEEA guidance will be aligned, where appropriate, with the approach to environmental assessments set out in the new BC Environmental Assessment Act (2018).

Revitalizing SEEA

The existing (2007) guidance for SEEA uses Multiple Accounts Analysis (MAA) to identify and characterize the effects of proposed land uses on selected economic, social, and environmental indicators that have been identified as relevant to the plan area. The MAA approach compares the outcomes of indicators under a base case scenario and as a result of plan implementation. Key indicators listed in the existing SEEA guidance focus mainly on economic activities and ecological risks.

The updated SEEA guidance will need to also fully consider new challenges, including:

  • The ever-increasing complexity of factors affecting the land and water, e.g., climate change effects and species-at-risk management
  • Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples: BC’s recent implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and adoption of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action
  • The role of Indigenous knowledge in land use plans
  • Increasing demand on resources, coupled with the need to balance various and sometimes conflicting social, economic, cultural and environmental objectives
  • How to facilitate the meaningful participation of communities and stakeholders
  • Differential effects for vulnerable sub-populations
  • Cumulative effects.

Implications of the Updated SEEA Guidance for Client Projects

It is no coincidence that the modern challenges of land use planning are also key areas of focus in the new BC and federal guidance for environmental impact assessment of major projects. The revitalized approach to the socio-economic assessment of land use planning is being designed to be responsive to people and communities, by providing more opportunities for meaningful engagement and increasing the transparency of the assessment and planning processes. Greater transparency and increased opportunities for meaningful engagement can lead to greater public trust in land use decisions and greater certainty for clients who may be planning projects.

At Hemmera, our team of socio-economic practitioners and land use specialists are participating directly with the Province to develop new guidance for socio-economic assessment under changing regulatory frameworks. We have the experience and expertise to lead SEEA of land use plans and to help our clients be aware of the implications of updates to land use plans as they consider new projects, including those that may require not only land use planning but also environmental impact assessment.

About the author
Nina Barton is a Practice Leader in Social Sciences with over 15 years of diverse experience working in natural resource management in western Canada.

Completing Environmental Remediation Work with the New Realities of COVID-19

By Peter Reid, Vice President, Site Assessment and Remediation at Hemmera

Hemmera looks at the new realities of conducting environmental remediation work with COVID-19 and considerations that property developers need to make when refinancing or redeveloping a property from the perspective of Environmental Site Assessments.

During the recent response to COVID-19, Hemmera had several on-going remediations that needed to continue without risking harm to the environment.

With market conditions changing rapidly, it is anticipated that many Canadian property owners and developers may consider property refinancing.  Depending on the nature of the site and the areas around it, this may require an Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) be conducted. Some things to consider are:

  • Redevelopment and refinancing have different requirements for environmental site assessments. Depending on your situation, a redevelopment may trigger environmental requirements that a refinancing may not.
  • Upcoming changes to schedule 2 uses in British Columbia will expand the number of sites that require assessments, including sites that have re-used asphalt as fill.
  • ESAs can be safely conducted during COVID-19, however the safety requirements for these assessments varies by province depending on each province’s health department rules.

The Hemmera team has been able to continue to conduct ESAs while managing the safety considerations required by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a webinar held on 30 April 2020, the team talked through some examples of the considerations above and discussed how these site investigations can be conducted while ensuring the safety of workers and the local community. The webinar was moderated by James Mair, with Rob Hamm, Peter Reid, and Karey Dow speaking.

Watch the recording of the webinar below.


Hemmera names Vicki Heron as new Vice President, BC/YT

Hemmera is delighted to announce the appointment of Vicki Heron as Vice President, BC/YT. Vicki will draw upon almost 2 decades of technical expertise in the project management of Environmental Assessment (EA) and Environmental Permitting (EP) projects within the transport, power, water, waste, and manufacturing sectors to deliver innovative solutions to Hemmera’s clients as the new Vice President of BC and Yukon. Vicki will lead the development and implementation of our strategy for growth supported by Hemmera’s key regions and business lines.

“Vicki’s deep knowledge and leadership, combined with her industry relationships and ability to successfully deliver large-scale projects, will be a huge asset to Hemmera,” says Greg Quandt, Senior Vice President, National Operations. “Her experience will further strengthen the suite of services we provide to our clients and communities. We are excited and honoured to welcome Vicki to our team.”

Thanks to her work across compliance, operations, technical development, and environment, Vicki offers an in-depth understanding of project life cycles. She is also skilled at managing multi-disciplinary teams specializing in permitting, community relations, and Indigenous relations.

“I’m thrilled to join Hemmera and look forward to working with the exceptional team here,” says Vicki, who adds, “I look forward to building upon that foundation as we continue to promote a supportive and collaborative environment of constant learning for our team members, while tackling exciting projects.”

Hemmera promotes Elyse MacDonald to Regional Vice President for the firm’s Prairies-NT region

Hemmera, a leading environmental consultancy firm and subsidiary of Ausenco, is pleased to announce that Elyse MacDonald has been promoted to Regional Vice President of Hemmera’s newly expanded Prairies and Northwest Territories (NT) region. Previously, Elyse served as Director, Construction Services and Business Leader of Environmental Permitting and Ecology, based out of Hemmera’s Calgary office. In this new role, she will lead the Prairie and NT strategic initiatives, inspire our teams to continue delivering innovative and high-quality services to our clients, and help our staff progress along their career paths.   Elyse brings over two decades of strategic business development, environmental project management and technical leadership for projects focused on aquatic and terrestrial ecology, environmental permitting, development approvals, and environmental monitoring.

“This promotion formally recognizes the expanded role Elyse has taken on over the past 12 months, as well as the ongoing, significant contributions she has made for our clients and our team since joining Hemmera,” says Kate Witte, Hemmera’s Vice President. “Her resilience and empathetic leadership style, client-centric approach, and deep experience in environmental and social sciences will be key to our continued growth and long-term performance, especially as we continue to strengthen our client and community relationships throughout the Prairies and the North,”  adds Witte.

Elyse and the entire team of environmental scientists, engineers, and technical specialists at Hemmera bring advanced environmental, geoscience and social science experience to the planning, developing, operating, decommissioning and redevelopment stages of our clients’ projects.  In the Prairies and NT, we are well known for our work in the renewable energy, transportation infrastructure, land development and mining sectors.

Elyse is clearly excited about this next big challenge in her career. “Last year,” she explains, “our region focused on an initiative to identify and implement innovative ways to continually enhance our overall client experience in our rapidly evolving economy.  Our staff are central to our success, so a paradigm of any change is to  create more efficient operations to support our successful team’s projects and careers. I’m proud of our team’s engagement and progress, and I’m honoured to meet the challenge of leading and developing this region’s strategy to achieve our clients’ long-term objectives.”

Hemmera welcomes Gonzalo Rios as the Mining Lead for Eastern Canada

Gonzalo RiosHemmera is pleased to announce that Gonzalo Rios has joined the Oakville team as the Mining Lead for Eastern Canada. Gonzalo has 25 years of experience holding corporate management positions at several mining companies with operations throughout North America and Latin America. With a B.Sc. (chemistry), and an MBA, he is a safety and environmental engineer and has expertise on enterprise risk management. Gonzalo also offers clients unique and balanced technical and operational expertise across the sustainability spectrum including health, safety, and environmental management; stakeholder engagement; community development; and relationships with regulatory and government agencies.

Committed to building strong relationships with regulatory and government agencies, Gonzalo is experienced developing closure plans and permitting requirements for the mining industry in Chile and South America. He has worked on open pit and underground precious metal and copper mining projects, managing not only on the environmental impact assessment process, as well as preparing and submitting mining sector or operational permits. Gonzalo is also experienced managing the development and execution of several closure plans for open pit and underground mines, including mills, tailings dams, mine waste deposits, spent dumps, pits, tunnels, and other infrastructure. He has managed the closure plans of more than 10 different mine sites on a yearly basis and conducted the closure cost estimate / asset retirement obligation for all sites at Pan American Silver and Aura Minerals during his tenure there. He also has vast experience on water quality assessment and superficial and underground water monitoring programs.


Maintaining our Commitment to you: Hemmera’s Response to Covid-19

To All Clients,

I hope that this message finds you safe and healthy. These are definitely challenging times for all of us on both a personal and business front, and I trust you are finding a path forward. We will get through this, though it’s going to take some time.

Many of you have reached out to us regarding the evolving Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and I wanted to provide an update on the proactive steps and measures that we have taken at Hemmera. In short, I want you to know that we are open for business, keeping staff safe, and continuing to be here for you. I know that many of you have been contacted by one of our team members, particularly those of you with active projects, so you should be aware that all of our staff are able to work from home and are keeping connected via remote conferencing, phone and email.

Our priority is to make sure that we do everything possible to ensure that our people remain safe and healthy through this time, while also ensuring that our clients come through this period in the strongest possible position. An outline of the actions we are taking is included below; we will continue to closely monitor developments and will immediately take additional actions as required.

Following are some of the actions that Hemmera has implemented to date. Should your organization require confirmation of compliance with specific health directives, please reach out to your project manager and they can provide that information:

  • Commissioned a COVID-19 response team of senior executives and senior HSEC personnel, which meets daily to track and respond in real-time to any international, regional or local developments.
  • Implemented travel restrictions that have now been in place since early March for all high-risk regions (as defined by International SOS).
  • Supported our people in working from home, investing in additional technology support to ensure minimal disruption to client service.
  • Worked with our clients and local authorities to establish policies and protocol on site to minimize impact to existing operations and operations under construction.
  • Cancelled all non-essential air travel.
  • Increased cleaning and disinfecting measures in our workplaces and especially in all meeting rooms and common areas.
  • Asked people to self-quarantine when they have returned from high risk locations, have exhibited any of the common symptoms of COVID-19, or when they may have been in close contact with someone who has, or is presumed to have COVID-19.

I am confident that together we can work our way through the issues which may confront us. We are a resilient team and have demonstrated our strength during adversity previously. We intend to support our clients, colleague, and communities in the best way we possibly can, and the storm will pass. Until then, please reach out to me, or any one of our colleagues at Hemmera should you have any questions or concerns.

Take care and be safe,

Paul Hemsley, President
Zimi Meka, Chief Executive Officer