“The Buttertubs Marsh pilot study added up the value of natural infrastructure, and found that environmental assets have dollar value,” says Rob Lawrance, City of Nanaimo environmental planner

Note to Reader:

Buttertubs Marsh is a bird and wildlife sanctuary located in the middle of the City of Nanaimo. There is a 2 km loop trail around the marsh and a few observation decks and a tower for birdwatching. The marsh covers approximately 100 acres (40 hectares), approximately half of which is the Buttertubs Marsh Conservation Area, owned by the Nature Trust of British Columbia.

The marsh is man-made and is home to great blue herons, mallards, Canada geese, ring-necked ducks, hooded mergansers, American wigeons, violet-green swallows and red-winged blackbirds. The sanctuary is Vancouver Island’s only documented breeding site of American bittern.

In 2016, the City of Nanaimo joined four other Canadian cities in a pilot study that aimed to show the value of maintaining natural infrastructure like wetlands and forests.

The Nanaimo Water Symposium, held in April 2018, included a field trip to Buttertubs Marsh. To learn more, visit Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate 

Environmental Assets Have a Dollar Value

Buttertubs Marsh, a 40-hectare wetland that’s storing water and controlling floods, is providing a system the City of Nanaimo would have to pay millions to replicate, according to a pilot study that’s helping to change the way communities see natural infrastructure.

Rob Lawrance, the City’s environmental planner, said the city and its partners, Ducks Unlimited and Nature Trust of B.C., looked at what an equivalent engineered system costs the city to maintain and do what the marsh does naturally, as well as how the city could maintain the natural system and what it would cost compared to an engineered one.

A hydrological model considered what it would cost to build an engineered system matching what Buttertubs does and found the replacement cost would be anywhere from $4.7 million to $8.3 million, added Rob Lawrance.

“Doing that just kind of underscores the point that the city does not have to pay that kind of money to have that kind of service provided to the community,” Rob Lawrance explained. “That was the main point of the exercise and the pilot study is to prove there’s real financial value that wetlands like this provide the community.”

Restorative Development

“A vision for restorative development that revitalizes watershed function and health provided a philosophical backdrop for the Nanaimo Water Symposium, and this is the reason we included a field trip to Buttertubs Marsh,” continued Rob Lawrance, a member of the Organizing Committee.

“Within our growing urban areas, as our community becomes more diverse, being able to reconnect through nature offers the chance to reconnect with each other. By working to restore our urban watercourses, new and old neighbours are building connections between our natural spaces that will lead to a stronger sense of stewardship in future.”

To Learn More:

To read the complete article, download a copy of Nanaimo adds up the value of natural infrastructure: Environmental assets have dollar value, study finds