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Ecological Accounting Process

ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: “One should view EAP as representing one point along a ‘green infrastructure continuum’. It is the latest evolution in an ongoing process in British Columbia that had its genesis in the late 1980s and early 1990s,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair, when providing historical context for green infrastructure ideas and practices


“EAP embodies what has been learned since 1998,” stated Tim Pringle. “EAP uses the word ‘accounting’ in the sense of taking stock and understanding the worth of ecological services as the community uses them. Holding up this mirror reflects opportunities taken or missed and risks avoided or incurred. It asks the question; how well are we doing? This is a social perspective on the natural commons and the constructed commons. Residents and property owners use and expect to use both of these assets to support quality of life and property enjoyment.”

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DEMONSTRATION APPLICATION OF ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: Busy Place Creek (Sh-hwuykwselu) in the Cowichan Valley, completed July 2018


Like many small creeksheds, Busy Place Creek (Sh-hwuykwselu) lies in more than one authority with jurisdiction within the watershed. Its upland source and discharge to the Koksilah River are in Cowichan Tribes lands, including the Cowichan-Koksilah estuary, which it nourishes. The mid-reach lies in the Cowichan Valley Regional District jurisdiction (CVRD). “Selection of Sh-hwuykwselu as an ‘EAP Demonstration Application’ was made possible by CVRD willingness to participate in a program funded by the governments of Canada and British Columbia,” stated Kim Stephens.

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DEMONSTRATION APPLICATION OF ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: Brooklyn Creek in the Comox Valley, completed August 2018


“Through the multi-year strategy to maintain and enhance the lower catchment of Brooklyn Creek, the Town of Comox and its collaborators have provided a working example of understanding the worth of the creekshed, its hydrology, and ecological systems. This effort confirms the need for similar investment in other catchments of the creekshed,” stated Tim Pringle. “The EAP analyses have described what the Town’s residents and key intervenors think the Brooklyn creekshed is worth. The understanding gained will be shared with other local governments.”

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ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: “Looking through the ‘worth lens’ culminated in a fundamental shift in philosophy regarding how to value natural assets in Comox,” stated Marvin Kamenz, the Town’s Municipal Planner, in his presentation at the Parksville 2019 Symposium – watch on YouTube!


At Parksville 2019, Marvin Kamenz elaborated on three building blocks in the evolution of the Town’s incremental process for implementing changes in development practices: lower Brooklyn Corridor, North East Comox, and new areas tributary to the middle Brooklyn Corridor. “The Town of Comox recognizes that ecological services are core municipal services,” stated Marvin Kamenz. “For the middle reach of Brooklyn Creek, we changed the approach to stormwater management in mid-project to focus on the protection and enhancement of the ‘Package of Ecological Services’.”

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DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCE: “The essence of why collaboration works is that it increases the impact for everyone – and that’s the social lens for EAP,” explained Tim Pringle, EAP Chair, after the Partnership for Water Sustainability released ‘An Introduction to the Ecological Accounting Process’ at the Parksville 2019 Symposium (April 2019)


“The ecological accounting process (EAP) provides metrics that enable communities to appreciate the worth of natural assets. These resources provide numerous public benefits in the form of ecological services,” stated Tim Pringle. “EAP also calculates the dollar value of the land occupied by the natural commons, thus providing a basis for budgeting maintenance and enhancement expenditures. The natural commons has a corollary – the constructed commons.”

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Ecological Accounting Process and Water Balance Methodology – the twin pillars of a whole-system, water balance vision for restorative land development in British Columbia, an approach branded as “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”


“Development of the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) began in 2015. The EAP vision was first unveiled in Beyond the Guidebook 2015. This was the third in a series that builds on Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released by the provincial government in 2002,” states Kim Stephens. “Beyond the Guidebook 2015 introduced the notion of the ‘twin pillars’ – that is, EAP and the Water Balance Methodology – for asset management strategies that achieve the goal of ‘sustainable watershed systems’.”

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YOUTUBE VIDEOS: Worth of Ecological Services – “What are the commons? Those are places in the community that everyone has a right to access, and draw value from. There are two kinds of commons – natural and constructed,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair of the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) Initiative, at the Parksville 2019 Symposium


“EAP offers some insights on the importance of considering the natural commons as systems that residents, property owners and local governments rely on, but understand only to a limited extent,” stated Tim Pringle. “The commons are those resources in the community that are shared by and available to all residents and property owners. From a human settlement point of view, the reality of the commons provides a way to understand the social realities of managing ecological systems. EAP helps communities calculate what ecological services are worth.”

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CREATING NEXT GENERATION INFRASTRUCTURE: “By harnessing the power of nature, infrastructure services can be provided at a lower cost while delivering greater impact,” wrote Andrew Steer in the foreword to a landmark report on integrating green and gray infrastructure (March 2019)


“Green infrastructure can be cheaper and more resilient than gray infrastructure alone—and it can produce substantial benefits beyond what the balance sheets measure,” states Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute. “These nature-based solutions can help us meet the infrastructure investment gap in a cost-effective manner, while lifting up local communities with benefits in their backyards. We’re at a climate inflection point, and in the midst of an infrastructure crisis. Now more than ever, the world must tap into nature’s wealth.”

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IMPROVING WHERE WE LIVE: At the Parksville 2019 Symposium, Tim Ennis elaborates on precedent-setting nature of “Kus-kus-sum Restoration on the Courtenay River – Transforming a Decommissioned Sawmill Site into a Valuable Habitat Corridor”


“The economic return to the community through this project will far outweigh the costs. For example, the restored site will have tremendous potential to absorb floodwaters and provide resiliency to buffer the effects of climate change from more frequent and severe rain storms, sea-level rise, and storm surge events. This will mitigate the flooding-related costs to Courtenay, which have been in the ballpark of $500,000 per event,” stated Tim Ennis.

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“There’s no widely accepted method to calculate the more ephemeral value that trees provide, such as joy in their beauty, as resting places for birds, or the coolness of their shade,” says Bonnie Keeler – her area of expertise at the University of Minnesota is natural capital and the value of ecosystems


Bonnie Keeler reviewed 1,200 scientific studies on increasingly popular green infrastructures such as urban forests, parks, rain gardens, and wetlands and found in a recent paper that it’s unclear how well any of them stack up against “gray” solutions like concrete storm sewers and air conditioning. “There is a huge interest in expanding funding for green infrastructures,” she said. “But we don’t have a tool to understand their value.”

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