A STREAM IS A LAND USE: “This is a novel yet intuitively obvious way of characterizing a stream and its riparian corridor because streams in settled areas meet this litmus test for a ‘land use’, and that is: they have a defined area in legislation,” wrote Tim Pringle, EAP Chair, in the report on the application of the Ecological Accounting Process to Shelly Creek on the east coast of Vancouver Island (February 2020)
Note to Reader:
Shelly Creek is one of five streams tributary to the Englishman River, a major watershed system on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Shelly Creek flows through the Nanaimo Lowland Eco-region. The survival of Coho salmon in the Englishman River depends on a healthy Shelly Creek. In 1999, the Englishman River was declared to be one of the most endangered rivers in BC.
As a result of alterations to the hydrology of the creekshed, the Shelly Creek ‘riparian ecosystem’ has been reduced to a number of ‘riparian zones’ as defined in regulations. In April 2020, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia released a report on Shelley Creek. Titled Application of EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, to Shelly Creek for Financial Valuation of Ecological Services and Worth, the research findings suggest that the diminution of stream functions gradually will draw the attention of property owners and the community to the “no harm” rule in land appraisal.
The ‘no harm’ principle derives from two sources. One is the process that appraisers, or valuers, use to determine the financial value of a parcel. The second source of the ‘no harm’ principle is regulation. For natural commons such as streams, the Riparian Areas Regulations as well as local government bylaws apply.
EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, is a BC process for community investment in the natural commons.
Foundational Concepts for Maintenance & Management (M&M) of Ecological Assets
The EAP program is multi-year (2016-2021) and multi-stage to test, refine and mainstream the EAP methodology and metrics. The Stage 2 applications are Shelly Creek in the City of Parksville and Regional District of Nanaimo, and Kilmer Creek in the District of North Vancouver.
The Shelly Creek EAP Demonstration Application was undertaken in collaboration with the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES); and was jointly funded by UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities), the provincial government, and the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.
Maintenance, Management and Worth
The Shelly Creek report concludes with a one-page summary of six foundational concepts. These underpin the EAP methodology, and provide the reader with a mind-map.
“The starting point for application of EAP is recognition that local governments have existing tools in the form of policies and legislation for ‘maintenance and management’ (M&M) of ecological assets within riparian corridors,” wrote Tim Pringle, Chair, Ecological Accounting Process initiative.
“Until now, however, what local governments have lacked are a pragmatic methodology for financial valuation, and meaningful metrics that go to the heart of sustainable service delivery. EAP provides metrics that enable communities to appreciate the worth of ecological assets.
“EAP considers use and conservation of land to be equally important values. Historically, land use and property development in our communities have been given priority over ecological systems such as streams. Too often the result has been remnant ecological services that fall far short of the benefits that these natural commons can provide.”
Maintenance versus Management –
“Maintenance is about preventing or avoiding degradation, whereas management is about improving the condition of the ecological asset. This is an important distinction. The M&M acronym is a starting point for encouraging practitioners to think holistically about the relationship between hydrology and ecology.”
Whole-System Approach –
“We are looking at a system. Without an ecological system, there are no ecological services. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the system as a whole. Everything is connected.”
Natural Commons and Constructed Commons –
“It is not yet well-understood that these are parallel concepts and of equal importance. Every urban creekshed comprises a constructed commons (roads, utilities, etc.) and a natural commons (streams, riparian corridors, etc.) Each commons is a system. The commons concept is the lynch-pin for EAP.”
Package of Ecological Services –
“This concept refers to the combined range of uses desired by the community. Three key words capture the essence of what we mean by ‘range of uses’ – drainage, recreation and habitat. These three words immediately conjure a word picture in the reader’s mind. They are visual. They make real what is an abstract concept to most people. Thus, a strategic plan that supports this diversity within the natural commons will appear worthwhile to the greatest number of interested parties.”
A Stream is a Land Use –
“This is a novel yet intuitively obvious way of characterizing a stream and its riparian corridor because streams in settled areas meet this litmus test for a ‘land use’, and that is: they have a defined area in legislation; and measurement of their financial value can be calculated using BC Assessment data.”
Dollar Value of the Natural Commons –
“The extent of use and investment in M&M indicates what neighbouring residents and the community as a whole think ecological assets are worth – which is defined as ‘value in use’. Looking through the ‘worth’ lens, and utilizing financial information supplied by BC Assessment as a proxy, the EAP methodology assigns a dollar value to the land occupied by the natural commons (stream corridor).”
TO LEARN MORE:
To read the report in its entirety, download a copy of Application of EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, to Shelly Creek for Financial Valuation of Ecological Services and Worth.