Cumulative Effects

Safeguarding what we value from the cumulative impacts of logging, mining, large scale dams, and oil and gas development.

We need strategies to effectively manage the cumulative effects resulting from various forms of industrial development – including logging, mining, hydro-electric, and oil and gas.  A reactive, project-by-project approach to environmental decision-making has led to a situation where both the land and human communities are absorbing unsustainable levels of damage due to the combined impacts from various projects and activities.

Addressing cumulative effects will mean turning the logic of status quo resource management on its head: placing our primary focus on the values and rights to be safeguarded and their needs, rather than on what humans can take from the land and water. It will also mean shifting from a focus on “how much impact is too much” to the question of which scenario for the future will make the greatest mutually reinforcing contribution to sustainability.

In the context of a nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, West Coast advocates for a regional and strategic approach to impact assessment that engages communities in a proactive planning process to identify and safeguard environmental and social values.  Individual projects can then be measured against the values that residents care about, and be accepted or rejected based on whether they support the futures that communities wish to build. 

But cumulative effects management does not stop with impact assessment. Strategic direction from regional assessment and land use planning must provide binding legal guidance to subsequent operational planning, tenuring, permitting and funding decisions. The effectiveness of on-the-ground results and compliance must be monitored, and the results of monitoring are acted upon in a precautionary manner.

Based on a multi-year research project of models and best practices from around the world, West Coast has proposed an integrated model for co-governance of regional cumulative effects management by federal, provincial and Indigenous governments, informed by robust public participation and best available science and indigenous knowledge. This model is designed to uphold both Canadian and Indigenous law and achieve sustainability outcomes.

Click here to read our report, Paddling Together: Co-Governance Models for Regional Cumulative Effects Management.

Our work to advance these solutions includes advocating for systemic change and more effective laws at the provincial and federal levels.  We also recognize that Indigenous law and knowledge is key to effectively managing cumulative effects, and we are actively involved in supporting nations who are revitalizing, applying and enforcing their own laws in relation to environmental governance.  


Top photo: Hannah Askew