How an environmental consulting company is helping potash companies assess risk to bird populations

CanNorth’s experienced and interdisciplinary team has been actively working with potash proponents and regulators to reduce and/or eliminate risk to birds while navigating changes to best management practices (BMP).

By Alyse Kambeit

Bird populations are declining on a global scale and the main culprit? Cats. While mining activities are among the lowest contributors to the declining bird populations, nevertheless, the potash industry has responsibilities regarding protecting birds. That’s where Canada North Environmental Services (CanNorth) comes in.

As one of the largest environmental service providers in western Canada, CanNorth prides itself on its scientific integrity, ability to effectively meet clients’ needs, and commitment to safety and quality. The company’s technical skills, knowledge, and performance are recognized by a variety of certifications, including ISO 9001:2008 (quality management), ISO 14001:2004 (environmental stewardship), and OHSAS 18001:2007 (occupational health and safety) International Standard certifications. CanNorth is also a Certificate of Recognition (COR) program certified company and is registered with ISNetworld.

CanNorth’s experienced and interdisciplinary team has been actively working with potash proponents and regulators to reduce and/or eliminate risk to birds while navigating changes to best management practices (BMP). One such change pertains to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s new BMP that no longer recommends nest surveys in complex, undisturbed habitat to reduce risk to birds. This change has resulted in the new standard BMP of avoiding work during the breeding bird season. As the breeding bird season typically spans from April to August and overlaps with many potash industry activities, such as exploration, construction, and operations, it is quite challenging for the industry to adhere to this new BMP, which is where CanNorth can help.

CanNorth has been assisting a variety of potash mines develop alternative practices that allow work to proceed from April to August, while mitigating risk to birds.

CanNorth has been assisting a variety of potash mines develop alternative practices that allow work to proceed from April to August, while mitigating risk to birds. Feasible Avian Risk Assessment Programs that ensure due diligence during the breeding bird season are the potash industry’s solution, and CanNorth is providing companies with the necessary tools and experience needed for the implementation of such programs. A few key components to these programs include:

  • A Migratory Bird Conservation Act(MBCA) guidance document;
  • An MCBA awareness presentation;
  • Standard operating procedures;
  • Bird surveys to establish species composition/distribution and habitat within project areas; and
  • Comprehensive habitat risk-based maps and pertinent mitigation options.

As expected, the transition to the new BMP has spurred a variety of permitting and approval processes that potash companies have successfully navigated with CanNorth’s help. To contribute to the potash company’s success, CanNorth maintains active communication with federal and provincial officials to ensure the most recent information, including any changes to legislation, policies, and/or recommended approaches that aim at preventing harm to migratory birds and their habitats, is available to its clients.

Ultimately, careful design and planning of an Avian Risk Assessment Program can mitigate risk to birds from potash industry activities during the breeding bird season – under CanNorth’s capable wing.