British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

End Land Use objective planning : integrating an ecosystem based approach into biodiversity and reclamation… Franklin, C. W.; Burton, A. 2018

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END LAND USE OBJECTIVE PLANNING: INTEGRATING AN ECOSYSTEM BASED APPROACH INTO BIODIVERSITY AND RECLAMATION PLANNING  C.W. Franklin, Msc1 A. Burton, Msc, P.Ag2  1Acting Manager, Environmental Operations Teck Coal Limited, Sparwood, Canada  2Qukin ʔamakʔis Stewardship Coordinator Ktunaxa Nation Council, Cranbrook, Canada   ABSTRACT Mining operations in British Columbia are governed by regulation to plan towards End Land Use (ELU)   objectives. Historically, ELU objectives at Teck Coal Limited’s (Teck) operations in southeastern British Columbia have been focused on single or closely related uses represented over broad temporal periods, such as “wildlife habitat”. Teck has been moving towards the aspirational vision of achieving a Net Positive Impact (NPI) in areas where Teck operates, in as much Teck is collaboratively working with the Ktunaxa Nation Council (KNC) in redefining what the ELU objectives could be. This collaboration strategically facilitates dialogue that has occurred between KNC and Teck over many years, and aligns with guidance from Ktunaxa citizens, who are deeply connected with a vision of what the landscape would look like post-mining. The main intent was to define a holistic approach that includes elements of NPI as well as cultural knowledge and use from the Ktunaxa Nation’s perspective. Working in an open and collaborative process, Teck and KNC have developed an approach to ELU objective planning based on an ecosystem approach which defines multiple end land uses on the same areas that evolve and change over time as the successional status of the ecosystems mature. This approach has enabled Teck to present ELU objective plans that move away from managing for single, or relatively few, end land use targets that remain static over time. In addition, the approach models ecosystem successional development and identifies temporal distributions where ELU objectives adapt and change over time in relation to the evolving ecosystem conditions. The ELU objective planning is the foundation for reclamation planning and revegetation treatments and is aligned with the vision of NPI and the Ktunaxa Nation’s view of reclamation planning to achieve ecological function and natural change over time.  KEY WORDS Net positive impact, Ktunaxa Nation, reclamation, ecological function, ecosystem approach, biodiversity management.   Introduction  BC government regulations require mine operations to designate the End Land Use (ELU) objectives for the site, which then guide reclamation planning to meet the stated objectives. End Land Use objectives at Teck’s coal operations in southeastern British Columbia (see Figure 1) have been primarily defined in the past to accommodate or to mitigate for a single species, guild or anthropogenic activity. Examples include such ELU objectives of ‘Wildlife Habitat – Ungulates’, ‘Recreation’ and ‘Limited Yield Forestry’. This approach has resulted in reclamation practitioners designing prescriptions and programs to provide conditions that meet a single or nominally low number of values and objectives in the long-term. In addition, there has been little opportunity to focus on implementing ELU objectives that have strong ties to Ktunaxa Nation cultural or ecological knowledge, or stewardship values. While this approach has served the industry well in some ways in past years, it was identified that the process required some rethinking to become more in line with today’s evolving scientific and societal values, and reconciliation with Indigenous Nations. Specifically biodiversity conservation and landscape-level planning, progress in the legal landscape for First Nations, evolving values of communities of interest, and fulsome inclusion of the Ktunaxa Nation perspective into the narrative of ELU objective planning.  In 2011 Teck adopted an aspirational, long-term goal to achieve a NPI on biodiversity. Achieving NPI means that biodiversity will be better off as a consequence of Teck’s operations. The scope of our NPI aspiration applies to ecosystems, critical landscape functions (e.g. connectivity corridors), and priority threatened and/or vulnerable occurrences of plants and animals, places and ecosystem services.  It was particularly important to include ecosystem services (the benefits that humans receive from nature) as many are highly valued by our communities of interest and First Nations. The goal of NPI has important linkages to ELU objective planning and the two cannot be advanced independently.  Teck has five mines in southeast BC located in the Elk Valley, which is found within the Ktunaxa Nation’s Traditional Land District of Qukin ʔamakʔis. To achieve this shift in redefining ELU objectives, an end land use plan is developed for each operation as part of broader closure planning objectives that will focus on ecosystem rehabilitation as the main goal, with a target of ecosystems that occurred in the pre-existing, or pre-mining condition for reclamation. The end land use plan will also estimate shifts in the ELU objectives over time as the ecological trajectories of the ecosystem mature. This ensures that ELU objective planning is considered over the long-term and that a variety of end land uses can occur on the landscape over different ranges of time, just as they do in a natural system. These differing ecosystem classifications act as a surrogate for distinct habitat types that provide for a fulsome variety of wildlife, plant and other biota guilds and species. The intent is to focus on the rehabilitation of functioning ecosystems and through this approach, many different habitats can occur. This is in alignment with Teck’s biodiversity management planning process that identifies numerous individual species-specific ecosystem and biodiversity elements and assigns them to specific ecosystem types. The vision is to rehabilitate the ecosystem in a manner that benefits many ecosystem and biodiversity elements, as opposed to targeting a single habitat type (which should not remain static over time).  The ELU objectives underpin the entire reclamation planning sequence. With the historical ELU objectives there was a focus on maintaining a ‘steady-state’ approach in order for the reclaimed areas to continue to provide structure and function for the intended ELU objective of that area. Although some ecosystems do achieve a near steady state in their climax trajectories, the majority of natural ecosystems that occur in Qukin ʔamakʔis (Elk Valley) experience dynamic conditions that include evolving structural components and function as areas progress along their ecosystem trajectories. For this reason the ELU objectives were updated and redefined to mimic natural cycles, and to project that the site evolves and changes as reclaimed areas mature and move through the different ecological trajectory structural stages. This aligns with Ktunaxa knowledge and understanding of the natural world as well.       Figure 1 Teck’s Coal Mining Operations in Southeastern British Columbia  A Collaborative Process to Defining a Novel End Land Use Objective Approach  In early 2016 Teck and the Ktunaxa Nation Council (KNC) began working collaboratively to develop a novel approach to ELU objective planning. This approach considers dynamic ELU objectives by recognizing successional development and ecological trajectories over time on reclaimed sites.  Another critical aspect of the planning is inclusion of cultural knowledge, ecological knowledge, and stewardship values in ELU objectives in order to align with the Ktunaxa Nation’s world view. The Ktunaxa Nation has occupied Ktunaxa ʔamakʔis (Ktunaxa Territory) for over 10,000 years; incorporating their knowledge and values into ELU objectives and subsequent reclamation work is appropriate given that they will continue to be present in Ktunaxa ʔamakʔis long after the mines are reclaimed. KNC appreciates the open approach Teck is taking with the redesign of ELU objectives. This collaborative approach is incorporating the Ktunaxa vision for the post-mining landscape. This vision is aligned with the new ecosystem-based approach to reclamation, and site evolution (and thus ELU objective evolution) over time. The work that Teck and KNC have brought forward is resulting in meaningful policy change, direct on-the-ground changes at Teck’s coal operations in Qukin ʔamakʔis (Elk Valley) and broader engagement and collaboration between the two parties.  Background on End Land Use Objectives at Coal Mines in Southeastern British Columbia  Current ELU objectives at Teck operations in Qukin ʔamakʔis are updated according to the definitions submitted in the end land use objective sections as part of recently submitted overall reclamation and closure plans. This marks a step change in how ELU objectives are defined for Teck operations and relies on an ecological approach as the first step; pre-mining ecosystems are now the target for reclamation. The single largest change is multiple ELU objectives occurring in the same spatial areas and being measured through an ecosystem based approach. Reclaimed sites are modeled to follow expected ecological trajectories of the different ecosystems. As the reclaimed ecosystems mature, their structural stages change and along with it the functions the landscape provides, and thus the ELU objectives are expected to evolve.   The end land use objective plan is thus long-term and focuses on providing a wide range of ELU objectives over a spatial distribution and a temporal distribution. The long-term planning horizon of modeling ELU objectives into the future also aligns with the Ktunaxa world view and stewardship principles, as the Ktunaxa planning window stretches multiple generations into the future to ensure that actions taken today contribute to the betterment of future generations.  End Land Use Objective’s Role in Biodiversity and Reclamation Planning  Defining ELU objectives that support ongoing mine operational and closure requirements is a critical component of planning because ELU objectives inform all other aspects of closure planning including reclamation prescriptions and annual and five year plans. End land use objectives must be compatible with other closure requirements such as NPI and they must be achievable in an efficient and economically viable manner to be considered truly sustainable. Figure 2 illustrates the interactions and hierarchical nature of how ELU objectives fit into the overall sequence of events that lead to ‘on the ground’ reclamation actions. Teck’s Biodiversity Program is the overarching driver and management regime that underpins all of Teck’s planning and operational reclamation activities. Figure 3 shows the Biodiversity Program and how many different inputs and outputs will impact the eventual designation of ELU objectives.  Figure 2 Hierarchical Summary of the Interaction of End Land Use Objectives in Teck’s Overall Approach through the Biodiversity Program. End land use objectives create the foundation for ‘on-the-ground’ reclamation activities. Between the ELU objectives and the reclamation prescriptions there are several management layers that ensure a structured and holistic approach to defining reclamation prescriptions.  The Terrestrial Cumulative Effects Management Plan (TCEMP) is the regional manifestation of the five Biodiversity Management Plans for the operations in the Elk Valley. It combines all of the individual management plans and works to manage the interactions between the different operations at the larger landscape level. End land use objectives define how to move forward for planning in the TCEMP framework and eventually this resolution finds its way into the detailed Biodiversity Management Plans at each of the Teck operations in Qukin ʔamakʔis (Elk Valley). This approach ensures that end land use objectives are inherently included in the design constructs of the TCEMP and the operation-specific Biodiversity Management Plans.  Site-specific Biodiversity Management Plans contain all of the data and actions required to manage for different ecosystem and biodiversity elements. The Biodiversity Management Plans are the fundamental driver in cataloguing and therefore understanding impacts to ecosystems and to work towards defining structured mitigation to achieve NPI for those impacts. One of the critical components is the determination of ecosystems that will occur in the post-closure mining landscape; through this work the ecosystems that will define the ELUs are identified. The ELU objectives are then used to inform the development of detailed mine and reclamation plans and/or closure plans. The detailed reclamation prescriptions for a site rely on the information within the ELU objective section in long-term mine and Reclamation Prescriptions Reclamation Plan Biodiversity Management Plan Terrestrial Cumulative Effects Management Plan End Land Use Objectives reclamation and/or closure plans which describes the different types of ecosystems that are planned through reclamation.  A reclamation plan is developed for each operation that provides detailed information on sequencing and timing of reclamation activities. In terms of ELU objectives the critical component of the reclamation plan is reclamation prescriptions designed to start reclaimed sites on an ecological trajectory towards pre-existing ecosystem conditions.   Figure 3 Teck’s Biodiversity Program Integrating an Ecosystems Based Approach into End Land Use Objectives  The integration of an ecosystem based approach to ELU objectives was a ‘natural fit’ for Teck’s Biodiversity Program. The vision of NPI required some reflection on management actions including detailed reclamation prescriptions, species-specific action plans and mine design that have linkages with the ‘on-the-ground’ activities.   One of the first decisions made was to adopt and apply provincial standards for ecosystem classification metrics on the mine sites themselves. This enabled Teck to draw on the vast amount of work completed in the province of British Columbia and utilize established standards that are generally accepted by many of Teck’s communities of interest. An important aspect for ELU objective planning was to systematically describe ecosystem structural stages across a consistent framework. To accomplish this a modified version of the structural stages as described in the Terrestrial Ecosystem Mapping (TEM) standards is utilized. By using this standard of describing the structural stages of ecosystems it was possible to start to define dynamic shifts in ELU objectives over time as represented at a discrete spatial location. The time periods in the ELU objectives are defined to line up exactly with how structural stages are defined in Table 1 Structural Stage Definitions for Ecosystems. For clarity and ease of use Teck has combined structural stages 1 – 3 and 4 – 5 to limit the number of target points for assigning ELU objectives.  Table 1 Structural Stage Definitions for Ecosystems Structural Stage Description Characteristics Stand Age Post disturbance stages or environmentally limited structural development 1 Sparse/Cryptogram Initial stages of primary succession or a very early stage of cohort establishment following a stand-destroying disturbance or a cryptogram community maintained by environmental conditions. 0 years to undefined as some ecosystems are maintained in this stage. Stand initiation stages or environmentally induced structural development 2 Herb Early successional stage or an herb community maintained by environmental conditions or disturbance. Generally dominated by herbs. < 20 years Some ecosystems are maintained in this stage. 3 Shrub/Herb Early successional stage or a shrub community maintained by environmental conditions or disturbance. Tree cover is sparse but tree seedlings and advanced regeneration may be abundant. <20 years (low shrub modifier) <40 years (tall shrub modifier) Some ecosystems are maintained in this stage. Stem exclusion stages 4 Pole/Sapling Trees >10m tall, typically densely stocked and have overtopped herb and shrub layers. Time since disturbance usually <40 years. Some older stagnated stands 100+ years are also included. < 40 years Can be variable depending on environmental conditions and stocking. 5 Young Forest Self-thinning has become evident and forest canopy has started to differentiate into different layers. Begins as early as 30 years and can extend to 50 – 80 years depending on ecological conditions. <80 years Understorey re-initiation stage 6 Mature Forest Trees established after the last stand-replacing disturbance have matured, a second cycle of shade-tolerant trees may have become established, shrub and herb understories become well developed as the canopy opens up. The time since disturbance is generally 80 – 140 years for Natural Disturbance Type (NDT) 3 and 80 – 250 years for NDT 1, 2 &4. See Biogeoclimatic Ecosystems database for current NDTs. 80 – 250 years Old growth stage 7 Old Growth Forest Stand of old age with complex structure, patchy shrub and herb understories, regeneration of shade-tolerant species. Structural attributes will differ across BEC units and zones. 140 – 250+ years  Potential End Land Use Objective Categories of the Ecosystem Based Approach  As Teck moves towards achieving a NPI on biodiversity, communication with regulators, First Nations and communities of interest is required to define how this aspirational vision would interact with ELU objective planning. One of the main inputs or gains towards NPI is through rehabilitation or reclamation programs on lands impacted by Teck’s operations. Teck is now implementing reclamation plans with a goal of re-establishing pre-mining ecosystems. This is supported by mapping a backcasted ecosystem condition for each of the operations in Qukin ʔamakʔis (Elk Valley). Through understanding what conditions occurred before major mine disturbance it was possible to look at setting targets for end land use objectives that aligned with past conditions. Ktunaxa citizens strongly support the approach of re-establishing pre-mining ecosystems. It is congruent with Ktunaxa stewardship principles such as restoring healthy and diverse ecosystems, and ensuring that long-term sustainability and ecological integrity take precedence.  Regulatory approval is required for ELU objectives for mine operations in BC. Prior to submitting the updated ELU objectives, Teck, with the support of KNC, engaged with regulators to explain the shift in ELU objective approach; having a unified approach between Teck and KNC was very beneficial for the new process and methodologies which ultimately obtained regulatory approval.  Some of the ELU objectives identified and included in recent submissions are shown below. In the end land use plan section of the Five Year Mine Plan and Reclamation Plan submissions these ELU objectives are grouped by ecosystem classifications and then distributed across the different structural stages for each of the ecosystem types. Examples include: • First Nations cultural use; • recreation; • commercial forestry; • wildlife habitat – winter range (bighorn sheep focus) • wildlife habitat - winter range (ungulate focus); • wildlife habitat – winter range (moose focus); • wildlife habitat – summer range (ungulate focus); • wildlife habitat – escape terrain • wildlife habitat (birds, small mammals); • wildlife habitat (birds, amphibians) • wildlife habitat (badgers); • wildlife habitat (grizzly bears); • wildlife habitat (fish); • wildlife habitat (lynx); • wildlife habitat (cavity dependent); • rare and listed plant habitat; and • high biodiversity value. Planning for multiple ELU objectives that will occur in the same areas results in a holistic approach to reclamation planning and vegetation prescriptions. The process can be quantitatively assessed by measuring reclaimed areas and comparing them to pre-existing ecosystem conditions, or relative local benchmarks if pre-existing ecosystem community data is not available. By using provincial standards for data collection and assessment the approach is robust and fits within existing frameworks which can enable data sharing with other users. Bringing it all Together into an Operationalized End Land Use Objective Plan  The ELU objectives are summarized at each Teck operation in the overall Closure Plan or Five Year Mine Plan and Reclamation Plan that is submitted to regulators and First Nations every five years or whenever significant changes to the mine plan are proposed. An example of how this comes together operationally is provided in Table 2 for dry forest types.  Table 2 Example of End Land Use Objectives    Figure 4 shows the progression of end land uses over time as the dry forest ecosystem matures. For instance, in earlier structural stages there is opportunity for American badger (Taxidea taxus) habitat which then slowly shifts towards other wildlife species and guilds as the ecosystem condition advances along the ecological trajectory. End land use objectives such as habitat for cavity nesters does not occur until the forested types enter the mature structural stage. As shown in Table 3, some ecosystems will not advance beyond certain structural stages; this is fully incorporated in the ELU objective planning. For example, grasslands and alpine conditions values are paramount on the landscape despite their general lack of trajectory into the conditions defined by later structural stages of forested types.  Table 3 Example of Alpine Ecosystems   Another way to represent the sequence of ecological trajectory and ELU objective dynamics is presented in Figure 4. The example is a dry forest type. Some of the end land use objectives such as First Nations Cultural Use and Recreation are continuously present over time. For instance, First Nations cultural value is a constant across the landscape. For each ecosystem and at each point in the trajectory there are definitive differences such as availability of different plants, medicines and animals but the overarching value is that the Ktunaxa Nation will be able to exercise their rights, title, and interests in different ways as the ecosystem changes over time. Similarly, for the ELU objective of recreation, the means of recreation will shift and adapt with changing ecosystem conditions but the overall objective of opportunities for recreation will remain constant.   Figure 4 Process of Dynamic End Land Use Designations over Time Next Steps and Path Forward  The next steps for ELU objective planning at Teck include implementing updated reclamation prescriptions to ensure ecosystem rehabilitation is focused on the long-term goal of establishing trajectories towards natural ecosystem conditions. This will be supported by an in-depth vegetation quality assessment monitoring program that will give a quantitative value or score of reclaimed areas as they compare to pre-existing or natural benchmark conditions. Comparing reclamation results to natural conditions may enable Teck to identify ecological trajectory midpoints that could lead to an understanding of the likelihood of achieving climax ecosystem conditions. The KNC will continue to work directly with Ktunaxa citizens to support a deep understanding of what the Ktunaxa vision is for the post-mine landscape. Feedback from citizens will be shared with Teck on an ongoing basis, and will help guide reclamation prescriptions and multiple plans: annual reclamation 40 - 80 YearsDisturbance:FireInsect140 - 250+ YearsCommercial ForestryWildlife Habitat (Winter Range - Moose)Wildlife Habitat (Birds)Wildlife Habitat (Cavity Dependent)High Biodiversity ValueRare and Listed Plant HabitatCommercial ForestryWildlife Habitat (Winter Range - Moose)Wildlife Habitat (Birds)Wildlife Habitat (Cavity Dependent)Structural Stage 6 Mature ForestStructural Stage 7 Old Forest Structural Stage 1 - 3 Sparse/Herb/Shrub Structural Stage 4 - 5 Young Forest80 - 250 YearsYearsVariableWildlife Habitat (Winter Range Ungulate)Wildlife Habitat (Birds, Small Mammals)Wildlife Habitat (Badger)End Land Use Objective End Land Use ObjectiveEnd Land Use Objective End Land Use ObjectiveWildlife Habitat (Winter Range Ungulate)Wildlife Habitat (Birds)Wildlife Habitat (Lynx)End Land Use Objectives Consistent Across all Structural Stages:First Nations Cultural Use and Recreationreports, Five Year Mine Plan and Reclamation, Closure, Biodiversity Management and end land use objective plans. Both Teck and KNC are looking forward to ongoing engagement and information sharing as we learn more in the coming years, on both implementation of reclamation and trajectories over time as well as citizen direction and how that is incorporated and manifested on site. The ELU objective process is not without its share of challenges, which has provided an opportunity for Teck and the KNC to work together in defining processes and mitigations and present them to regulators and communities of interest resulting in a positive response. It will be important to maintain this cooperative relationship managing ELU objectives far into the future to ensure a sustainable and appropriate approach for reclamation is implemented and Teck achieves healthy and functioning ecosystems for future generations. Conclusion  End land use objective planning at coal mines in southeastern British Columbia has historically targeted specific uses or habitats for discrete guilds of wildlife, or single use anthropogenic values. As Teck develops and implements our aspirational vision of NPI, end land use objectives required updates to support this institutional shift towards managing Teck’s impacts on biodiversity. The idea of redefining end land use objectives was initiated in conversations between Teck and KNC. It then advanced through open, meaningful dialogue and collaboration that lead to a jointly developed approach in which the goal is to learn from the natural laws of ecosystem succession. As a result, Teck has updated ELU objectives which drive reclamation planning, and together with KNC, successfully reached out to convey Teck’s message and garner support with regulators and other communities of interest.  


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