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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cumulative effects information and environmental assessment decision-making in the Mackenzie Valley, Northwest Territories Arnold, Lauren


The purpose of this research was to investigate environmental assessment processes and how information about cumulative effects is used in decision-making about resource development activities in the Mackenzie Valley, Northwest Territories. In the context of expanding resource development, an understanding of cumulative impacts, which result from the combination of environmental stressors, is of increasing importance for freshwater resource management and decision-making. Cumulative effects assessment is supported by literature as a way of improving and progressing the environmental assessment process for resource development projects; it evaluates environmental impacts in combination with other past, present, and foreseeable impacts. Cumulative effects assessment is important to fully understand and to anticipate the consequences of resource development, but since it requires multiple types of information and multiple scales of analysis it is difficult to integrate into project-based environmental assessments. In the Mackenzie Valley, monitoring cumulative impacts is part of environmental assessment legislation as well as comprehensive land claim agreements; however, it is unclear how information about cumulative impacts is being used by environmental assessment decision-makers. This research included a document review of past environmental assessment reports and semi-structured interviews with representatives from organizations involved in environmental assessment. The objectives were to explore how cumulative effects information about freshwater is being used to guide decisions about resource development, identify the information organizations use and the information needed, and the key challenges for decision-making about cumulative effects. The results of this research highlight a weak connection between cumulative effects information and environmental assessment decision-making in the Mackenzie Valley and provide insight into how to better facilitate the use of cumulative effects information. The results align with and support existing cumulative effects and environmental assessment literature fields, but also illustrate key issues in the unique regulatory setting of the Mackenzie Valley.

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