Biodiversity

Corporate Responsibility

Biodiversity

Our Environmental Management System includes specific criteria to ensure biodiversity is considered in all operations as part our land management practices. Before we start any major project, we are required to do a comprehensive baseline assessment that includes biodiversity and wildlife species of concern. We follow the mitigation hierarchy steps:

1) avoid impacts to high value biodiversity areas (such as wetlands or other areas with important wildlife habitat); 2), minimize effects; and 3) restore/reclaim to an equivalent capability so the impact is temporary.

When possible, we contribute to creating and restoring ecosystems, including fisheries lakes and wetlands, as well as managing species of concern, such as caribou habitat restoration.

We assess our impact and incorporate long-term biodiversity and reclamation planning into our programs to maintain the regional characteristics of each ecosystem and reduce impacts to wildlife and wildlife movement. Our programs are supported by research and monitoring so that we can further assess our activities and document change and progress. This work helps us improve our practices to minimize effects on biodiversity, ensuring vegetation and wildlife can thrive on our sites. Research and monitoring programs to improve land reclamation practices support the biodiversity and wildlife of each region by promoting the re-establishment of soil, vegetation and species that are crucial to restoring natural ecosystems, such as caribou across our operations. For more information visit our Reclamation page.

To preserve biodiversity and promote natural habitats, we also work with industry, governments and communities to develop and implement management strategies. Read our program highlights in our 2018 Stewardship Report to Stakeholders.

Wildlife management

At Canadian Natural, wildlife management is considered in all phases of our projects to promote a healthy co-existence between our operations and species that live in or utilize the areas where we operate. Wildlife management programs, such as rigorous onsite waste management, bear awareness and bird deterrents, help minimize local wildlife habituation at our operations. We implement low-impact measures to protect wildlife at our sites, including controlled site access, minimized vegetation and soil removal, wildlife crossing structures above ground pipelines and effective reclamation. Additionally, we create enhanced habitats outside our operational areas ensuring migration options are available. Training is provided to operations staff and contractors to work safely and effectively when near wildlife.

At our oil sands mining facilities, we have leading edge bird deterrent programs, conduct daily monitoring and continuously assess improvements in deterrent performance. To enhance bird protection we’ve increased sound coverage with additional floating deterrents, long range acoustic devices and radar coverage to improve deterrent activation time.

Another aspect of wildlife management is the implementation and sharing of land use best practices and traditional knowledge with industry peers and Indigenous communities, to minimize wildlife interactions. By working with First Nations to maintain trapping activities, and share traditional knowledge and experience in the oil sands region, we are able to further enhance our wildlife management practices on and around site.

Boreal caribou conservation and habitat restoration

Boreal caribou management is a concern for all resource industries in northern Alberta and British Columbia, as they are listed as a ‘Threatened Species’ under the Federal Species at Risk Act. Canadian Natural supports coordinated work with industry, and provincial and federal governments, to develop strategies for caribou management and recovery through a balanced, long-term approach.

Canadian Natural participates in caribou research and collaborative projects through Government of Alberta-led caribou range planning, CAPP, COSIA, the Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration (RICC) in the Athabasca oil sands, the Foothills Landscape Management Forum and PTAC. Project-specific mitigation measures to manage habitat for caribou (and other wildlife), include integrated access planning to reduce footprint, habitat restoration and population augmentation.

We are also a funding partner in the maternal penning program led by the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations in northeast British Columbia. This program is aimed at reducing predation on newborn caribou calves and increasing caribou numbers in the southern mountain Pine River Local Population Unit. Read more about industry caribou habitat restoration efforts on the COSIA website.

Left: Boreal caribou at restored seismic lines, from remote wildlife camera. Right: planted seedlings growing on treated seismic line at Kirby.

Research and Monitoring

Biodiversity and wildlife monitoring is an important component of effective conservation strategies during project development, and final restoration and reclamation work after our projects come to an end. Regular monitoring and research of wildlife, biodiversity and species at risk are incorporated into our management and mitigation programs to develop best practices. For example, wildlife re-establishment studies and regional biodiversity monitoring allow us to improve sampling frequencies, monitoring protocols, etc.

Understanding how our presence affects wildlife species is important so we can take steps to limit the impact we have on their activities. Biodiversity monitoring takes place using regular inspections, remote cameras and wildlife collars. Independent studies have helped us improve our mitigation strategies at our mining and thermal operations, and have also shown that local wildlife can successfully thrive close to our facilities. We also participate in regional biodiversity monitoring programs.

Research and monitoring programs to improve land reclamation practices support the biodiversity and wildlife of each region by promoting the re-establishment of soil, vegetation and species that are crucial to restoring natural ecosystems. Where possible, sensitive landscapes, such as wetlands and areas with important wildlife habitat, are avoided. Our reclamation strategies on forested sites, grasslands and management of other habitats, support wildlife protection such as caribou habitat across our operations. For more information visit our Reclamation page.

Highlights of our research and monitoring programs include:

  • Wildlife movement studies — including moose, wolves, and caribou.
  • Assessment of bird and wildlife colonization on reclaimed land; and
  • Studies of vegetation performance including establishment of rare and medicinal plants. 

In the Athabasca Oil Sands Region for example, an early successional wildlife study is showing that species that typically live in mature boreal forests are returning to and re-establishing on older reclaimed sites (greater than 20 years), including insects, small mammals, amphibians and birds.

Photos from our wildlife monitoring programs at Horizon. Left: Killdeer eggs. Middle: baby Canadian toad. Right: horned lark.

Read more highlights of our biodiversity and management programs in our 2018 Stewardship Report to Stakeholders.