Nature Provides Municipal Services
“The Town of Gibsons has developed and is implementing an Eco-Asset Strategy which recognizes the role of nature as a fundamental component of the municipal infrastructure system, leading to a greater understanding of the value of ecosystems services and improved financial and operational management plans of the community’s natural assets,” reports Emanuel Machado, Chief Administrative Officer.
“The Eco-Asset Strategy is a financial and municipal management approach that complements strategies to maintain, replace and build both traditional engineered assets (roads, storm sewers) and engineered ‘green’ assets, such as ‘rain gardens’. Moreover, the Eco-Asset Strategy can support municipal climate change adaptation and resilience building efforts.”
North America’s First Natural Asset Policy
“At the heart of the Gibsons Eco-Asset Strategy is North America’s first natural asset policy, which directs the municipality to consider the role of natural assets within our overall asset management strategy,” continues Emanuel Machado.
“What gives life to the policy is the fact that, once the natural asset is within the policy, a budget must be set aside for its ongoing management and maintenance, and town staff must work together to preserve its integrity.”
Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management
“The Eco-Asset Strategy focuses on identifying existing natural assets (green space, forests, topsoil, aquifers and creeks) that provide municipal services for water balance management; measuring the value of the municipal services provided by these assets; and operationalizing this information by integrating it into municipal asset management.”
“The forest in Gibsons contains creeks and ponds that manage, convey and filter rainwater runoff. If the Town can preserve the area as a healthy ecosystem and manage it in a way that optimizes its current functions, then it manages risks by avoiding a massive liability for building, installing and maintaining storm drains that would otherwise replace the existing natural system.”
“The need to protect headwater streams and groundwater resources in BC requires that communities expand their view from one that looks at the site by itself, to one that considers the site, watershed, stream and aquifer as an integrated system,” emphasizes Emanuel Machado.
Moving Towards an Ecological Accounting Protocol
“The Town’s annual financial statement includes an auditor’s note that establishes an accounting precedent. We foresee this first step leading to a broader conversation in the municipal finance community, and ultimately the creation of an Ecological Accounting Protocol that local governments can use for the valuation of their assets.”
“The strategy helps to explain the value of natural assets in terms of financial and management strategies. It takes Gibsons beyond making an environmental case for preserving nature, which is relatively straightforward, and beyond headline-grabbing but often hard-to-translate statements. In other words, the Eco-Asset Strategy allows the Town to bring the value of nature into the DNA of municipal decision-making,” concludes Emanuel Machado.