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Wetland assessment and impact mitigation decision support framework for linear development projects: The Louis Riel Trail, Highway 11 North project, Saskatchewan, Canada

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Abstract:

Next to agriculture, road development is one of the most significant sources of stress to wetlands in Prairie Canada. However, there currently exists limited guidance for incorporating direct, indirect, and induced effects to wetlands in impact assessment and mitigation planning for small and often routine developments, including access roads or highway improvement initiatives. Based on the Louis Riel Trail, Highway 11 North twinning project in Saskatchewan, Canada, this article demonstrates a methodological approach and decision support framework for assessing and managing direct, indirect, and induced effects to wetlands from linear developments. No regulatory‐based environmental assessment was required for the highway project; effects were deemed to be insignificant under current wetland mitigation practices. However, our results show that 1115 ha of potentially affected wetlands are located within a 500 m impact zone on either side of the proposed highway. More than 50 percent of these wetlands are seasonal, less than 1 ha in size, and typically not included in mitigation planning. An expert‐based multi‐criteria evaluation of impact and mitigation options for wetlands in the study area indicated “no net loss” as a planning priority, and a preference for a spatially ambitious mitigation plan focused on direct, indirect, and potentially induced impacts. In practice, however, mitigation is often restrictive, focused on mitigating only direct impacts within the project's right‐of‐way, in this case less than 50 ha of wetlands, resulting in the potential for significant net loss of wetland habitat and function. If the risk to wetlands is to be given due consideration in project planning and development for roads and road improvement initiatives, then structured assessment methods and decision support frameworks should be sensitive to the time and resource constraints of small projects and screening‐type assessments. This requires also that wetland mitigation policies are developed and implementation plans formulated as part of project planning and assessment initiatives for linear developments.

Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1541-0064.2011.00398.x

Affiliations: 1: Assiniboine Watershed Stewardship Association, Yorkton, Saskatchewan 2: Department of Geography and Planning, and School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan 3: Wetland Restoration, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Saskatoon

Publication date: 2012-03-01

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