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Applying the Precautionary Principle in Environmental Assessment: The Case of Reviews in British Columbia

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This paper examines the application of the precautionary principle in environmental assessment, specifically using the Salmon Aquaculture Review and the Burns Bog Ecosystem Review in British Columbia as case studies. Lessons are drawn and advice is offered. A conceptual model is presented, framed according to the level of uncertainty regarding impacts and the likelihood of those impacts, as well as the irreversibility of impacts on the environmental system. A distinction is made between management strategies that should either avoid the activities in question or allow for adaptive management and, if implemented effectively, prevent or mitigate adverse effects. Applying the precautionary principle in environmental assessment requires, above all, clear communication and the development of a common understanding of the basis for decisions. The model presented in this paper is suggested as a tool from which a more specific methodological framework can be developed on a case by case basis.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Jacques Whitford Environment Limited, 3 Spectacle Lake Drive, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B2T 1N6, Canada. [email protected]

Publication date: May 1, 2003

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