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. We assess our impact and incorporate long-term biodiversity and reclamation planning into our programs to maintain the regional characteristics and biodiversity of each ecosystem, and reduce impacts to wildlife and on wildlife movement. To preserve biodiversity and promote natural habitats, we also collaborate with industry and other stakeholders.

Wildlife management

At Canadian Natural, wildlife management is considered in all phases of our projects to promote a healthy coexistence between our operations and species that live in or utilize the areas where we operate.

Wildlife management programs help minimize local wildlife habituation at our operations, including rigorous onsite waste management, bird deterrents and bear awareness programs. 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. We train operations staff and contractors to work safely and effectively when near wildlife.

Regular wildlife, aquatic and reclamation monitoring, as well as research into wildlife and biodiversity re-establishment, biodiversity and species at risk, provide us with up-to-date data that is incorporated into our management and mitigation programs. This allows us to improve sampling frequencies, monitoring protocols, etc. For example, we do reclamation monitoring and research for wildlife re-establishment, regional biodiversity monitoring and research of species at risk.

Research is underway on Canadian toad, a species classified as May Be at Risk in Alberta and commonly found in the oil sands region, to understand habitat, behaviour patterns and relocation success. We continually assess sites to ensure that toads (or other amphibians) are re-located to areas away from our mine activities. Read more highlights of our biodiversity and management programs in our 2017 Stewardship Report to Stakeholders.

At our Oil Sands Mining and Upgrading operations, we have leading edge bird deterrent programs. We have continued to enhance our bird deterrent program with additional floating deterrents, long range acoustic devices, and radar coverage to improve the deterrent activation time. We also conduct daily monitoring and continuously assess improvements in deterrent performance.

Another aspect of wildlife management is to implement and share best practices and traditional knowledge regarding land use with industry peers and Indigenous communities to minimize wildlife interactions. By working with First Nations trappers to maintain their trapping activities and share their 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. Boreal caribou are listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act, and Canadian Natural actively supports the need for coordinated caribou management planning. We continue to work with industry, and provincial and federal governments to develop strategies and plans for caribou recovery.

Through this work, Canadian Natural continues to emphasize the need for balanced and long-term approaches to achieving successful recovery outcomes for caribou, including:

  • viable provincial and federal economic activity, involving working landscapes, shared responsibility, efficient regulatory processes and optimized allocation of resources; and
  • the application of a full range of caribou recovery management tools at a caribou range and sub-range level.

Canadian Natural is supporting caribou research and collaborative recovery planning and actions through its membership in the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), the Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration (RICC) in the Athabasca oil sands, the Foothills Landscape Management Forum, the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada and the British Columbia Research Effectiveness and Monitoring Board. Industry initiatives include project-specific mitigation measures to manage habitat for caribou and other wildlife, integrated access planning at relevant operating sites to reduce future footprint, habitat restoration planning, implementation and monitoring, and innovative caribou population enhancement measures.

We are also a funding partner in the caribou maternal penning (population augmentation) program led by the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations in northeast British Columbia, aimed at reducing predation rates on newborn caribou calves. Read more about industry caribou habitat restoration efforts on the COSIA's 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

Canadian Natural invests in research and monitoring programs to gather data to develop informed decisions on improving our practices. Biodiversity and wildlife monitoring is an important component of effective conservation strategies during project development, and final reclamation and restoration work after our projects come to an end.

At our Oil Sands Mining and Upgrading operations, biodiversity monitoring takes place through regular inspections, remote cameras and wildlife collars to ensure the effectiveness of our Wildlife Management System in deterring wildlife from approaching tailings ponds. We also participate in regional wildlife activity monitoring programs.

Understanding how our presence affects wildlife species is important so we can take steps to limit the impact we have on their activities. Independent studies have helped us improve our mitigation strategies to manage the impact that our mining and thermal operations have on wildlife. They have also shown that local wildlife can successfully thrive close to our facilities.

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.
  • Plant community development and trembling aspen seedling establishment in different soil types.
  • Studies of vegetation performance including establishment of rare and medicinal plants. 

For example, at our oil sands mining operations, an ongoing early successional wildlife monitoring program is helping us assess to what extent wildlife is returning to and re-establishing on reclaimed habitats. Results thus far have shown a return of small mammals, amphibians, songbirds and bats. This program was incorporated into similar initiatives being funded by industry through COSIA, allowing for monitoring of wildlife on a regional scale. Results of these studies are incorporated into our wildlife management and reclamation programs to develop best practices in the years ahead.

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