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Nanaimo calculates value of nature

NANAIMO – The city will look at the value of Buttertubs Marsh as natural infrastructure in a new pilot study.

The City of Nanaimo will sum up the value of Buttertubs Marsh in a new pilot study.

Nanaimo will join four other Canadian cities in a pilot study that aims to show the value of maintaining natural infrastructure like wetlands and forests.

The Municipal Natural Capital Initiative, organized by the David Suzuki Foundation, Town of Gibsons and others, will see Nanaimo measure the value of Buttertubs Marsh’s storm water retention and flood-control features with the same accounting standards used for capital assets.

Rob Lawrance, city environmental planner, said the city and its partners, Ducks Unlimited and Nature Trust of B.C., will look at what an equivalent engineered system costs the city to maintain and do what the marsh does naturally, as well as how the city could maintain the natural system and what it would cost compared to an engineered one.

The project budget is $31,000, with the City of Nanaimo contributing $15,000 and the rest coming from donors, according to Lawrance. He said for some, the project might add clarity about the value of parks and natural spaces in the city, especially when compared to an engineered system, and help people see parks and wetlands as more than a place to go for a nice walk. He also said it will help to restore, maintain and monitor ecosystem health by defining a value that the city can choose to incorporate into budgets.

“It’s somewhat cutting edge because this hasn’t really been done extensively in Canada,” he said.

The project begins in August and continues throughout 2017. Grand Forks, West Vancouver and Ontario’s Region of Peel and Oakville were also chosen.