Goose Creek Watershed

Green Bylaws for Strategic Development that Protects Community Values

Goose Creek Watershed
Goose Creek Watershed (Photo courtesy of Mike Langegger)

An ELC submission prepared for the Kitimat Rod and Gun Club aims to help a local government strategically protect natural resources in its quickly growing community. Reforming Kitimat’s Local Laws During an Industrial Boom calls on the District to use green bylaws in order to improve environmental protection in the face of intense new development.

“Our natural environment is key to our community’s lifestyle, way of life, social, health, wellbeing and other related values,” says Mike Langegger of the Kitimat Rod and Gun Club. “Many Kitimat citizens are concerned that these important environmental values are being threatened and undermined by gold rush attitudes.”

Kitimat is in the midst of an industrial expansion boom but lacks local environmental policies to guide development in a way that protects the community’s interests. In particular, environmental data is incomplete, there is no local environmental assessment project for big projects that considers cumulative impacts, and community knowledge is not adequately considered. In addition, because the Province does not require adequate consideration of cumulative effects, projects are only considered in isolation, not cumulatively, which is creating a fragmented landscape. There is a pressing need to identify and map the municipality’s high value areas such as wetlands, old growth forests, important habitat, and to protect those areas with comprehensive municipal bylaws and procedures.

“It is our hope the solutions [in the ELC submission] will be used as a foundation moving forward in the next Kitimat OCP review, and aid in establishing needed bylaws and policy that better reflects environmental values and protects our natural environment within our community,” said Langegger.

Langegger hopes for bylaw reform that “reflects fully using our existing industrial infrastructure while enhancing connectivity across our land and waterscape to safeguard the natural environment that is a core part of our identity and makes Kitimat the outstanding community that it is.” On Mar 1, 2021, the ELC submission was presented to Kitimat Municipal Council, which directed to include the report recommendation as part of the ongoing OCP process.

Laura Bullock

The aspect of this project that surprised me the most was the volume of incredible resources and ongoing initiatives related to Green Bylaws in British Columbia. It was so inspiring to learn about the creative ways that municipalities across the province are implementing policies and bylaws to protect their natural areas. 

I think that the biggest takeaway of this report is the importance of taking action and paying attention to environmental issues on a local scale. The folks at the Kitimat Rod and Gun Club care so much about preserving wilderness in their community, and I think it’s important for individuals to make their voices heard to protect local ecological systems. This project was such a wonderful learning experience that allowed me to learn about Kitimat’s complex environmental needs and gain hands-on experience in researching and applying Green Bylaws. I am so grateful for the experience and confidence that I gained from being involved with the ELC.

Laura Bullock (ELC Fall 2020 Clinic student)

Project Synopsis

Developed under the supervision of lawyer supervisor Deborah Curran, author of the Green Bylaws Toolkit and ELC Executive Director

My project was a Green Bylaws recommendation report to assist the District of Kitimat in better supporting the community’s conservation needs during a time of rapid industrial expansion. As the District of Kitimat currently has very few bylaws and policies in place for the purpose of environmental protection, this project aimed to assist Kitimat in starting from scratch and implementing green bylaws that have proven to be effective in many BC municipalities and other jurisdictions.

After providing background information about a Green Bylaws approach and its benefits, I structured my report as six broader recommendations that aimed to guide Kitimat in addressing their community’s environmental needs.

First, I introduced the topic of ecosystem connectivity as a broader goal for Kitimat’s environmental bylaws and policies, and advocated that Council incorporate a connectivity-oriented approach through implementing a Green Infrastructure Network (similar to the City of Surrey), revising their Environmental Development Permit Area designations and guidelines, and updating their mapping system to plan for ecosystem connectivity.

Second, I introduced the concept of growth management and explained the importance of Urban Growth Boundaries in rationalizing the expansion of industry within Kitimat’s existing Industrial Zone.

Third, I expanded on the topic of growth management by discussing the importance of brownfield redevelopment, with specific attention to British Columbia’s Revitalization Tax Exemption program as a tool for Kitimat to create incentives for redevelopment.

Fourth, I discussed the importance of identifying and monitoring the environmental impacts of development projects through Environmental Impact Assessment procedures and Ecological Indicators, both of which provide important impact-related information at different stages of the development process.

Fifth, I briefly canvassed the value of creating long-term plans to protect Kitimat’s watersheds and aquatic ecosystems, with particular attention to implementing Water Sustainability Plans in collaboration with local organizations, Indigenous organizations, and the Province of British Columbia.

Finally, I recommended that Kitimat implement procedures to incorporate a broader range of knowledge and input into municipal decision-making by hiring individuals with specific environmental training and expertise and implementing more robust consultation procedures with local and Indigenous knowledge holders.