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Local Governments Recognize the Importance of Natural Asset Management

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Toronto, May 16, 2024 – To support local governments in implementing natural asset management, the Natural Assets Initiative (NAI) has released “Nature is Infrastructure: How to Integrate Natural Assets in Asset Management Plans” a progressive guide which outlines comprehensive best practices so that municipalities can effectively manage natural assets as nature-based solutions can complement traditional “grey” engineered infrastructure and provide significant cost benefits while reducing growing risks to communities. This document aligns natural asset management, acknowledging unique benefits and attributes, with existing approaches and practices for built assets. It provides direction and insight for local governments developing natural asset management plans.

Supported by the Greenbelt Foundation and the Municipal Finance Officers’ Association of Ontario (MFOA), the guidance outlines how local governments across Canada are taking steps to incorporate natural assets into their asset management processes, recognizing their critical role in community infrastructure. Natural assets, such as wetlands, forests, and watercourses, provide essential ecosystem services that contribute to public services and improve quality of life.

Establishing the state of natural assets in Southern Ontario is one of the complexities this guide can assist. The document can help define the geographic scope, inventory, condition, and replacement costs while incorporating risk and criticality. More details can be found in Appendix D: Ontario Conservation Authorities Expertise and Support on Natural Asset Management within the Guidebook.

Natural assets are critical community resources that deliver ecosystem services, including clean drinking water, improved air quality, flood control, and recreational opportunities. It is crucial to acknowledge and manage these assets effectively to ensure their maximum benefit to building climate-resilient communities.

“Ontario’s natural systems provide us with many irreplaceable natural assets in one of the most biologically rich areas in all of Canada – Ontario’s Greenbelt,” said Edward McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Foundation. “The Greenbelt’s natural systems support ecological and human health and safeguard the vital resources that clean our air and water, reduce our flood risks, provide a home for wildlife, and ensure that our communities have greenspace to explore.”

By integrating natural asset management into their asset management frameworks, local governments can ensure the proactive and sustainable management of their natural assets. This approach will help preserve the ecosystem services provided by these assets and prevent their deterioration. Proper natural asset management will not only protect the Greenbelt and its prosperity but also interconnected natural heritage and water resource systems across southern Ontario – an area where the majority of Ontarians live.

As natural asset management continues to evolve, this guidance document serves as a valuable resource for local governments across Canada, especially in Ontario. By adopting standardized terms and approaches, communities can effectively manage their natural assets and maximize the benefits they provide to residents.

For more information on how to include natural assets in asset management plans and the guidebook, please visit: https://mnai.ca/nature-is-infrastructure-how-to-include-natural-assets-in-asset-management-plans/ and watch this webinar on how this Guidebook was developed.