To support the Government's commitment to a clean environment and a strong economy decisions around potential resource development and conservation plans involve balancing risks and benefits at project-specific, regional and national scales. Government, Indigenous communities, industry and local stakeholders have an interest in understanding and assessing the balance of potential development and conservation scenarios. In particular, the detection, management and monitoring of cumulative effects of resource development is at the interface of project-specific and regional concerns and is often raised as a priority by all stakeholders.
Building on the recommendations made from the Beaufort Sea Strategic Regional Plan of Action, the Beaufort Regional Environmental Assessment (BREA) addressed top priority gaps in science and generated regional environmental and socio-economic research intended to gather new information that would be of value to regulatory decisions for future oil and gas exploration and development in the Beaufort Sea. Both new, and historical, information was made available and accessible to all parties and stakeholders. The primary goal for BREA was to produce relevant scientific and socio-economic data that would inform project-level environmental assessments and regulatory decision-making for oil and gas activities, while strengthening the relationship between environmental assessments and integrated management and planning in the region.
Partners in the BREA have expressed an interest in ongoing commitments by Government to advance research and monitoring priorities related to resource management and conservation objectives. The Beaufort Regional Strategic Environment Assessment (BRSEA) will provide an opportunity to ensure continuity and continued interest in the outcomes of the Beaufort Regional Environmental Assessment. Elements of the BRSEA will include: providing a framework in which to support efficient future environmental assessments and regulatory decision-making; examining the cumulative effects of multiple activities or forecasted development and conservation scenarios; setting desired economic and environmental outcomes and thresholds; addressing regional interests and policy issues; and, take into account the risks and benefits of changes In the state of the ecosystem.
A Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment has been defined as "a process designed to systematically assess the potential environmental effects, including cumulative effects, of alternative strategic initiatives, policies, plans, or programs for a particular region"1. The goal of BRSEA is therefore, not simply expanding the scope of the spatial and temporal boundaries of a particular project, rather, it encompasses a comprehensive examination of the interrelationships between the environment, social, cultural and economic conditions, the traditional use and wildlife harvesting of natural resources and decision-making by inuvialuit, regulatory and planning authorities.
The BRSEA forms part of the science-based review included in the December 20, 2016 United States-Canada Joint Arctic Leaders' Statement.
From 2016 to 2021, the BRSEA initiative aimed to:
- Recommend desired economic and environmental outcomes and thresholds for oil and gas development in the Beaufort region while respecting the Inuvialuit Final Agreement and relevant regulatory processes.
- Advance baseline information and the state of knowledge for the Beaufort Sea while reflecting the dynamic nature of the environment.
- Support informed decision-making around possible future resource development and management, environmental conservation programs, community sustainable and subsistence activities, and other complementary commercial activities.
The BRSEA promotes engagement, education, monitoring, and research projects in the Western Arctic (the Canadian Beaufort Sea and Inuvialuit Settlement Region) Local and traditional knowledge and community input are essential to developing recommendations which will inform these decisions. The assessment is co-led by representatives from the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC), Inuvialuit Game Council (IGC), and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC).