The British Columbia government is launching a first-of-its-kind effort to restore oil and gas “legacy sites” across northeastern B.C. This initiative is expected to support good-paying local jobs, clean up the environment and restore traditional lands.

A legacy site is an area of land disturbance, such as a seismic cut line previously used for oil and gas activities. The disturbance to the natural environment has long-lasting effects on traditional land uses by Indigenous peoples and on wildlife habitat.

Historically, all vegetation on these sites was removed to allow for the movement of large vehicles and equipment. These sites were created at a time when restoration or reclamation was not required to meet today’s higher standards.

This new initiative of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Legacy Sites Restoration program is a collaboration between the provincial government, the federal government, Indigenous communities, and a consortium of industry members.

“This new program is one of three aimed at cleaning up the environment by restoring lands impacted by the oil and gas sector in northeastern B.C.,” said Bruce Ralston, B.C.’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Low-Carbon Innovation. “Our $6.5-million investment with our partners will put British Columbians back to work, clean up our environment and advance reconciliation.”

Historical oil and gas development has had a variety of impacts on the regional environment as well as the people and wildlife that rely on it. For example, wide swaths of deforested land make it easier for predators to hunt caribou that traditionally travel these routes, causing caribou populations to decline. Legacy site restoration includes soil and vegetation replacement, providing caribou with a suitable habitat to raise their offspring.

In 2020, the province and the oil and gas sector signed the Petroleum and Natural Gas Restoration Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate on planning and jointly funding projects designed to restore and/or reclaim legacy oil and gas disturbances of the natural landscape.

“Working with Minister Ralston and the Government of British Columbia, we are creating jobs, cleaning up our environment and supporting the hardworking people in our oil and gas sector,” said Seamus O’Regan Jr., federal Minister of Natural Resources.

The province and signatories to the MOU initially contributed $1.5 million to help implement the restoration program. Subsequently, the province allocated an additional $5 million to restore legacy sites from the $120 million provided by the Government of Canada to clean up oil and gas sites as part of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

The province divided this funding into three programs: the Dormant Sites Reclamation program, the Orphan Sites Supplemental Reclamation program, and the Legacy Sites Restoration program. The three programs will boost the provincial economy and accelerate restoration of the environment.

The implementation of the MOU, overseen by a restoration management committee, will provide opportunities for Indigenous communities, service contractors and stakeholders in B.C. to apply for funding to support restoration and reclamation activities.

“The $5 million in funding allocated to the restoration of legacy sites will build off the investment the oil and gas industry and the Government of B.C. previously made in caribou and habitat research, significantly augmenting our efforts to restore lands of important environmental and cultural relevance,” said Tristan Goodman, president, the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada. “We look forward to continued collaboration with the provincial government, Indigenous communities the federal government and other funding entities as we work toward accelerating restoration activities.”

To read more about the Petroleum and Natural Gas Legacy Sites Restoration program, click here.

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