The Importance of Natural Asset Management within the Greenbelt.
Written by Samantha Cava, Manager for the Natural Asset Management Program with the Greenbelt Foundation.
November 28th, 2023
Can you describe your role within the Greenbelt Foundation and the career path which led you there?
I currently serve as the Manager for the Natural Assets Management Program at the Foundation, where I coordinate initiatives in collaboration with municipalities, conservation authorities, and non-profits. My focus revolves around advancing natural infrastructure projects and municipal natural asset management regionally. I am deeply committed to enhancing and restoring the Greenbelt's overall health, while also supporting sustainable community services, climate mitigation, and adaptation efforts.
I am deeply committed to enhancing and restoring the Greenbelt's overall health, while also supporting sustainable community services, climate mitigation, and adaptation efforts."
Over the past eight years, my professional journey has been dedicated to promoting nature-based solutions and establishing protected areas. I have been fortunate enough to actively engage and work with various government and non-profit institutions developing awareness campaigns and strategic action planning. Based on my experiences, my interest and expertise lie in the strategic restoration and protection of landscapes, mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, and enhancing biodiversity.
Throughout my career, successful campaigns and initiatives have always been a product of collaborative partnerships. This collaborative spirit has been the driving force behind my passion and led me to my fulfilling role at the Foundation. The opportunity to continue this important work and make a tangible difference in environmental protection and enhancement is what motivates and inspires me every day.
What is Natural Asset Management and why is it important?
Broadly, natural assets encompass the wealth of natural resources and ecosystems that yield benefits to people. Specifically, 'municipal natural assets' denote the reservoir of natural resources and ecosystems upon which a municipality, regional district, or any local government entity relies, manages, or has the potential to manage. These precious resources, such as wetlands and forests, play a vital role in storing rainwater and mitigating flooding for example, serving as effective alternatives to engineered solutions.
There are many benefits to prioritizing natural asset management. Unlike engineered alternatives, most natural assets incur limited capital costs and lower operating expenses. Additionally, they exhibit superior resilience against the impacts of climate change and offer many co-benefits like carbon sequestration. Embracing natural asset management doesn't merely address the challenges posed by aging infrastructure and service delivery risks; it goes a step further by combating the decline of ecosystems.
The Greenbelt comprises diverse ecosystems which provide valuable services to both the environment and human communities. Managing natural assets ensures the continued delivery of ecosystem services, which are essential for the well-being of both the natural environment and the people who live in or around the Greenbelt. At the Foundation, our priority is supporting conversations and initiatives that raise awareness around the power and importance of natural assets so that Greenbelt municipalities can usher in a sustainable era, promoting resilience, cost-effectiveness, and environmental harmony.
What excites you about Natural Asset Management?
I am excited about natural asset management because it acknowledges the invaluable services rendered by natural ecosystems to our communities. What adds to this excitement is the vast research being conducted illuminating the economic advantages and other co-benefits of managing and protecting natural assets.
This research will hopefully act as a catalyst, compelling communities, and governments at every level to join forces, fostering collaboration to advance and make natural asset management a priority. Natural asset management is a fairly new initiative, and so there will be significant strides in the coming years. I am also excited to see natural asset management further involve and benefit local Indigenous communities, including harnessing the power of Indigenous knowledge.
On a global scale, natural asset management, and nature-based solutions in general, have transcended boundaries. It has emerged as a beacon of hope in our collective endeavour to address pressing environmental challenges like mitigating and adapting to climate change, conserving biodiversity, ensuring sustainable water and food supply, as well as enhancing human well-being and fostering economic growth.
Overall, natural asset management is another step towards creating a more sustainable and resilient future for both humanity and the natural world – which is extremely exciting.