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Stream integrity and fish habitat protection, growth management, economic opportunity, and recreational values are among the issues requiring attention for sustainability planning and design. The Stream Protection Regulations (SPR) of the Fish Protection Act introduced recently are intended to help guide decision-making regarding streamside-related issues. Nonetheless, questions and concerns have been raised regarding the SPR's role, effectiveness and/or impact on sustainability planning, especially in the urban context.

To explore questions and related issues, EDRS hosted a focused workshop on November 22, 2001 involving members of the following constituencies:

  • The developer/development community
  • The design community (architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners)
  • Municipal government (and other levels of government as may be interested)
  • ENGOs
  • Academic and general public

Knowledgeable, open-minded, sustainability-oriented participants interested in cooperatively exploring the SPR met together with a view to identify:

  • Strengths of the SPR and supported elements;
  • Issues and questions of concern regarding implementation particularly in the urban context;
  • Suggestions for solutions (design, decision-making) and next steps.

Workshop stages are described and highlights of full group discussion are provided in "Whole Group Report Outs." Scribe reports from each of the small working groups are also provided.

Whole Group Report Outs

Positive Aspects of the SPR

The need for attention to stream/fish habitat protection was taken (and declared) as a given and the starting point for identifying 'common ground.' Participants were asked to explore the SPR for those elements they collectively considered to be strengths or enablers. Some short-hand highlights of the group report-outs are presented below.

NB: Although there appeared to be general agreement with elements during the report out, some comments, along with later explorations, suggest that uncertainty and a number of questions still remain almost all of these points. Due to time constraints, it was not possible to 'unpack' each element or issue in detail. For the most part, therefore, the positive aspects identified here should be considered loosely and as possibilities or potentials rather than as a reflection of consensus or absolutes.

  • it’s short
  • first legislation of this kind in BC
  • design response required
  • options exist to go above and below the standards - flexibility/variety of approaches
  • setbacks - precautions are ‘on’ (exactness of the science?)
  • high comfort in defensibility of science, especially re: riparian role
  • may result in increasing greenspace (social value)
  • an opportunity to decrease long-term risks around streams
  • potential to stimulate increased enhancement - potential riparian areas
  • potential to promote sustainability in a number of ways
  • potential to promote consistency in protection
  • may protect streams from drainage storm water - water quality
  • includes definitions for increased clarity
  • potential to enhance property values
  • may enable streamlining in a number of cases - attention/energy might be devoted to challenging ones
  • potential for increased funding for streams (compensation, improvements)
  • potential for long-term economic benefits

Part 1 Small Groups Details: East || South || West || North

Interests, Issues and Concerns

MWLAP prepared an "interests" paper based on discussions at their October 10, 2001 multistakeholder meeting. Participants used this one pager as a starting point to explore interests and issues. Their task was to clarify and/or expand interests and identify additional issues or questions of concern. Once again, time did not permit as full an identification or exploration of issues as may be desired. The following provides highlights of the issues/concerns identified during the second whole group report out.

  • need for risk management by local and provincial government for issues such as flood erosion and property damage
  • the offset in the scientific literature doesn’t match the setback in the regulation (confusion of high water & top of bank?)
  • need government staffing support; at local, provincial and federal levels
  • interest in watershed perspective/approach, to focus on ecosystem health, including wildlife protection
  • public education and education re: ecosystem & services
  • clarification of local government responsibility and authority
  • need for harmonization with other programs, e.g., GVRD stormwater program
  • need to put upfront in land use planning & OCP
  • need to recognize that urban setting is only one part; should include all environments - fish and wildlife habitat
  • need a clearer process to reduce uncertainties & ambiguities, e.g., ephemeral streams; potential vegetation
  • need local government & private property guidance & appeal mechanisms re: approvals
  • issue of cross-boundary decision-making; e.g., watershed management perspective could cross several municipalities

Part 2 Small Groups Details: East || South || West || North


Participants were provided with four different sites/maps to initiate discussion and consideration of the ways in which the prescriptive and flexible approaches in the SPR might translate on a specific site. A number of participants were familiar with one or more of the sites offered for consideration and this enabled deeper understanding of context and issues.

The primary task for the next stage of the workshop was to consider possible design principles or implementation guidelines that may help more adequately or effectively address various interests and issues. (Scribes were directed to capture any new issues and questions raised during discussion generally and as a result of specific site explorations.) The following suggestions/issues were reported out to the whole group.

  • watershed planning - long term strategic planning; full resource data sets and interest representation
  • fairness for property value (explicit)
  • local government clarity re. variances
  • make sure variances can work - opportunities for tradeoff
  • allow for creativity (variances)
  • onsite visits (context) - as a requirement prior to decision-making + use of multiple data sources
  • integrated programs (not just setbacks) e.g. link to stormwater management
  • stream classifications - not all streams are equal (fish focus vs existing land use)
  • consistent and applicable inventory
  • in-stream (habitat) enhancement - possible exchange re. setbacks
  • appeal and dispute resolution procedures
  • add to environmental conservation interests: quality of life services
  • speak about property value vs. property values
  • accounting for & accommodating changes in the long term (e.g., impacts of future regulations or regulatory change on long term development plans in process; changes in understanding of ecosystem functioning, fish habitat needs, etc.)
  • caveat: fish and other system functions (re. classifications) - problem of relative values

Part 3 Small Groups Details: East || South || West || North

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'East' Group

Group Members:

    Andrew Appleton
    Catherine Berris
    Fin Donelly
    Wilma Leung
    Jim Mattson
    Ian Theaker
    Susan Wilkins
    Scribe: Raenelle Wood, Student

PART 1 - Good Points of SPR & Common Ground East

  1. Legislated
  2. Has generous setbacks
  3. Protects all watercourses into creek
  4. Has some flexibility
  5. Looks at potentials for areas to become riparian (restoration) - will stimulate more enhancement projects
  6. Increase green spaces and vegetation
  7. Will enhance property values nearby
  • tributaries to the stream also have to be conserved (logging and riparian areas)
  • no proper protection for runoff from logging areas (siltation)
  • potential vegetation (this includes roads) which is good
  • growing vegetation decreases siltation, but in summer will dry up
  • removal of leaf litter that holds water is constantly occurring now
  • streamside regulation is dealing with protecting riparian zones - doesn’t protect base flow (water quality), although just having riparian zones helps
  • GVRD land use planning
  • people don’t realize that wetlands (for eg.) are good
  • is leaving decision of 30m zone in hands of municipalities good?
  • many municipalities are not equipped to determine the equivalent (to 30m) of protection e.g. Quesnel or Sunshine Coast (where they have fewer staff members)
  • there are many grey areas where public interest take over
  • need a medium and something that is workable
  • no compensation for those that have fish-bearing stream (what if 30m happens to be in the middle of a road?)
  • regulation only applies to land that is to be redeveloped
  • many property owners bought properties before these laws (e.g. DFO laws) were established, with the intention of developing
  • land speculation is just that …. land speculation - you should not be entitled to developing at higher level because that was the land speculation at the time
  • green strips increase value for people who live nearby
  • when developing, leave clumps of trees (not individual growing trees) as green spaces - large trees no longer protected by other trees subject to wind storms that damage the trees and the property (houses)
  • projects now involve arborists who would rather be safe than sorry because they hold the liability - therefore they usually cut the trees
  • if property becomes unuseable, then it should be rebuilt
  • need adequate baseline to protect watershed
  • this legislation is a good move
  • width depends on existing streamside vegetation
  • roadside ditches that were built for drainage - but if they lead into a fish-bearing stream, then these ditches need to be protected (this is a questionable?)
  • this has huge implications
  • eliminate ditches and increase water infiltration - do you really need to take up all that land in a setback?
  • we need to have a hard line
  • developers look at value without looking at resources on property
  • currently planning is done and the creek is changed according to plans - instead of looking at the creek and planning around the creek

    [Part 1 details, other groups: East || South || West || North ]

    PART 2 - Additional Issues/Interests East

    Municipal Government MWALP:

  • bringing together 3 levels of government and would be a good way to deal with issues e.g. minutes of ERC written up and signed by people present
  • harmonization is occurring (in EIA for e.g.)
  • need more overlap between different levels of government
  • need a regulation for specific circumstances
  • federal government doesn’t have any specific concerns with watershed management
  • resources are an issue - do we have funding?

    Conservation and Environment:

  • look at whole watershed
  • more integrated management
  • want to look at more aspects of protecting the stream
  • set priorities
  • development of watershed plan in each municipality (but this costs money)
  • protection is just one tool - other tools include enhancement, restoration and stock management

    Private Property Use and Development:

  • in urban areas we have to expect/accept growth
  • in some areas we will accept damage to ecosystem- other areas we won’t
  • we do not help to set these priorities in SPR
  • mapping and classifying watersheds - we need a stratified suite of tools and levels of approach
  • DFO Watershed-Based Fish Sustainability Planning is a tool
  • but can the municipalities all use this?
  • need to integrate it into land-use plans as soon as possible (developers would also like this)
  • at an implementation level, definitions such as ephemeral streams and potential vegetation are ambiguous
  • municipalities are responsible for enforcing SPR - this is something that SPR has got right (?)
  • no relationship between SPR and Fisheries Act
  • salmon are a good indicator species for the health of the watershed

    [Part 2 details, other groups: East || South || West || North]

    PART 3 - Improvements/Solutions: East

    • clarify where is the top of the bank? (do we use high water mark or the top of the bank, because this differs in specific cases?)
    • need a standardized classification system across municipalities that includes all creek, waterways etc.
    • need a comprehensive inventory - this will show us what we have, but also shows areas needing improvement
    • allow for more creativity (flexibility) in management of riparian zones other than setbacks (e.g. this may tie in to stormwater management) - performance based as opposed to prescriptive regulation of approaches


  • SPR needs to provide classification of watercourses (e.g. SHIM)
  • there are lower standards for watersheds in developed areas (but in developed areas, streams may be more valuable?)
  • we should manage based on value of the stream
  • tie into stormwater management
  • usually developers want to know what zone it is that they are working in so that they can build around it (plan accordingly)
  • this forces them to talk to people with GIS and engineer for example - facilitates a more integrated approach
  • what are you measuring and what can you get from it?
  • performance standard at site level not yet possible
  • what are we going to learn from this?
  • adaptive management at the watershed level is okay, but difficult to do it at a site level
  • integrated municipal approval process
  • flexibility clause - needs to be a lot more classification of what is flexible and what is not
  • very little detail in clause about exactly what the approach should be
  • with SPR it details the last approach
  • a magic number of setbacks is difficult to work with - this will vary for different streams
  • but municipal staff who make these decisions may not be aware of alternatives and may make decisions based on tax benefits
  • if developer wants to pay enough money for being able to build closer to the stream at one area, this money can go towards “engineering” woody debris in the stream for example
  • need watershed plans in the different municipalities
  • what is being done by the provincial government to restore the massive salmon bearing streams in the province where we are losing wild salmon runs?

    [Part 3 details, other groups: East || South || West || North]

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    'South' Group

    Group Members:

      Sheldon Albert
      Rider Cooley
      Lisa Hewitt
      Steve Litke
      Danielle Lukovich
      Pamela Zevit
      Scribe: Alec Fernandes

    PART 1 - Strengths of the SPR South

    • The descriptions are excellent for bank stability; it is not ambiguous
    • The legislature is based on good science that is very accountable
    • There is general accessibility for the public

    [Part 1 details, other groups: East || South || West || North]

    PART 2 - Additional Issues South

    • Protection should include wildlife as well as fish
    • Protect all environments for its own sake
    • Must increase awareness and education (through publicity)
    • There should be a linkage between the different BMPs that can be applied to the problem at hand
    • Elaborate on “the quality of life”
    • Further explanation of “life services” that are provided by healthy streams
    • Protect property value (singular as there is only value associated with property - economic)
    • Better explanation and elaboration regarding “owner’s rights”

    [Part 2 details, other groups: East || South || West || North]

    PART 3 - Improvements/Solutions South

  • We should work with the streams and not against them to prevent many future problems, ie. bank stability and flooding.This would also reduce liability associated with the above problems
  • There has to be flexibility to allow for agreements between all levels of government, land developers, architects, etc. This idea could be a much greater problem to accomplish in practice
  • High density could be a solution to many of the above problems except that everyone wants “their backyard with white picket fences” However high density could be accomplished with larger natural spaces for everyone to share
  • To implement a similar plan would require a great deal of time to get permits and through red tape (a long transition phase)
  • A standard set of guidelines and permits will reduce the time required to complete the process (from design to construction)
  • There should be compensation for ecogifts of land to adjoining park land

    [Part 3 details, other groups: East || South || West || North]

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    'West' Group

    Group Members:

      Paul Berlinguette
      Jodi Dong
      Chris Johnson
      Ricardo Mercado
      Ward Prystay
      A Val Schaefer
      Scribe: Donovan Campbell, Student (Civl Eng)

    PART 1 - Good Points of SPR & Common Ground West

    • Clarified setback requirements for stream types
    • Flexibility with respect to method of implementation


  • The GVRD will be studying every watershed for the next 12 years. There will be no secondary treatment for some areas because there is no visible economic benefit. The North Shore desperately needs secondary treatment
  • The GVRD is focusing on storm water and will be pooling resources there. $100/residence (approx. $1 billion) will be spent to study and another $1 billion spent to implement an infrastructure. New York has $8 billion for a treatment plant after establishing bylaws to address storm water treatment. There is a magazine in USA that is available to all NGO’s, GO’s, …called “Storm Drain Management” which focuses on such issues and advances
  • SPR has become a little bit of science with some government ‘teeth’ therefore people think it is important. However, the implementation is falling apart. There are too many arguments (silly and easily dealt with) for why there should be no change. The SPR is too interdependent between the government levels, no one is acting because there is no clarity on what is to be done, or how best to do it
  • Many people have wanted the implementation method changed, but there is lots of flexibility with the current regulation
  • Negotiation must get out of provincial/federal hands. Who best to do it? The City. Municipality control will have better ways to deal with problems that are at their level, and the decisions must be FINAL (no meddling by provincial/federal gov.)
  • Municipality does not want that responsibility. Municipality just does not want to get into it
  • It cannot go back to the ERC 3, 4, 5 times
  • The compensation process is somewhat confusing. Look at stream damage…
  • The money has to remain within each watershed. It cannot be traded across watersheds. Yet, all watersheds in the lower mainland have development projects and will need some form of compensation (Question: A lot of work you do is enhancement. Can you reduce setbacks by enhancing streams with fish ladders and such?…Ans:so far, yes)
  • Storm water issues are most important because they are being fed directly into the streams without treatment
  • The best picture: watershed is measured and compared to what proposed development there is…what density is desired. Then a long term plan must be established
  • If you have a single-family residence lot, you will have to buy more lots to develop more due to setbacks. You can appropriate funds within watersheds to do the purchasing
  • The way SPR is being read, asphalt is riparian, concrete is riparian. The way BC environment is looking at it in the field: 30m setbacks for fish bearing streams and 15m setbacks for intermittent streams. PERIOD
  • There should be room for negotiation but in reality, in the field it is not like that
  • If there are no consequences (of setback violation), SPR must have a means to back itself up

    [Part 1 details, other groups: East || South || West || North]

    PART 2 - Additional Issues West

    • Responsibility should be focused into the municipality. Federal and Provincial levels should recognize and support municipal regulation, implementation, and enforcement. (Perhaps through regular auditing).
    • Storm water management needs to be addressed because storm drains are still being directed into the streams without comprehensive regulation.
    • Implementation of the SPR should perhaps undertake the specific requirements of each watershed instead of having a general regulation for all watersheds.
    • Responsibility cannot be downloaded without the power to make decisions

    [Issues of control]:

  • The provincial and federal governments are trying to use the same legislation. Why harmonize? Why not individualize? It would seem that one must take control
  • The province is responsible for inland water, whereas the fed’s are responsible for fisheries. There would be overlap and therefore they would have to harmonize
  • The DFO and the province are each taking separate regions, but the province has to defer to the DFO. The SPR gives a common ground for both to follow so that there is less conflict
  • But why do you need both? Give the power into one hand to make more effective management
  • The province is setting and enforcing…the municipalities pick up the download
  • The NGO’s need better and proper funding otherwise the stress becomes too much and there is ‘burn out’ and they give up after a couple of years. There is a very high level of friction working with the DFO…too much paper work and processing, and they (DFO) are very heavy-handed
  • The SPR is differently run in different regions
  • People don’t want to work directly with the DFO.
  • The DFO wanted higher setbacks, and see the SPR as weak
  • The whole section of 6-5 in the SPR allows for section sizes of private properties
  • But there are no provisions for ‘useable’ land area. What happens if the setbacks restrict your development right up to your proposed front and back door?
  • 6-5 addresses that issue. There cannot be blanket rules applied without flexibility
  • But 6-5 says with accordance with section 2. The wording indicates no flexibility
  • Allowances are currently being made on a site by site basis
  • With the downloading, the municipalities must be recognized as the decision makers and the DOF/Province must lay off
  • Then the province must do audits on the municipalities to ensure that it works. As a minimum, they must do it once/year (provincial audits)
  • The problem with urban streams is that we stop erosion by gravel dumping, which becomes eroded and needs more gravel dumping
  • Site by site evaluation cannot work effectively. We must become more macro in scope. ISSUE: responsibility cannot be downloaded without the power to make decisions
  • The environmental consultants are not ‘in’ enough on decision-making
  • But if we include the private sector, accountability must be shared by them
  • The SPR is not supposed to be a HOW-TO guide…it is a framework

    [Part 2 details, other groups: East || South || West || North]

    PART 3 - Improvements/Solutions West

    • SPR must be given stronger credibility and power to enforce its regulations.
    • Individual watershed consideration should be written into the SPR.
    • Consequences and liabilities must be more explicit in the SPR.
    • Some form of time limit should be placed upon retro-active implementation and upon the length of time the SPR, as written, is effective.
    • Some form of mechanism should be installed to measure the effectiveness of the SPR over time.
    • Average setbacks might be a consideration instead of rigidly fixing them at 15m or 30m depending upon stream type.
  • The SPR has to be a bulletproof legislation or deal with situations on a watershed basis. Otherwise, the SPR will be taken to court and bogged down in individual disputes until someone squeezes through a hole. There has to be sufficient knowledge about all the watersheds to handle an audit (a comparable watershed to have a guideline)
  • It should be based upon existing watersheds to measure positive or negative impact/change
  • Will the DFO will give the municipality the power under the Fisheries Act to make decisions on fish bearing streams?
  • The liabilities are too ambiguous in the SPR
  • It seems that DFO wants an absolutely clear plan of any new development
  • The SPR should be fully prescriptive in implementation. But standards are changing, negotiations will always be dependent upon the DFO’s position Then there should be a time limit imposed on development approval to allow for these changes in standards
  • Maybe we should concentrate densities and relieve them in other areas, then the setbacks could be more easily achieved
  • The compensation for properties affected by the new zoning/setbacks needs to be properly valued. Grand-fathered properties is a sensitive issue
  • Developments will have to evaluate possible grandfathers into their plans to allow for the required setbacks
  • There is no mechanism to measure if the SPR is working for or improving streams over time
  • It (SPR) is only a guide to address disputes…it helps interpret the regulations
  • There is no enforcement or monitoring
  • The province already protects the green space around streams, but there is a huge need for storm water management…it is an imbalance in the regulation. (True) the setbacks will be achieved but the storm drains will still drain directly into the streams. The DFO should be addressing that issue
  • The DFO will not okay any long-term plan where planned developments will be affected by 30m or 15m setbacks But dependent upon the proposal stage, setbacks may not affect it because the SPR cannot retroactively change development plans The setbacks run by classification of the stream type
  • The SPR should take a hard-line with respect to developments IF the stream is a fulltime fish-bearing stream. Allowances should be made for streams that are not fish bearing, or do not run all year (less than the 6 months)
  • Perhaps an average setback could be implemented to allow for contour of the land…there are many options that should be addressed
  • The variance procedures have to be explicitly clear. Developers should not be the ones that have to interpret the SP
  • What about long-term development plans/investments which were originally properly zoned until the SPR changes…there are a loss of expected revenue…how is compensation to evaluate those losses? There needs to be a mechanism to deal with older issues…the new issues have to SPR to comply with
  • The SPR has to account for long-term development plans…a watershed overview could better address them

    [Part 3 details, other groups: East || South || West || North]

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    'North Group

    Group Members:

      Bob Cox
      Geoff Croll
      Erik Lees
      Zo Ann Morten
      Peter Reese
      Fiona Wright
      Scribe: Robin Parker, student (Civl Eng)

    PART 1 - Good Points of SPR & Common Ground North

    Flexibility: Stream Widths, Fish Bearing or not

    Problem: The specifics have not been sold to the public properly/well, for example many people are afraid of losing their houses because they are unaware of the “grandfather” clause.

    Question: Could a Developer go within the boundary and do other means of achieving stream integrity.

  • Strength: Under 6(5) SPR provides an opportunity to go below or about the standard.

    Concern: If structure footprint size must be reduced due to less useable land, will the property value decrease.

    Question: Have the standards been raised up to make it harder for developers?
    Answer: Yes, in some cases, no in others. To clarify this means that in some cases it is actually easier for the developer (streamlined cases so less red tape) and in other cases that take more care and attention the standards are raised to ensure a protected stream. [B]

  • Strength: Proactive instead of Reactive.

    Concern: Municipality faces charges by DFO if they create a variance - what is the incentive for local government to create a variance.

  • Strength: DFO and municipality work together to achieve the same goal

  • Strength: 80% of situations are streamlined, while 20% of more difficult ones get more effort/costs/energy. Streamlining is not just about the making it easy for the land owner, but it also means making it more efficient for the authority. [B]

  • Strength: There is no allowance for storm drain and other water drainage systems to be dumped into the stream.

  • Strength: Savings in the long run to the developer ie PR, “Green Feather in cap” despite increased immediate accounting costs.

  • Strength: Promotes creative solutions.

    Concern: Local trails - why are the rolled in under the same classification as everything else?

  • Strength/Answer: Provides opportunity to limit long term problems caused by living too close to a stream (streamside trail).

    [Part 1 details, other groups: East || South || West || North]

    PART 2 - Additional Issues North

    Provincial Government:

  • Staffing support for government (DFO, WALP)
  • Government level cooperation
  • Downloading
  • Other management issues, e.g. “A stream water management system” that could destroy the stream even if legislation is successful, enforced, and followed. Harmonization with other programs is essential.
  • Attempt to manage at watershed level.

    Local Government

  • Standardization of variances between municipalities
  • Incentive for Municipality to use a variance.
  • How do multistage developments, approved before the act, fit into the act once it is passed?


  • Practical and Clear process is needed.
  • Too many opportunities for inconsistent interpretation.
  • Too many uncertainties.
  • Too much opportunity for abuse of the system.

    Question: Is it an interest for developers to protect fish habitat?
    Response: Protecting Fish habitat is an interest, and was one before the legislation. The legislation is almost extra.

    [Part 2 details, other groups: East || South || West || North]

    PART 3 - Improvements/Solutions North


  • At what point is a non-conformity grandfathered
  • Some locations can easily be rendered undevelopable
  • Some kind of guarantee in the variance process
  • Developer’s biologist versus SPR/DFO biologist


  • Given an opportunity to do stream enhancement work, could the boundary be reduced?
  • Provide a variance history registry so people can see what has passed before.

    Scribe's additional comments:
    A map of a development currently underway was reviewed. Two boundaries were indicated: boundary the biologist had concluded were safe for the fish; boundaries that the new SPR regulations would require. It appears that with the new SPR boundaries the site would be almost unusable for development because of the unrealistic lot sizes and configurations that would have to follow. For the most part everyone was determined to show/find possible solutions to the problem. The "variance" concept was promoted by one participant (this situation was one where a variance was necessary, and would need to be applied for). While some opinions were quite strong and steadfast re: setback requirements, these seemed to shift once it became it was apparent that there was another side to the story and that the issue wasn’t as cut and dried as might be desired. In the end, although concerns remain re: "inefficient red tape", a number of creative solutions were suggested and it became clear that there are several ways to address issues given creative input and open minds.

    [Part 3 details, other groups: East || South || West || North]

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      Knowledge (perspective/issue) Key
      Academia (A) and Public Interest
      Design Community (architects, landscape architects, engineers, environmental consultants)
      Developers/Development Community


      Catherine Berris Associates Inc. -- Displays and case example
      Douglas College Envt Studies & Urban Ecology -- Display
      Genstar Development Co. -- Case example
      MWALP -- Resource material and case example
      ORCAD Consulting Group Inc. -- Design & facilitation; resource material
      Pacific Streamkeepers -- Display and case example
      Pottinger Gaherty Ltd. -- Displays
      UBC Engineering and Capilano College ENSC students -- Scribing