The City of Charlottetown has created its first ever natural asset inventory, part of a national movement to help municipalities better manage their natural areas and understand their value, including helping to deal with the impact of climate change.
The inventory is available on the city's website, and includes forests, wetlands, grasslands, shrublands and water as well as agricultural land.
In total, there are 1,719 individual natural assets in the new inventory.
"I was quite surprised and it's very impressive. I didn't realize there was that many assets," said Coun. Mitchell Tweel, who chairs the city's environment and sustainability committee.
"And the work's not done. It's just a work in progress. So very, very surprised, pleasantly surprised."
Tweel said the inventory is useful in helping the city plan for future development, while keeping the natural assets in mind.
"When we're looking at that balanced approach, it plays an indispensable, critical role in terms of construction that's taking place here in our city," Tweel said.
"We want to make sure that the natural assets are being protected."
"Whether it be parks, lakes, rivers, streams, whatever the case may be, we want to make sure that they are just as important as the actual construction that's taking place," Tweel said.
The inventory was created in partnership with a non-profit organization, the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative, and Charlottetown was part of the first cohort of 30 municipalities across the country creating an initial inventory.
"Having an inventory of them is great for when we're making important policy and planning decisions," said Alistair Ozon, water coordinator with the city of Charlottetown.
"Knowing where they are within our city boundaries, and being able to track them, and understanding how they might change as we start to develop or consider new projects."
Ozon said the inventory also rates the condition of the natural assets, looking at things such as the condition of the soil, how dense the roads are in the area, as well as the size of the asset.
He said the natural assets are also important as the city prepares for the challenges of climate change.
"Having natural areas can certainly help a lot when it comes to the increasing sea level rise, storm surges, filtration, carbon capture," Ozon said.
"There's also the health benefits that have been proven to be associated with these natural assets. With the pandemic, people have been realizing just how important having these green spaces is."
A watershed coordinator in Charlottetown said the new natural asset inventory is useful to his group in many ways.
"I think it's really important, that word 'asset.' They have to look at it as an asset," said Norman Dewar, co-ordinator for the Ellen's Creek Watershed Group.
"So when there's development plans for this area, they will be able to look at their inventory, the map that they've done, and they can see what's there, what's identified as a natural asset."
"The natural next step would be that they try to preserve or protect what is there, that they don't degrade it, or they don't reduce it."
Dewar said the inventory was developed based on 2010 aerial photos, and he's interested to see what it will look like when it is updated with information from the 2020 survey.
"If you don't measure something, it doesn't have any value, and people recognize these spaces as having value," Dewar said.
"But when they're gone, they're gone."