Paul Knaga, Shell Wildlife and Biodiversity Specialist, inspects a Tree Swallow nest box at Jackpine Lake
Paul Knaga, Shell Wildlife and Biodiversity Specialist, inspects a Tree Swallow nest box at Jackpine Lake

One of the most common questions about oil sands development is whether or not the post-development reclamation landscape will create successful habitats capable of sustaining plants and wildlife.

While Shell’s ongoing work on progressive reclamation has yielded several success stories, a new environmental certification will further enhance our ability to demonstrate what we are learning and how we use those insights to improve our progress on wildlife habitat management.

In November 2015, Shell’s oil sands mining operation Shell Albian Sands received its Conservation Certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), an international non-profit organization that promotes and certifies habitat conservation and management on corporate lands.

Paul Knaga, Wildlife and Biodiversity Specialist at Shell Albian Sands, is responsible for facilitating and enhancing wildlife habitat on reclamation areas. He says the certification acknowledges Shell’s efforts above and beyond government requirements.

“WHC is really pleased with what we have done, and has been great with giving feedback and recommendations to help us build on our progress,” Paul says. “Conservation Certification recognizes the work we have done, but more importantly it provides us with an improved framework to guide our work.”

WHC Conservation Certification requires Shell to:

  • demonstrate how we enhance habitat using standardized monitoring
  • assess our work at regular intervals
  • share any new insights we might discover
  • find ways to include local communities in our work
A Merlin sits atop a raptor perch. Rigorous monitoring of these perches indicates they are being used by raptors, including Bald Eagles, for consuming fish from Jackpine Lake.
A Merlin sits atop a raptor perch. Rigorous monitoring of these perches indicates they are being used by raptors, including Bald Eagles, for consuming fish from Jackpine Lake.

This contributes to the Shell Albian Sands goal of achieving the most effective and productive final closure landscape.

Over the last 28 years, WHC has certified more than 1,000 habitat enhancement and conservation education programs worldwide.

“One of the unique aspects of WHC certification that we see value in is the emphasis on connecting local improvements to positive impacts in the region,” Paul says. “For example, if we enhance the barn swallow population through our programs and barn swallows are a regional focus area, then we are doing more than just enhancing our own reclamation efforts.”

Paul says the experience and insights WHC brings has inspired the team to brainstorm new ideas for inviting more involvement from local communities.

 “The certification process occurs every two years and has a strong community engagement and learning component, so we are looking at different ways to get the community involved through education and events,” Paul says. “The advantage is that it provides a forum for us to show community members what we are doing on progressive reclamation, which they might not yet understand or have had the chance to experience before.”

Shell Albian Sands is located north of Fort McMurray, Alberta and is part of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project joint venture operated by Shell, and owned among Shell Canada Energy (60%), Chevron Canada Limited (20%), and Marathon Oil Canada Corporation (20%).

Did you know?

Shell is a member of the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) and participates in MAC’s ‘Towards Sustainable Mining’ (TSM) initiative.

Recognition by WHC Conservation Certification has elevated Shell’s AA rating to AAA status within the TSM program, through which members demonstrate leadership by:

  • Community engagement
  • Driving world-leading environmental practices
  • Committing to the safety and health of employees and surrounding communities.

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