Banner Photo:  Sea to Sky highway. (Credit: Tracey Saxby)

2020 Rating

2020 Rationale

With rapid growth occurring in the region, and subsequent development, sustainable management is key.

2017 Rating

2017 Rationale

Population growth in Squamish is outpacing the provincial average, and increasing development pressure on coastal areas highlights the need for a coordinated approach to track and manage growth. Potential cumulative impacts to the marine environment are largely unstudied.

The following is an excerpt from the full updated article. Download the full 2020 article for all content and references.

Coastal Development: balancing growth with ecosystem health

Authors: Jennifer Chapman, Research Assistant, Ocean Watch, Ocean Wise Research Institute

Amber Dearden, Research Assistant, Ocean Watch, Ocean Wise Research Institute

Reviewer: Sarah McJannet, RPP, MCIP, Planner, District of Squamish

Excerpt from 2020 article

Pressure from development – driven primarily by population growth and associated demand for housing and resources – continues to increase within Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound. 

Read the full article to see what else is happening.

Background: Sewell’s landing development in Horseshoe Bay, February 2020. (Credit: Bob Turner)

What’s been done since 2017?

The table below reports on progress made on recommended actions from the previous 2017 article, where identified. Many of these require ongoing action.

2017 Action Action Taken
Government Action and Policy
Develop and promote an inventory of best practices for developers and update it regularly. Ocean Watch: Howe Sound Strategic Plan lists local government protection tools in Appendix A.
Apply new and proven methods to assess development projects. For example, innovative tools to provide decision support for complex planning problems are becoming more widely available and accepted. Taking ecosystem service values into account when evaluating the trade-offs of proposed development is one way to proceed. Howe Sound is the study area for a comprehensive assessment that estimates the total annual value of intact ecosystems at between $793 million and $4.7 billion.1 The Town of Gibsons has integrated natural capital into their management program. The District of West Vancouver has completed a natural capital inventory and in summer 2019 recommended that this be considered in financial planning, asset management, financial reporting and capital budgeting processes and decisions.2 Up-to-date information for other local governments was unavailable at the time of publication.
Collate and make available pre-proposal data from environmental and social research. The Atl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound Marine Reference Guide (https:// will provide a map with many layers of detail, including human use, ecological, and physical, that is being developed to visualize information and support decision making and marine social planning. The anticipated completion date for the guide is late 2021.
Support jurisdictions that want to work together to develop comprehensive land and marine use plans. The Atl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound Marine Reference Guide project receives some funds from local government and municipalities (https://

1Molnar, M. Sound Investment: Measuring the Return on Howe Sound’s Ecosystem Assets. (2015). 2District of West Vancouver. Natural Capital in the District of West Vancouver. Council Report (2019). Available at: https://www. jul/15/19jul15-6.pdf. (Accessed: 26th March 2020)

What can you do?

A detailed overview of recommended actions relating to climate change is included in The path to zero carbon municipalities. In some cases, no progress was identified on previous recommended actions; these remain listed below. Additional actions marked as NEW also follow.

action-individual Individual and Organization Actions:

action-governmentGovernment Action and Policy:

    • Add marine values to the B.C. cumulative effects assessment that is underway for Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/ Howe Sound.
    • Implement a trust fund from development proceeds to fund environmental mitigation and remediation.
    • Plan for construction of key facilities and infrastructure to occupy previously developed shoreline, if feasible.
    • Make sharing of pre-proposal data from environmental and social research mandatory.
    • Develop targets for ecosystem health, goals for sustainability indicators, and limits for environmental impacts.
    • NEW Strengthen regulations and guidelines (i.e., best practices) that can be applied to development/project assessment.
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