Biologists Crucial to Ovintiv’s Planning and Development
Ovintiv places a strong focus on environmental responsibility—working to minimize the impact of our developments and valuing the opinions of internal and external subject matter experts who can identify wildlife and habitats of concern, and can assess the potential for environmental impacts from our operations. As such, Ovintiv employs professional biologists to assist with proper planning and management of our assets.
Our biologists collaborate closely with the development planning, surface land and pipeline, road and lease construction teams to ensure efforts are undertaken to reduce our impact to wildlife and habitat in the areas where we are working. This includes avoiding important habitat features such as wetlands and old growth forests as much as possible, as well as decreasing our activities during the times of the year when wildlife species are most sensitive.
Ovintiv biologists Mark Phinney and Tara Bernat play a key role in incorporating environmental considerations into Ovintiv’s development plans.
As team members, they create programs and processes, as well as prepare environmental fact sheets that provide guidance to our Canadian office and field teams, highlighting topics on how to identify, assess and manage environmental considerations most relevant to our current operations.
In addition, they regularly visit Ovintiv field sites and conduct in-person training to equip staff on how to recognize potential environmental risks and sensitive habitats. A rigorous working partnership with the surface land and development teams has led to an enhanced approach to project planning—improving our environmental stewardship efforts across our assets.
As a biologist in Ovintiv’s Dawson Creek field office, Phinney is often asked to assist with safely monitoring and assessing local wildlife in our Montney development area.
During the construction of a new pipeline, line locators found a killdeer bird’s nest. Killdeer nests, often hard to spot, are protected under the Migratory Bird Convention Act and provincial Wildlife Act. Although the bird’s nest was located in the cleared area of the existing pipeline, it was close to where the new pipeline was going to be constructed. Because of this, the line operators
notified the appropriate individuals and Phinney was brought in to assess and monitor the birds. He marked off a buffer zone and closely monitored the birds during the course of the pipeline work. His efforts ensured there were no delays to the construction schedule—all while maintaining a safe distance from the nest to ensure the killdeer were undisturbed by our operations.
The team’s efforts led to the safe hatching of the killdeer chicks and their eventual departure from the nest.
Several groundhog burrows were thought to be associated with slumping of one of our pipeline right-of-ways.
The operations team identified that the remedial work that was required to fix the issue would impact these burrows. Often considered a pest by many, groundhogs are not a protected wildlife species in this area. Phinney went above and beyond to save five groundhogs—setting live traps and safely relocating them over several weeks before the remedial work commenced.
A site operator spotted a robin’s nest on a wellhead requiring maintenance.
With guidance from Phinney and Bernat, he was able to work around the robin’s nest—safely protecting the birds and the eggs in their unusual nesting location without causing delays to the maintenance schedule.
The training and education shared by Phinney and Bernat with Ovintiv’s Canadian office and field teams has led to further conservation efforts by the team.
Old Growth forest
Phinney identified a patch of an old growth forest that contained very high-quality wildlife habitat in an area that was important to local residents and indigenous groups.
The surface land, construction, operations and members of the environment team proactively looked at methods to maintain the integrity of the forest while they prepared to construct a pipeline in the area. This collaboration led to a
solution that decreased the amount of area that was required to be constructed within the old growth forest, which significantly reduced our environmental footprint and lessened our impact to the old forest.
A field operator discovered a young moose trapped in a landowner’s fence.
He carefully assessed the situation—helping to free the moose and allowing it to safely return to its mother.
“The education materials we provide are working and are being embraced by our staff. Our on-site teams are taking appropriate steps to maintain the integrity of the environment and its natural inhabitants while also balancing the timeline of the project that needs to be completed,” said Phinney.
“Ovintiv has supported the integration of an environmental voice at the planning table,” added Bernat. “Having a full-time biologist in the head office and one in the field allows environmental risks to be assessed at the planning stage of development projects, which minimizes our impact to wildlife and habitat, but also significantly reduces the risk of impact to our development schedule. I love working for a company that not only recognizes the need for a balance between environmental responsibility and development, but also proves it with its actions.”