Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources Receives Award for GIS Use

esricanadaNational Non-Profit Uses ESRI Technology to Improve Environmental Risk Management of First Nation Fuel Storage Tanks and Waste Sites

ESRI Canada today presented an Award of Excellence to the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) for leveraging geographic information system (GIS) technology to establish an environmental risk reporting system and promote the use of GIS within First Nations. The award was presented at the 2009 ESRI Regional User Conference in Winnipeg.

“ESRI Canada’s solutions have been helping organizations in public and private sectors for 25 years to make more informed environmental decisions and achieve sustainability,” said James Wickson, Vice President of Sales and Professional Services, ESRI Canada. “We commend CIER for its leadership and vision in using GIS technology to monitor, protect and preserve First Nation resources and increasing collaboration among communities and governments.”

CIER is a First Nations environmental non-profit charity established in 1994 by First Nation leaders from across Canada to develop and implement sustainable solutions to address environmental issues affecting First Nations lands and resources. CIER initiated the Fuel Storage Tank and Waste Site Inventory Assessment Project in 2007 focusing on First Nations in Ontario, with federal funding from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). The goals of the project are to: obtain a complete assessment of fuel storage tanks and waste sites in First Nations in Ontario; assess the environmental risk and dollar value associated with this risk for fuel storage tanks and solid waste disposal sites; draft management policies on storage tanks and waste sites; and establish 3- and 10-year action plans to meet these policies. The project commenced in Spring 2007 and will be completed in Spring 2010, with all 135 First Nations in Ontario having been investigated for inclusion in the inventory.

CIER required a comprehensive GIS to collect global positioning system (GPS) points and add spatial data for fuel storage tanks and waste disposal sites in each First Nation and its respective reserve. CIER chose ESRI ArcGIS technology because it delivers a complete suite of GIS software that provides a scalable platform for spatial analysis, data management and mapping.  It also supports the sharing of geographic information and GIS capabilities on servers, desktops, mobile devices and over the Web.

CIER partnered with Map It Out Inc. and KGS Group to develop the necessary tools, and used ArcGIS to build an inventory collection and risk-reporting system. This involved gathering spatial, qualitative and quantitative data, conducting data quality assurance testing, entering spatial information into a Web-based application powered by ArcGIS, and assigning symbols representing each site’s condition. The resulting application supports the prioritization and development of action plans for site remediation and replacement of at-risk fuel storage tanks.  All of the data collected is accessible to INAC and First Nations through a website, providing pertinent and current information that can be used to support decision-making related to the management of these sites.

“Being able to make decisions based on spatial data has significantly enhanced decision-making in our organization,” said Steven DeRoy, Research Associate and GIS Specialist, CIER. “ESRI GIS has improved our capacity to help First Nations understand, analyze and act on the environmental issues affecting them.  The success of this project opens up many opportunities to apply GIS in other areas of our operations.”

ArcGIS has also enabled CIER to automate data entry, significantly reducing the costs of site inspections from $7,000 to $3,500 per site.

The fuel tanks and waste disposal sites assessment project has become a model for future CIER projects to draw upon in the areas of housing, drinking water and wastewater management. CIER also plans to expand the geographic scope of site inventories to enable risk monitoring of First Nation reserves across Canada using a single GIS application.

[Source: ESRI Canada news release]