Operationalizing Regional CEAs: the Cortex Approach
At Cortex, we have spent eight years developing and operationalizing CREATe—a cumulative regional effects analysis tool. CREATe is collaborative, spatial, value-driven, and scenario-based—designed explicitly to help communities understand the cumulative effects of development and climate change on their values.
CREATe has three phases, each embedded within the regional context for the analysis. In the development phase, we work with clients (usually First Nations or other communities, governments, foundations, or industry) to establish the goal and scope of the CEA. Through a collaborative process, we help the participants articulate key local values, including valued ecosystem components. As needed, we draw in social science experts to help us with this process, which is critical for establishing the foundation for the CEA.
In the analysis phase, we work with recognized domain experts to translate values into indicators, and apply our analysis framework to forecast the effects of development on these indicators. We build on existing analyses (e.g., timber supply reviews, land use plans) to develop a comprehensive picture of the area. Once constructed, we bring the framework back to the community, and work with them to explore the implications of different patterns of development on their values, or identify actions that avoid or reduce major development impacts (e.g., through coordinating regional road development across industries).
The analysis framework is spatial, modular, and uses domain experts. Core components include natural and human disturbances, vegetation dynamics, and climate change. To these, we can add sub-models to evaluate key values, such as hydrology, fish habitat, wildlife habitat, connectivity, and measures of community health and resilience.
In the application of results phase, we work with our clients, communities, and other stakeholders to establish guidelines for future development in the area. This phase often includes developing an implementation strategy that sets out the necessary changes to plans and standard operating procedures, to ensure that the recommendations arising from the CEA are enacted in policy and practice.
 Topical, preferably local, experts on values defined by communities (e.g., First Nations values, hydrology).