Evaluation of the Habitat Conservation Partnerships Program: Appendix A

Description of the Habitat Conservation Partnerships Program

The Habitat Conservation Partnerships (HCP) Program funds projects and encourages partnerships and habitat conservation activities that secure, protect, improve and/or restore important and ecologically sensitive habitat for wildlife, including for migratory birds and species at risk.Footnote 1  The program provides mechanisms to engage with organizations and individuals, including with landowners, environmental non-governmental organizations and others. Through the HCP Program, wildlife habitats on private lands, provincial Crown lands, indigenous lands, or in aquatic and marine areas across Canada are secured and managed in ways that are compatible with habitat conservation.

This program contributes to the delivery of ECCC’s mandate under the Species at Risk Act(SARA), the Migratory Birds Convention Act(MBCA), and the Canada Wildlife Act(CWA). The program also contributes to targets related to protected areas and the conservation and enhancement of wetlands that Canada committed to under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and to commitments made under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.

The HCP Program consists of seven program components:

  • Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP)
  • North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP)/North American Wetlands Conservation Council (NAWCC) Canada
  • Wildlife Habitat Canada (WHC) Conservation Stamp Initiative
  • Ecological Gifts Program (EGP)
  • Canada’s participation in the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention)
  • Expanding Family Oriented Conservation Programming
  • National Wetland Conservation Fund (NWCF)

The evaluation looked at the first five program components from 2010-11 to 2015-16. The last two components (Expanding Family Oriented Conservation Programming and the NWCF) were added to the HCP Program in May 2014, when the Government of Canada announced the National Conservation Plan. They were excluded from the scope of this evaluation.

The five components addressed by the evaluation are described in greater detail below.

Natural Areas Conservation Program

The Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) helps non-profit, non-governmental organizations secure ecologically sensitive lands to ensure the protection of ecosystems, wildlife and habitat. The program came into effect in 2007, when the Government of Canada provided $225 million in funding as part of a commitment to conserve and protect Canada’s natural environment. An additional $20 million was announced with Budget 2013. In 2014, the NACP was renewed for another five years, with an additional $100 million in funding.

To deliver the program, the Government of Canada entered into an agreement in 2007 with one grant recipient. Under this agreement, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) was responsible for holding, investing and disbursing the funds through a separately held Natural Areas Conservation Fund. The NCC uses the program’s funds to support projects it undertakes. It also allocates some funding to other non-government conservation organizations (referred to as Other Qualified Organizations [OQO]), such as Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and provincial and regional land trusts and nature conservancies, to manage other projects. The NCC and the OQOs were originally required to provide matching funds for each federal dollar received in a ratio of at least 1:1. This requirement was subsequently revised so that a minimum of $2 in matching funds is now required for every federal dollar received.Footnote 2

Using a science-based process, the NCC and its partners work to acquire ecologically sensitive lands through donation, purchase or stewardship agreement with private landowners. Priority is given to nationally or provincially significant lands, lands protecting habitat for species at risk and migratory birds and lands that enhance connectivity or corridors between existing protected areas, such as national wildlife areas, national parks and migratory bird sanctuaries. The program’s first agreement (2007) aimed to secure approximately 200,000 hectares of ecologically sensitive lands. This was expanded to 218,000 hectares, with the additional $20 million investment in 2013. With the renewal of the program in 2014 for an additional five years, the program aims to:

  • secure over 130,000 additional hectares of ecologically sensitive lands
  • implement Property Management Plan actions on an estimated 120,000 hectares
  • monitor the compliance of Conservation Agreements on an estimated 100,000 hectares of lands secured under the NACP since 2007, while providing for capacity development within the land trust community

The NCC is governed by a national board with support from seven regional boards. Together, these boards oversee all aspects of the NCC, including its management and activities. The NCC has established specific governance structures to deliver the NACP, including an Investment Committee that oversaw management of the Natural Areas Conservation Fund during the first NACP program; a Program Committee responsible for annual work plan and progress report reviews and approvals; and an OQO Committee focused on program activities conducted with OQOs.

North American Waterfowl Management Plan/North American Wetlands Conservation Council (Canada)

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) is an international action plan to conserve migratory birds throughout the North American continent. Developed in response to critically low numbers of waterfowl in North America, the plan was signed by Canada and the United States (U.S.) in 1986 and by Mexico in 1994. The goal of NAWMP is to return waterfowl populations to their 1970s levels by encouraging sustainable land use practices, improving habitat and protecting and managing wetlands important for all migratory birds.

In 2012, the following new goals were established for NAWMP:

  • abundant and resilient waterfowl populations to support hunting and other uses without putting habitat at risk
  • wetlands and related habitats sufficient to sustain waterfowl populations at desired levels, while providing places for recreational activities and ecological services that benefit society
  • growing numbers of waterfowl hunters, other conservationists and citizens who enjoy and actively support waterfowl and wetlands habitat conservation

For the most part, external partners deliver NAWMP through Habitat Joint Ventures (HJVs), which are responsible for the overall planning, design and management of programs for key habitat areas. In Canada, there are four HJVs and three internationally linked Species Joint VenturesFootnote 3  that focus on providing critical science to inform the management of habitat or species of concern identified through NAWMP.

The implementation of NAWMP in Canada is enabled by the support of many partners, including federal, provincial/territorial and state governments, non-governmental organizations and individuals. In particular, funds are made available to Canada, the U.S. and Mexico through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), which was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1989. NAWCA allocates funds with matching grant requirements to wetland conservation projects in the three countries. Canadian projects require matching funds from both Canada (federal, provincial and non-government partners) and the U.S. (non-federal). Since the program’s launch in 1986, U.S. federal and U.S. non-federal sources have provided approximately $1 billion in funding. This funding covers nearly 50% of the total contributions for NAWMP in Canada and serves to significantly expand the reach and impact of wetland conservation efforts in Canada.

In Canada, administration of NAWMP and guidance for its implementation are the responsibility of the North American Wetlands Conservation Council (Canada) (NAWCC Canada) and the Habitat and Species Joint Ventures. Canada is also represented on the tri-national Plan Committee, which is responsible for:

  • discussing international waterfowl issues
  • updating NAWMP every five years
  • making recommendations to federal wildlife departments
  • approving new joint ventures

NAWCC (Canada) also provides policy and scientific advice and develops communications and outreach programs related to wetlands and waterfowl.

The NAWCC (Canada) Secretariat is housed in the Habitat Conservation Unit of the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), which helps NAWCC (Canada) with its day-to-day operations. The NAWCC (Canada) membership consists of 19 partners. For a full list of members, consult the NAWCC Canada Strategic Plan.

Wildlife Habitat Canada Conservation Stamp Initiative

Under this program component, revenues generated from the sale of the Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamps are transferred to Wildlife Habitat Canada (WHC), a national non-profit charitable conservation organization. ECCC manages the production of the stamp and annually transfers the full amount of the revenue generated to WHC through a contribution agreement. During the evaluation period, the terms of the contribution agreements required that WHC transfer at least 80% of the funds received from ECCC to third parties for projects supporting wildlife habitat conservation initiatives across Canada, especially for waterfowl (leaving a maximum of 20% to cover administrative costs).

Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp is developed and sold on an annual basis. The stamps are purchased primarily by waterfowl hunters to validate their Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permits, and are also sold to print purchasers, stamp collectors, and individuals interested in contributing to the conservation, restoration and enhancement of wildlife habitat in Canada. WHC selects a new stamp image each year, through an annual art competition.

A significant portion of WHC’s Conservation Stamp Initiative funds are directed to projects addressing the priorities identified by the four Canadian HJVs under NAWMP. Projects funded by WHC involve multiple external partners, including provincial governments and non-governmental organizations (for example, DUC, NCC). WHC also uses its funds to provide grants for regional and local habitat projects of importance for other migratory game birds, for public education, for research projects and for the Murre Conservation Fund.

WHC is governed by a board of directors composed of two ECCC-appointed members, two representatives of the Provincial and Territorial Wildlife Directors and five members selected by the Board (Directors at Large) including representatives from provincial and territorial wildlife agencies and representatives from non-governmental national wildlife organizations. ECCC sits as an observer on the board. The board has three committees: the Executive Committee, the Finance and Audit Committee and the Nominating Committee.

Ecological Gifts Program

Launched in 1995, the Ecological Gifts Program (EGP) provides a way for Canadians who own ecologically sensitive land to protect nature and leave a legacy for future generations. Under the terms of the Income Tax Act of Canada and the Taxation Act in Quebec, the EGP offers significant tax benefits to landowners who donate land or a partial interest in land to qualified recipient organizations. Recipient organizations become responsible for the conservation of the donated land’s biodiversity and environmental heritage. This responsibility lasts forever.

Key ECCC responsibilities related to the EGP include:

  • processing application forms
  • certifying the proposed property as ecologically sensitive
  • approving the recipient to receive the ecological gift
  • certifying the fair market value of the donation

A national secretariat and regional program coordinators manage the EGP. Among other tasks, the regional program coordinators help applicants and recipients with various aspects of the EGP process. The national secretariat works with the independent Appraisal Review Panel (ARP), which reviews appraisals submitted by donors, and makes recommendations to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Canada regarding the fair market value of ecological gifts.

Canada’s Participation in the Ramsar Convention

Canada is a party to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, known more widely as the Ramsar Convention. Wetlands of International Importance are recognized as having significant value, not just for the country or the countries in which they are located, but for humanity as a whole. The Ramsar Convention is an inter-governmental treaty that embodies the commitments of 169 member countries to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance and plan for the sustainable use of all of the wetlands in their territories.

As a signatory to the Ramsar Convention since 1981, Canada committed to:

  • designating at least one Ramsar site and ensuring its effective management
  • working towards the wise use of wetlands through national land-use planning, appropriate policies and legislation, management actions and public education
  • cooperating internationally on trans-boundary wetlands, shared wetland systems, shared species and development projects that could affect wetlands

A total of 37 Ramsar sites have been designated across Canada, 17 of which are located partially or totally on national wildlife areas or migratory bird sanctuaries. 22 (59%) of all Ramsar sites are located on federal lands and are managed by federal organizations (ECCC, Parks Canada, the National Capital Commission).

As part of its responsibilities, ECCC contributes about $200,000 annually, through an assessed contribution, to support the international Ramsar Secretariat. ECCC also prepares a national report that measures Canada’s progress against the Ramsar Strategic Plan. The report is submitted to the Conference of Parties (COP), which meet every three years. ECCC’s Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) represents the North American Region on the Ramsar Standing Committee, on a rotational basis with the U.S. and Mexico.

Governance and management

Overall accountability for the HCP Program rests with the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) of the CWS.

Prior to April 2016, the CWS’s Habitat Conservation Management Division (now Stewardship Division) oversaw the HCP Program and most aspects of program delivery. The CWS’s Wildlife Permitting Policy and Operations Section managed the sale of the Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp.

In April 2016, CWS went through a period of reorganization to become a separate branch, rather than a directorate of the Environmental Stewardship Branch. CWS’s Stewardship and Regional Operations Directorate is now responsible for the HCP Program.

Resource allocation

Table 16 shows ECCC’s total HCP Program expenditures for the five program components.

  • Funding for grants and contributions (G&C) comprise the vast majority of the expenditures, representing 93% of total program spending.
  • The NACP is by far the largest of the five components, accounting for approximately 78% of total spending and 84% of G&C expenditures.
  • No salary costs are identified for either the NACP or the WHC Conservation Stamp Initiative because these components are delivered primarily by third parties (the NCC and the WHC respectively).
  • While some ECCC program representatives dedicate time to these components (approximately 0.5 and 0.35 FTEs respectively), these individuals work on multiple programs and their time is coded to other components.
  • ECCC staffing resources spent on all five components are estimated by program representatives as approximately 16.79 FTEs per year

The program’s G&C projects (with the exception of NACP) are administered primarily under the authority of ECCC’s umbrella contribution terms and conditions: Contributions in Support of Biodiversity – Wildlife and Habitat. The assessed contribution for Ramsar is identified as a separate transfer payment program in ECCC’s main estimates (2016-17).

Table 16: CWS expenditures by HCP Program component, from 2010-11 to 2015-16 (in millions)
Program Component   2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 Total
2010-11 to 2015-16
(% of total HCP Program spending for five components
Natural Areas Conservation Program
FTE = 0.5 per year
Salary 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
O&M 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
G&C $21.7 $33.695 $24.029 $11.208 $18.732 $22.5 $131.865
Total $21.7 $33.695 $24.029 $11.208 $18.732 $22.5 $131.865 (78%)
North American Waterfowl Management Plan/North American Wetlands Conservation Council (Canada)
FTE = 6.95 per year
Salary $0.39 $0.546 $0.522 $0.678 $0.491 $0.679 $3.306
O&M $0.295 $0.19 $0.094 $0.091 $0.051 $0.083 $0.804
G&C $2.421 $2.032 $2.632 $2.736 $2.032 $2.086 $13.979
Total $3.106 $2.768 $3.249 $3.505 $2.573 $2.888 $18.089 (11%)
Wildlife Habitat Canada Conservation Stamp Initiative
FTE = 0.35 per year*
Salary 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
O&M $0.003 $0.007 0 $0.008 0 0 $0.017
G&C $1.45 $1.598 $1.626 $1.896 $1.959 $1.775 $10.304
Total $1.453 $1.605 $1.626 $1.904 $1.959 $1.775 $10.321 (6%)
Ecological Gifts Program**
FTE = 8.55 per year
Salary $0.578 $0.466 $0.493 $0.667 $0.688 $0.668 $3.56
O&M $0.51 $0.613 $0.508 $0.52 $0.511 $0.529 $3.191
G&C $0.11 $0.057 0 0 $0.1 $0.109 $0.376
Total $1.198 $1.136 $1.001 $1.187 $1.300 $1.306 $7.127 (4%)
FTE = 0.44 per year
Salary $0.017 $0.054 $0.102 $0.067 $0.039 $0.026 $0.306
O&M $0.001 $0.019 $0.008 $0.008 $0.012 $0.006 $0.055
G&C $0.223 $0.262 $0.168 $0.167 $0.211 $0.198 $1.23
Total $0.242 $0.336 $0.279 $0.242 $0.262 $0.231 $1.591 (1%)
All Program Components
FTE = 16.79 per year
Salary $0.986 $1.066 $1.118 $1.411 $1.218 $1.373 $7.172 (4%)
O&M $0.809 $0.83 $0.61 $0.627 $0.574 $0.618 $4.068 (2%)
G&C $25.904 $37.645 $28.456 $16.007 $23.034 $26.708 $157.754 (93%)
Grand total $ $27.698 $39.54 $30.184 $18.046 $24.826 $28.7 $168.994

Source: Extracted from Environment Canada’s financial system.
* Although salary is not officially allocated, FTEs coded to other HCP components (for example, EGP) also provide support to those components of the NCP Program.
**HCP Program representatives confirmed that no G&C funding was approved for EGP in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

Expected results

At the time of the evaluation, there was no approved logic model addressing all components of the HCP Program. However, for the purpose of the evaluation, the evaluation team developed a draft HCP Program logic model with identified expected outcomes. Program management reviewed the draft logic model and expected results during the evaluation planning stage. They agreed that it is an accurate representation of the program for the purpose of the evaluation.

For analysis and reporting and to avoid duplication, findings related to program performance are presented against three themes that include both the immediate and intermediate outcomes associated with that theme. These expected result themes are:

  • land securement
  • habitat management and stewardship
  • participation and engagement

A mapping of the outcomes from the logic model to the three expected result themes used for reporting can be found in Appendix B.

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