Evaluation of the Habitat Conservation Partnerships Program: Conclusions, recommendations and management response

5.1 Conclusions

The HCP Program supports a mix of mechanisms that contribute to wildlife habitat protection and conservation through partnerships in the conservation community.  The program includes many internationally accepted best practices in wildlife habitat conservation.

Relevance

The HCP Program is aligned with the federal government priorities for wildlife habitat conservation, including the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy’s goals and targets related to conserving and restoring ecosystems, wildlife and habitat.

ECCC’s involvement in the HCP Program is consistent with federal and departmental roles and responsibilities set out in a number of Acts, related to securing and protecting ecologically sensitive habitat. It also supports a number of international commitments, including those associated with NAWMP, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the Ramsar Convention.

Performance

With respect to expected results related to land securement, there has been an increase in the area of suitable habitat protected over the years. The NACP and the EGP have exceeded their securement targets and NAWMP is making significant progress towards meeting its 2017 target. While four of the five HCP components contribute to protecting habitat through long-term land securement, it is currently not possible to identify the total amount of land secured under the HCP Program because the results presented for the various components may overlap.

With respect to expected results related to habitat management and stewardship, each of the HCP Program components contributes to increased levels of habitat management and land stewardship. There is evidence that best practices and guidelines, as well as processes and requirements for the management of secured properties, are in place.

  • Management plans have been a successful aspect of the NACP; the NCC’s science-based conservation planning approach ensures that secured properties are managed to contribute to biodiversity targets and long-term conservation.
  • NAWMP activities have implemented science-based habitat conservation and management plans using an adaptive management approach.
  • The WHC Conservation Stamp Initiative has supported habitat management by promoting awareness about waterfowl habitat conservation and by contributing to habitat management initiatives under NAWMP.
  • Management plans have been developed for the majority of Canadian Ramsar sites.

Evaluation findings highlight the importance of engaging a broad range of partners and stakeholders in habitat conservation efforts, and of raising public awareness about HCP Program activities. The program has made progress with regard to expected results related to stakeholder participation and engagement. Several program components display good overall levels of engagement and participation. However, the evaluation findings suggest there is still room for improvement.

  • Though the NAWMP component is often mentioned as a role model of co-operation among public and private stakeholders at various levels, agricultural, forestry and indigenous stakeholders have been under-represented.
  • The opportunity to increase participation levels in the EGP by increasing awareness levels among potential donors, such as those who may possess important habitat, was identified.
  • The WHC Conservation Stamp Initiative could benefit from further efforts to improve awareness of how the stamp funds are used in an effort to increase stamp sales.

The governance structures of the individual HCP Program components are clearly defined, appropriate and mostly efficient. However, a gap was identified in terms of any overarching governance to provide consolidated strategic planning across the various HCP Program components. This would support a more coordinated and integrated approach to priority setting and also enable greater collaboration, communication and efficiencies within the program.

The various components make effective use of leveraging mechanisms to build on ECCC funding and achieve habitat conservation results in an efficient manner. The use of external partners to deliver program components is also viewed as an efficient approach. For the most part, the administrative and operational practices of the various program components appear to be working well, with no significant inefficiencies identified.

All HCP Program components collect and report performance data. However, it is difficult to collect data and report on results at the overall HCP Program level as overlap in reporting by the components would result in some double counting. Although three of the five components have logic models, there was no overall logic model for the program at the time of the evaluation. Both these issues are being addressed by the recent activities related to the implementation of the TB Policy on Results and the introduction of revised reporting approaches. As a result, a recommendation related to performance measurement has not been included at this time.

5.2 Recommendations and management response

The following recommendations are addressed to the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Canadian Wildlife Services, as the senior departmental official responsible for management of the Habitat Conservation Partnerships Program.

Recommendation 1: Take appropriate actions to increase participation of targeted stakeholders in program areas where they are under-represented.

Although the program successfully engages a broad range of stakeholders in habitat conservation, shortcomings were identified related to levels of awareness and the participation of certain stakeholder groups for some Habitat Conservation Partnerships (HCP) Program components.

In particular, an absence of federal and provincial agricultural partners and agriculture and forestry industry stakeholders was identified for the NAWMP component. Indigenous stakeholders were also identified as being inadequately represented. Because much of the current conservation landscape is driven by these partners, their absence was noted as having an impact on overall conservation efforts moving forward.

The evaluation also identified that the EGP has an opportunity to increase the number of land donations by informing landowners that they possess important habitat and by making them aware of the program and the important role they could play in habitat conservation.

The evaluation also flagged the potential for greater outreach to hunter groups, to improve awareness of how the stamp funds are used and to increase their levels of engagement.

Statement of agreement or disagreement: The Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) of the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) agrees with the recommendation.

Management response

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is reviewing the mechanisms it uses to seek external advice on the Government of Canada’s Conserving Nature priorities and their implementation. Views will be sought from a wide variety of partners and stakeholders (such as non-profit conservation organizations, Indigenous organizations, resource-based private sector, hunting and fishing organizations).

All Canadian NAWMP partners recognize the importance of engaging forestry, agriculture stakeholders and Indigenous peoples in activities that contribute to conserving wetlands and increasing waterfowl populations. CWS Regional Directors in their roles as the chairs of the four Habitat Joint Venture Boards will bring this recommendation forward to their respective Boards for discussion, with the intent of finding ways to bring the perspectives of forestry, agriculture and Indigenous peoples into the work under NAWMP.

The EGP recognizes that attracting landowners of ecologically sensitive lands is key to the program’s continued success. The EGP will continue to implement its 2017-18 communications plan, focused on informing landowners about the program and will evaluate future promotion/outreach needs.

ECCC will work with Wildlife Habitat Canada (WHC) so that it continues to meet the terms and conditions of the current Contribution Agreement including effectively implementing activities aimed at reaching the hunting community and performance indicators for WHC’s strategic plan are in place to monitor progress. Indeed, since the commencement of this evaluation, the WHC has revised its strategic plan and performance indicators to aim outreach and conservation activities at the hunting community.

Deliverable(s) Timeline Responsible party
Review of advisory mechanisms for conservation Spring 2018 ADM, CWS
Establish an advisory mechanism for conservation December 2018 ADM, CWS
Habitat Joint Venture Board discussions on the engagement of agriculture, forestry, and Indigenous partners and the identification of next steps to engage underrepresented groups December 2018 Regional Directors, Stewardship and Regional Operation Directorate (SROD)
(Habitat Joint Venture Board Chairs)
2017-18 EGP promotional activities targeting landowners including social media and promotional video completed as planned April 2018
Director General, SROD and ECCC Communications
Reassessment of promotional needs for EGP for 2018 and beyond June 2018 Director General, SROD and ECCC Communications
Discussion with WHC so that activities targeting hunters are prioritized January 2018
Director General, SROD and WHC
Implementation of Strategic Plan activities targeting hunters, including providing grants for waterfowl recruitment projects and developing an information package about the Stamp Program for dissemination through hunter education/recruitment programs March 2019 WHC

Recommendation 2: Introduce a consolidated approach to strategic planning to align priority setting across the various Habitat Conservation Partnerships (HCP) Program components.

The various program components have their own governance structures that appear to be working well. However, a gap was identified in terms of an overarching governance that would provide for consolidated strategic planning across the various HCP Program components. This would support a more coordinated and integrated approach to priority setting and also enable greater collaboration, communication and efficiencies within the program.

Statement of agreement or disagreement: The Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) of the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) agrees with the recommendation.

Management response

CWS will develop a strategic plan for its Habitat Conservation Partnership Program that will be informed by:

  • The 2017 Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development Report on Federal Protected Areas and Conservation Objectives
  • This evaluation
  • The Biodiversity 2020 goals and targets including Pathway to 17%
  • CWS Strategic Directions
  • Advisory mechanism for conservation
Deliverable(s) Timeline Responsible party
HCP strategic plan April 2019 Director General, Stewardship and Regional Operation Directorate (SROD)
CWS key strategic priorities are taken into account in the future development/renewal of HCP programs, where relevant April 2019 Director General, SROD
Review of an advisory mechanism for conservation Spring 2018
ADM, CWS
Establishment of an advisory mechanism for conservation December 2018 ADM, CWS
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