Evaluation of the Habitat Conservation Partnerships Program: Executive summary

ECCC’s Audit and Evaluation Branch conducted an evaluation of the Habitat Conservation Partnerships (HCP) Program, covering activities from 2010-11 to 2015-16.

The HCP Program consists of several program components. Each one provides different mechanisms to engage with organizations and individuals, including with landowners, environmental non-governmental organizations and others. The HCP Program is focused on ensuring that wildlife habitat 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.

The 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).

This report presents the results of the evaluation of five of the seven HCP Program components:

  • Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP)
  • North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP)/North American Wetlands Conservation Council (Canada) (NAWCC Canada)
  • Wildlife Habitat Canada (WHC) Conservation Stamp Initiative
  • Ecological Gifts Program (EGP)
  • Canada’s participation in the Ramsar Convention

Average annual program expenditures for these five program components for the six-year period from 2010-11 to 2015-16 were $28.2 million, managed by approximately 17 full-time equivalent employees.



The HCP Program addresses the continued need for wildlife habitat conservation in Canada. It is aligned with federal conservation and ecosystem preservation objectives.

ECCC’s involvement in the HCP Program is consistent with federal roles and legislated responsibilities related to securing and protecting important and ecologically sensitive habitat. The HCP Program supports international commitments, including those associated with NAWMP, the Ramsar Convention and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.


The HCP Program has made appropriate progress towards most of its expected results. The NACP, NAWMP, EGP and Ramsar components directly contribute to long-term habitat protection through land securement and retention. While the total cumulative number of hectares secured across all components of the HCP Program is not available, the individual components continue to acquire lands for protection and have made significant progress towards their respective land securement or retention goals.

All HCP Program components contribute to habitat management and stewardship. There is evidence that best practices, guidelines and processes for the management of secured properties are in place. The NAWMP—and since 2013, the NACP—are progressing towards their habitat management targets. The WHC Conservation Stamp Initiative contributes to habitat management through value-added funding to NAWMP and other partners. The EGP encourages the recipient organizations to establish and implement management plans for donated lands. Management plans have been developed for most Canadian Ramsar sites.

Levels of participation and engagement are mixed across the various HCP Program components. While several program components have good overall levels of stakeholder engagement and participation, the evaluation findings suggest there is still room for improvement. The evaluation identified a need for broader engagement and awareness of the EGP among potential donors, particularly those who may possess important and ecologically sensitive habitat. The NAWMP component is seen as a successful partnership model for co-operation among public and private stakeholders at various levels; however, agricultural, forestry and indigenous stakeholders have been under-represented. Though the WHC Conservation Stamp Initiative engages with its targeted audience of hunters, there is an opportunity to expand participation through increased outreach.

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

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 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.

The various components make effective use of leveraging mechanisms, building on ECCC funding to 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. Overlap in reporting by the components results in some double counting. Although three of the five components have logic models, at the time of the evaluation, there was no overall logic model describing the program’s expected results. Both these issues are being addressed by performance measurement planning related to implementing the 2016 Treasury Board (TB) Policy on Results and the introduction of revised reporting procedures. As such, a recommendation related to performance measurement has not been included.


Two recommendations are addressed to the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Canadian Wildlife Service:

  1. Take appropriate actions to increase participation of targeted stakeholders in program areas where they are under-represented.
  2. Introduce a consolidated approach to strategic planning to align priority setting across the various HCP Program components.

The Assistant Deputy Minister of the Canadian Wildlife Service agrees with the recommendations and has developed a management action plan that appropriately addresses each recommendation.

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