Evaluation of the Habitat Conservation Partnerships Program: Findings: program efficiency

This section summarizes the assessment of the Habitat Conservation Partnerships (HCP) Program’s efficiency. The findings are based on an analysis of the program’s use of resources to produce its outputs and move towards achieving expected results. It builds on qualitative information from a review of documents and interviews with management.

Table 12: Ratings for program efficiency
Efficiency criteria Rating
4.1   The extent to which the program’s cluster design is appropriate Expectations met
4.2   The extent to which the governance structure is clear, appropriate and efficient Further work required
4.3   The extent to which program delivery is efficient and economical Expectations met
4.4   The extent to which performance data is collected Further work required

4.1 Cluster design of the program components

Findings: The various program components of the HCP Program support a mix of mechanisms that contribute to wildlife habitat protection and conservation through partnerships within the conservation community. The design of the HCP Program components includes many internationally accepted best practices in wildlife habitat conservation.

A comparative review of the program components found that, while the HCP Program components have similar overall objectives, each component meets those objectives using different and unique means and by fulfilling different roles. For example, both the EGP and NACP components focus on the conservation of ecologically sensitive private lands. However, the NACP provides funding to support land acquisition led by the NCC and OQOs, while EGP provides a tax incentive to landowners who donate lands.

The other three HCP Program components, namely NAWMP, WHC Conservation Stamp Initiative and Ramsar, focus primarily on wetlands. Under Ramsar, Canada designates sites containing wetlands of international significance. NAWMP is a continental conservation initiative that includes retention and management of wetlands and other waterfowl habitat. The WHC Conservation Stamp Initiative complements other conservation programs that wholly or in part support wetland conservation by contributing additional funding, primarily to NAWMP projects.

The majority (95%) of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that it is appropriate for ECCC to support programs that provide a mix of mechanisms contributing to wildlife habitat protection and conservation through partnerships.

The evaluation evidence identified that the various HCP Program components incorporate many of the characteristics considered to be best practices for the management of habitat conservation, including:

  • development of a long-term vision and its linkage to short-term action
  • strong emphasis on scientific data and ecological principles
  • inclusion of an adaptive management approach and enhanced monitoring mechanisms
  • broad participation by societal stakeholders and co-operation between the stakeholders at the local, regional, national and international levels
  • integration of economic, social and environmental considerations

4.2 Governance structure

Findings: Each of the program components has its own governance structure that, for the most part, appears to be working well. However, the HCP Program does not have a governance process or structures in place that enables consolidated strategic planning and priority setting at the overall program level.


Linkages exist between the various HCP Program components. For the most part, however, each component is managed and governed as a distinct program, with its own governance structure (summarized in Table 13), priority setting and management processes (see Appendix A). The evaluation team found no evidence of any overarching governance that pulls together the various component parts, provides consolidated strategic planning or establishes overall priorities.

Table 13: Summary of governance structure of the program components
Program component Governance
Natural Areas Conservation Program The Nature Conservancy of Canada (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) 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. The NAWCC (Canada) Secretariat is housed in the Habitat Conservation Unit of ECCC’s Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), which helps NAWCC (Canada) with its day-to-day operations. The NAWCC (Canada) membership consists of 19 partners.Footnote 1
Wildlife Habitat Canada Conservation Stamp Initiative 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 The EGP is administered by ECCC in co-operation with dozens of partners, including other federal departments, provincial and municipal governments, and environmental non-government organizations. A national secretariat and regional program coordinators manage the EGP. It 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.
Ramsar Convention The Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP) meets every three years and promotes policies and guidelines to further the application of the Convention. ECCC’s CWS represents the North American Region on the Ramsar Standing Committee, on a rotational basis with the U.S. and Mexico.

Natural Areas Conservation Program

The 2012 evaluation of the NACP component found that the NCC has a clearly defined and understood governance structure for setting priorities and funding approvals. Similarly, most interviewees for the current evaluation reported that the governance structure of the NACP is appropriate and very effective. External interviewees noted that the program committee, which involves both the NCC and ECCC, has been effective. They mentioned that ECCC has been approachable in clarifying any issues about the eligibility of expenses or land acquisitions.

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

Interviewees reported that the NAWMP governance structure is fairly clear and effective. There is some confusion, however, about the roles and responsibilities of NAWMP and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) and the degree to which NAWMP can be used to support conservation goals other than waterfowl.

One survey respondent suggested that a national body that delivers national wetland conservation initiatives beyond the scope of individual HJVs would add value. As well, an updated national wetland policy would assist the efforts of all programs targeting wetland management and conservation.

Wildlife Habitat Canada Conservation Stamp Initiative

The WHC is governed and managed by a board of directors and three committees. The board is seen by key informants as inclusive; it comprises ECCC appointees, provincial wildlife directors, ECCC observers, NGOs and private partners. Survey respondents and interviewees characterized the internal WHC governance structure as clear and appropriate for collaboration between project recipients and ECCC representatives in both the regions and headquarters.

Ecological Gifts Program

External interviewees indicated that the overall governance structure of the EGP is efficient and appropriate. However, both internal and external interviewees mentioned that donors lack knowledge of the tax implications of the EGP. ECCC and the Canada Revenue Agency are developing a memorandum of understanding to clarify the processes between the two departments and to improve administration of the program.

Ramsar Convention

The evaluation findings with respect to the governance of the Ramsar component are mixed. Overall, the governance structure of the Ramsar component appears clear and appropriate. However, interviewees identified opportunities for improvement in clarifying the roles and responsibilities related to the operation and management of Ramsar designated sites in Canada. Interviewees also reported that there is room to improve communications after the initial site designation between Ramsar site managers and the provinces and other federal departments, particularly the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Parks Canada Agency.

4.3 Program delivery

Findings: The various components make effective use of leveraging mechanisms to expand the ECCC funding provided, 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.


Three of the five HCP Program components—NACP, NAWMP and WHC Stamp Initiative—make use of funding and leveraging mechanisms from various partners to contribute to achieving outcomes related to land securement and habitat management.

Table 14 presents a high level summary of the ECCC expenditures and funding from 2010-11 to 2015-16, as well as funding from other partners, for each of the HCP Program components (see Appendix A for detailed expenditures). It also includes the total land secured and land managed for the same period, by component. Hectares reported by program component are not mutually exclusive.

Comparisons between components should be made with caution because of the differences in focus, approach and underlying agreements that guide delivery, as well as variations in reporting assumptions. However, the table shows the important role of contributions from other partners. It also reflects the variations in delivery costs to ECCC associated with involving partners in the delivery of the component.

Table 14: Program costs, land secured or retained and land managed by implementing stewardship actions, by program component, from 2010-11 to 2015-16
Program costs and land secured or managed Natural Areas Conservation Program North American Waterfowl Management Plan/North American Wetlands Conservation Council (Canada) Wildlife Habitat Canada Conservation Stamp Initiative Ecological Gifts Program Ramsar Convention
ECCC salary and O&M N/A $4,110,000 $17,000 $6,751,000 $361,000
ECCC G&Cs $131,865,000 $13,979,000 $10,304,000 $376,000 $1,230,000
Contributions from partners $301,428,000 $543,942,000 $53,740,000* N/A N/A
Total funding $433,293,000 $562,031,000 $64,061,000 $7,127,000 $1,591,000
Land secured or retained and land managed by implementing stewardship actions (in hectares)
Incremental land secured
(2010-11 to 2015-16)
276,000 325,000 N/A 43,000 20,000
Total land managed
(as of 2015-16)
174,000 4,721,000 806,000 N/A N/A

Source: Data received from Program as of 2017.
* Since data was not available for 2010-11 on contributions from other partners for WHC Conservation Stamp Initiative, total contributions for that year were estimated as the average yearly contribution from 2011-2012 to 2015-2016.

Natural Areas Conservation Program

The 2012 evaluation of the NACP found that the NCC was efficient in delivering the program and had exemplary administrative and operational processes. The current evaluation also found that the NCC’s strong science-based approach contributes to efficiencies. It enables the NCC to be highly targeted in establishing conservation priorities and acquiring properties that address them. Interviewees were of the view that the NACP’s approach of providing funding directly to the NCC to manage program delivery is more efficient than if ECCC were to undertake this role.

During the current evaluation timeframe, the NACP component matched the approximately $132 million in G&C funding received from ECCC with approximately $301 million in funds from other sources. This represents an overall ratio of approximately 2.3:1 or $2.29 leveraged for every $1 received.

Interviewees and survey respondents expressed the view that the ECCC funding could be spread more broadly. About half (51.3%) of survey respondents suggested that the funding eligibility criteria for OQOs were appropriate. However, some external stakeholders in both the survey and interviews said that it would be more efficient if ECCC resources were either distributed by ECCC to a wider base of conservation-based NGOs or if the OQO component of the NACP were more accessible. In response to a similar conclusion made during the 2012 evaluation of the NACP, the NCC developed a renewed OQO program. Among other changes, the renewed OQO program introduced a limit of $250,000 per project for OQO program funding and limited the allowed number of project applications to 1 per organization.

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

Interviewees reported that working with external government partners for the delivery of NAWMP works well. These partners are better positioned to leverage the funding received and build personal relationships in the communities. Similarly, the case study evidence showed that working directly with private landowners and with the agricultural community to conduct conservation stewardship activities is an efficient and effective approach. Interviewees indicated that regional HJVs are a strength in the design and delivery of NAWMP. The majority (96%) of survey respondents agreed that the HJVs are the appropriate mechanism for carrying out the goals of NAWMP.

Canadian federal sources, including ECCC, represent $380 million (17%) of the overall $2,218 million in funds that contributed to NAWMP goals in Canada from 1986 to March 2016 (see Table 15). Similarly, this represents only 33% of the overall $1,143 million from Canadian sources that contributed to NAWMP from 1986 to 2016. During the same timeframe, the four Canadian HJVs:

  • secured 8.1 million hectares of land
  • influenced 56.4 million hectares
  • enhanced 1.4 million hectares
  • managed 4.7 million hectares

As of 2010, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act requires that up to half of the U.S. funding for Canadian projects be matched with contributions from other federal and non-federal sources. This requirement has helped Canadian conservation efforts and has had an impact on Canadian conservation capacity with minimal federal funding. As a result, the contribution level for wetland conservation has increased, which is having a greater influence on land retention, management and enhancement.

Table 15: Contributions in support of North American Waterfowl Management Plan in Canada, 1986 to 2016 ($CAD)
Country and jurisdiction Contributions Percentage of overall total
U.S. - federal $569 million 25.7%
U.S. - non-federal $506 million 22.8%
U.S. - total $1,075 million 48.5%
Canadian - federal $380 million 17.1%
Canadian - provincial and territorial $307 million 13.8%
Canadian - other $456 million 20.6%
Canadian - total $1,143 million 51.5%
Overall total $2,218 million 100%

Source: Habitat Matters: 2016 Canadian NAWMP Report

Wildlife Habitat Canada Conservation Stamp Initiative

Survey respondents generally considered the administrative processes of this program component to be efficient and well-functioning. The majority (71.4%) agreed that the WHC Conservation Stamp Initiative’s program decisions are made in a timely manner. However, interviewees identified two opportunities for WHC to improve administrative processes and other operational efficiencies.

  • The price of Canadian Wildlife Conservation Stamps has remained unchanged since 1998. Stamps are sold for $8.50. They are affixed to the Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permits, which are also sold for $8.50, for a total cost of $17. At the same time, there has been a decline in the sale of waterfowl hunting permits. Several interviewees suggested that the price of stamps be raised to increase revenues for conservation.
  • A more robust administrative process is needed to reconcile revenues and transfer money to the WHC, to improve alignment with the hunting season. Electronic permitting was identified as a potential solution. Documentary review indicated that steps in this direction have already been taken. As of August 2015, hunters can purchase the stamp online and the e-permitting system is accessible to hunters 24/7.

Since 2010-11, the WHC has invested $10.3 million on funded projects, while the total funding from other partners is estimated at approximately $53 million. However, this program component primarily (95%) supports projects conducted as part of the NAWMP component. As such, it is likely that much of this funding is also accounted for in funding for the NAWMP component.

Ecological Gifts Program

EGP land securement is driven solely by donors, so it was not possible to make an accurate assessment of land secured in relation to money spent. Instead, EGP expenses pertain mainly to the processes of donation, including assessing market value, certifying property.
The EGP engages in program tracking, which includes the creation and maintenance of an Ecogifts database, and in managing and streamlining of the donation process. A majority of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that EGP program decisions regarding certifying fair market value (55%), and certifying property as ecologically sensitive (60%) are made in a timely manner. Information and instructions about making an ecological gift are available online. The EGP has also published the Canadian Ecological Gifts Program Handbook, which outlines information on ecological gifts and provides a checklist on the process of donating under the EGP. However, key informants indicated that website instructions for the EGP component could be made clearer for landowners who may not be familiar with the appraisal processes and financial concepts of the application procedure.

Ramsar Convention

Canada fulfils its international commitments to the Ramsar Convention, including submitting national reports related to Canada’s implementation of the Ramsar Convention. This is done in a manner that keeps incremental spending specific to Ramsar to a minimum. During the evaluation period, spending for this component represented 1% of the overall HCP Program spending.

4.4 Performance data collection

Findings: The five 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 means that some double counting occurs. Further, although three of the components have logic models, there was no overall logic model for the program when the evaluation was conducted. These issues are being addressed by performance measurement planning related to implementing the 2016 TB Policy on Results and the introduction of revised reporting procedures to address the issue of double counting.


Although performance data is available for each of the HCP Program components, the evaluation was not able to compile a clear picture of overall performance for the HCP Program. Overlap between reporting on the various components would result in double counting if the reports are aggregated. However, the department has recently introduced measures to address the issue of double counting between components. For example, as of 2014, the program ensures the NCC subtracts ecogifts donated under the EGP from its reporting for the NACP and program representatives work closely with the WHC and other partners to avoiding duplicated reporting between NAWMP and the WHC Conservation Stamp Initiative in the NAWMP National Tracking System.

During the evaluation timeframe, there was no cohesive logic model or reporting mechanism in use for the program. To address this issue, an overall program logic model is being developed as part of the implementation of the TB Policy on Results.Footnote 2

Natural Areas Conservation Program

The NACP has a logic model and performance data for the component is reported as a “year in review” in the NACP Annual Progress Report, which is made public. This report details the number of hectares of land protected over the course of the reporting year. Overall, the NCC sets clear and specific goals and targets for each fiscal year and publishes reports on the progress towards their achievement. The NACP relies on strong compliance monitoring and land information systems to support performance measurement.

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

NAWMP collects performance data and reports on the results. The program’s four Canadian HJVs report on performance data related to habitat that was retained, enhanced, managed and influencedFootnote 3 for their respective habitat areas. This information, along with data from other partners, is tracked through the NAWMP National Tracking System and is collated in an annual report titled Habitat Matters. NAWMP data related to retention is also tracked through the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and has been reported via the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators.

ECCC targets for NAWMP are developed by adding individual targets established in the implementation plan of each HJV. These are based on overall NAWMP objectives identified as part of the NAWMP’s 2012 revised goals.

Wildlife Habitat Canada Conservation Stamp Initiative

As of 2012, this program component has a logic model and has implemented a Performance Measurement Framework, with 10 performance indicators. Performance reporting requirements have been incorporated into the grant application process, to support the collection of individual project details for each funded project. This data is presented in the WHC Annual Report, which highlights the grant distribution accomplishments for the reporting year, including information on conservation activities and the amount of land conserved, among other indicators.

Ecological Gifts Program

The EGP has a detailed logic model, with defined outcomes, outputs and activities that address each of its core activities.
The EGP monitors program expenditures, results and activities. It reports on areas protected under the EGP and the informal monitoring of the gifts by partners and regional coordinators. EGP program achievements are reported as a whole because donation amounts vary from year to year. The most recent cumulative and individual results are published in ECCC’s 2015-16 Departmental Performance Report.

Ramsar Convention

ECCC acts as the administrative authority for Canada’s commitments under the Ramsar Convention and helps to prepare Canada’s report to the Conference of Contracting Parties (COP). The most recent report was completed in 2015 for COP12.

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