Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk: program overview

1. Background

One of the Government of Canada’s conservation mandates is to conserve nature, including the recovery of species at risk. The Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk (AFSAR) program, established in 2004, supports the development of IndigenousFootnote 1 capacity to participate actively in the implementation of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). This fund also enables Indigenous involvement in activities that protect or conserve habitats for species at risk (SAR) and that prevent other species from becoming a conservation concern. The Act recognizes the important role that Indigenous Peoples play in wildlife conservation and the need to consider Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) in the SARA process.

This document provides general program information and requirements for making an application to the AFSAR. Applications will be evaluated in the context of the Program’s funding priorities, which are outlined on the AFSAR program website and updated annually.

Regional AFSAR Coordinators are the primary source of additional information for questions pertaining to information provided in this guideline document, program priorities, and funding options available through the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). Questions that are more specific related to funding amounts, outcome reporting, species data sharing, and project permits, can also be directed to the appropriate Regional AFSAR Coordinator.

For general information about the terrestrial AFSAR program, including contact information for Regional AFSAR Coordinators, please consult the AFSAR program website or send specific questions to ec.faep-afsar.ec@canada.ca. Section 14 of this document provides links to online information referenced in this document and to other sources of information that may be useful.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for the administration of aquatic projectsFootnote 2. Applicants wishing to pursue aquatic AFSAR projects should contact the appropriate aquatic Regional Coordinator.

2. Program objectives and expected results

Program objectives

The overall Program objectives of AFSAR are to:

  • support and promote the conservation, protection and recovery of target species and their habitats on Indigenous lands or traditionally used territories; and
  • support the engagement and leadership of Indigenous Peoples in the conservation and recovery of the target species, their habitats and SARA processes

In order to be eligible, proposed projects must demonstrate how they contribute directly to the recovery objectives and population goals of target species. Further, the application must contribute to one or more of the following Conserving Nature Core Responsibility expected results:

Program expected results:

  • Canada’s wildlife and habitat is conserved and protected
  • Canada’s species at risk are recovered
  • Indigenous Peoples are engaged in conservation

3. Eligible lands

In order to be eligible, proposed projects must take place on:

  • reserves and lands set apart for the use and benefit of Aboriginal Peoples under the Indian Act or under section 91 (24) of the Constitution Act,1867
  • other lands directly controlled by Indigenous Peoples (for example, Métis Settlement lands, land claim/treaty settlement lands), and lands set aside in the Yukon and Northwest Territories pursuant to Cabinet Directive, circular No.27
  • lands where traditional activities (harvesting or other) are carried out by Indigenous Peoples

4. Eligible recipients

All Indigenous communities and organizations located in Canada are eligible for funding (see list below). Furthermore, a partner organization (Indigenous or non-Indigenous) may submit an application on behalf of one or more Indigenous communities or organizations if the organization provides a letter of support from the community indicating that it has been formally mandated to do so by the application deadline.

Eligible recipients include the following types of Indigenous communities and organizations:

  • Indigenous not-for-profit and for profit organizations
  • territorially based Indigenous groups
  • district councils, Chiefs councils and Tribal councils
  • traditional appointed advisory committees
  • Indigenous corporations
  • Indigenous partnerships and groups
  • Indigenous research, academic, and educational institutions
  • Indigenous cultural education centres
  • Indigenous land/resource management authorities
  • Indigenous co-operatives
  • Indigenous societies
  • Indigenous boards and commissions
  • other organizations (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) if mandated by one of the above eligible recipients

5. Eligible species

The following species are eligible for funding under the AFSAR:

  • species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA (except those listed as extirpated)
  • species that have been assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as endangered, threatened, or of special concern but have not yet been listed on Schedule 1 of SARA

Eligible species include a large number of species. As such, and in order to direct available funds to where they are needed most, a sub-group of species has been identified in each region as priorities for funding.

Please consult the AFSAR program website for additional information on the funding priorities. Funding priorities, including Priority Species, are reviewed and updated annually to ensure they align with the Government of Canada’s priorities. Please note that addressing species at risk listed on Schedule 1 of SARA is the main priority of AFSAR. As such, a larger proportion of funding will be dedicated to projects targeting the recovery of species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA, and identified as priorities in each region.

For the most up-to-date list of species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA, as well as their recovery strategies, action plans and management plans, please visit the Species at Risk Public Registry. To search for COSEWIC assessed species and to obtain their respective status reports please visit the COSEWIC website.

6. Eligible activities

The following activity categories are eligible for funding under AFSAR. Applicants must select from the following activity categories in their application. The examples listed below each activity category are eligible options to consider with a few exceptions. Activities that do not fall under these categories are subject to approval. Please consult with a Regional AFSAR Coordinator to discuss potential project activities other than those listed below:

Activity categories

  • Habitat protection and securement: Through acquisition (purchase or donation) or other securement means; protecting target species habitat by assisting recipients in acquiring properties or establishing conservation easements, leases or other types of agreements with property owners.
    • Legally binding measures:
      • securing land by acquiring title (fee simple)
      • securing land by an easement, covenant or servitude
      • securing land through a lease
    • Non-legally binding measures:
      • protection of land through a written conservation agreement
  • Habitat improvement: Enhancing or restoring habitat of target species; changing land management or land use practices to benefit target species and improve habitat quality.
    • Restoration, enhancement and/or management of target species habitat
    • Vegetation planting or removal of exotics/invasive species in the habitat of, in the immediate area of, and for the direct benefit of a known target species
    • Residence creation (hibernacula, bird boxes, turtle nesting sites, etc.)
    • Implementation of beneficial management practices or land use guidelines
  • Species and habitat threat abatement: Direct intervention for target species under immediate threat from human activity or proactive/preventative activities.
    • Prevention of damage to target species habitats (for example educational signage)
    • Protection and rescueFootnote 3 prevention of harm to target species (nest relocation, enabling species migration around roadways, fences for the exclusion of habitat disturbances, etc.)
    • Application of modified or new technology to prevent accidental harm (for example, using modified harvesting methods to reduce incidental take of target species)
  • Conservation planning:
    • development of target species conservation strategies to improve habitat and reduce threats
    • planning of stewardship programs, including target audience engagement strategies
    • compilation and dissemination of resource/land use guidelines and beneficial management practices
  • Surveys, inventories and monitoring: Activities such as identifying potential sites for habitat restoration or assessing the presence of a target species and its habitat in order to target, design and carry out a current (or future) stewardship project.

    These activities will only be funded if they are part of a larger stewardship project that is clearly defined in the application and that will be implemented within the next two years. Applicants will be required to demonstrate how your monitoring and data collection activity will lead to on-the-ground recovery action as part of the application.
    • Identifying potential sites for habitat restoration; includes mapping and analysis (needed to support target species stewardship activities)
    • Assessing the presence of target species through surveying and/or monitoring
    • Creation and/or maintenance of inventories or databases for habitat and species data
    • Collection of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge
  • Project evaluation: Assess the social and biological results and effectiveness of stewardship activities.
    • Conduct project or program results assessment(s)
  • Document and use of aboriginal traditional knowledge:
    • contribution to the use/integration of ATK in conservation planning
    • documenting ATK through surveys and interviews about the species and their habitats
    • ATK compilation and storage (for example, set-up/maintenance of databases)
  • Capacity building: Acquiring or building new competencies/knowledge to support individuals and communities in conservation activities.
  • Outreach and education: Providing information to appropriate target audiences on specific actions to be taken to protect target species; raising awareness about target species conservation needs; educating resource users about alternative methods that minimize impacts on target species and their habitat; promoting stewardship at the community level to improve attitudes and change behaviour.

    The activity should lead to direct target species recovery action; general outreach or non-targeted activities are not eligible. Applicants will be required to demonstrate how the outreach activity will lead to on-the-ground recovery action.
    • Development of targeted outreach materials emphasizing the importance of target species and the benefits of the action to be undertaken
    • Training of individuals/community members in stewardship practices related to target species
    • Informing and engaging community members/target audiences (for example, land managers, resources users) about their potential contributions towards target species recovery
    • Engaging landowners directly in future habitat protection activities

    Any proposed outreach or awareness-building activity will need to be framed as a necessary component of a larger project plan unless they are sufficiently targeted and well supported to stand-alone. Project applications will need to describe in detail how each outreach activity will lead to action in implementing on-the-ground species recovery and include a plan for measuring the implementation, either within the time frame of the project, or within a defined period afterward.

Important:

  • activities must be closely linked to prescribed recovery actions in completed recovery strategies, action plans or management plans when available for SARA-listed species and/or wildlife/conservation plans for COSEWIC-assessed species not listed on SARA
  • AFSAR funding cannot be used for the creation of promotional merchandise (such as hats or mugs)
  • scientific research activities, captive breeding, captive rearing, and extirpated species reintroductions, the development of Recovery Strategies or Action Plans, including the identification of Critical Habitat (as required under SARA) are not eligible for AFSAR funding. However, AFSAR-funded activities can contribute to the content of recovery documents, such as through the collection of species data that can be used to inform on habitat needs, threat mitigation measures, etc.

7. Consolidating projects and multi-year funding

If an applicant wishes to submit more than one project for AFSAR, they are encouraged to consolidate multiple, small applications on the same target species or related to the same priority into a single, large application that outlines the different priority activities.

Multi-year projects are encouraged because they consider the longer-term conservation outcome, and once approved, offer assurance of funding from one year to the next provided the Recipients meet all terms, conditions, and other obligations in the Contribution Agreement.

Current Recipients of AFSAR multi-year funding can apply to receive additional AFSAR funding to undertake new and additional activities as part of their current project, by way of an amendment to their existing contribution agreementFootnote 4. Contact a Regional AFSAR Coordinator for details.

Projects are administered at the regionalFootnote 5 scale. Applicants whose project crosses regional boundaries should identify a primary region based on where the majority of activities will take place. It is strongly recommended that applicants with projects crossing over regional boundaries discuss their project with the primary region’s Coordinator early in the application process.

8. Matching contributions

Applicants must obtain contributions of non-federal support (cash and/or in-kind) to obtain AFSAR funds.

  • Provincial agencies, non-governmental organizations, private landowners, the private sector, and the applicant, are all eligible sources for matching funds
  • For Indigenous applicants, a minimum of 0.20:1 matching contributions (from non-federal sources) of the AFSAR funding amount is required ($0.20 match for each $1 of AFSAR funding). However, preference will be given to projects with matching contributions in excess of 0.20:1 and to projects with higher cash-matching contributions in relation to in-kind contributions
  • For non-Indigenous applicants, a minimum of 1:1 matching contributions (from non-federal sources) is required ($1 confirmed match for $1 AFSAR funding). However, preference will be given to projects with matching contributions in excess of 1:1 and to projects with higher cash-matching contributions in relation to in-kind contributions. This requirement applies to non-Indigenous applicants applying on behalf of an Indigenous group
  • Please note that Band contributions are considered as eligible sources of matching contributions
  • For multi-year projects, the program’s requirement for matching funds is based on the ability of the applicant to obtain those funds over the entire duration of the project, and approval is not contingent on securement of all matching funds up front. The rate of matching can be less than 20% of the AFSAR fund amount in any given year, as long as the 20% is met by the project’s completionFootnote 6
  • Federal funds (for example, EcoAction, Habitat Stewardship Program [HSP], and federal funds administered by third-party non-governmental organizations) are not eligible as match. See section 13 for other requirements relating to the use of funds from other federal funding programs
  • All proposed contributions must be listed in the application. If the AFSAR application is successful, all confirmed contributions must be identified in the Contribution Agreement signed with ECCC. If the applicant is not sure where the funding will come from precisely at the time of application, they can specify at the time of application “Anticipated funding from other project funders.”
  • Examples of in-kind resources are equipment loans, donations of building materials and volunteer labour. In-kind costs should be associated only with the portion used in the project, not, for example, the total cost of the materials and supplies. For specifics on the eligibility of and limitations on in-kind resources, please contact a Regional AFSAR Coordinator

9. Project funding and eligible expenses

Project funding

Funding is variable and dependent on project activities. In an effort to promote collaboration and multi-year projects, the minimum funding request suggested for new and multi-year projects is $10,000.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to consider the potential impact of variable timing of funding decisions on proposed projects activities and budgets.

Eligible expenses

For all eligible expenses, only those deemed to be a reasonable share for completing the project will be considered eligible.

Eligible expenses may include reasonable and properly itemized costs for:

  • Human resource costs
    • SalariesFootnote 7, wages and benefits (directly associated with the project activities)
  • Management and professional service costs
    • Accounting, appraisal, Elders/knowledgeholders fees, insurance (related to the project), land surveys, legal (other than litigation) costs, official languages translationFootnote 8 and other professional fees (other than travel)
    • Projects over $100,000 may be required to submit an independently verified financial report at the end of the project
  • Lease of office space
  • Contractors
    • Consultants and contractors' fees associated with the project (subject to regional or national limits) Footnote 9
  • Hospitality, travel, and venues/conference expenses (as per the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Directive Footnote 10 )
    • Travel expenses and related expenses for contracted professional service providers or other non-employees (to a maximum of current Treasury Board Secretariat rates), including mileage and accommodation
    • Travel and related expenses for recipient organization employees
  • Materials and supplies costs
    • Office supplies and materials
    • Field equipment and field supplies
    • Includes equipment purchase under $10,000
  • Printing, production and distribution costs
    • Printing costs, websites, supplies, etc.
  • Equipment and capital assets purchase or rental
    • Lease, rental, repair, operating expenses, upgrades and/or maintenance costs including associated gear in support of project activities (subject to regional or national limits)
    • Purchase of a single, tangible asset (with a useful life of more than one year) and using more than $10,000 of ECCC funds (subject to approval in advance)
  • Vehicle rental and operation costs
  • Costs associated with land acquisition or other means of land securement
    • Costs associated with land acquisition or other means of land securement (that is, leases, easements, covenants, or servitudes)
    • May include appraisal fees and legal costs
  • Overhead
    • Administrative costs (salaries and benefits of support staff, office utilities and rent, etc.) directly attributable to carrying out of the project up to a maximum of 10% of the AFSAR contribution; note that overhead costs are not included as part of the other eligible expenditures categories
  • Other costs
    • Meeting and training fees (for example, materials and hall rental), and registration fees for courses, conferences, workshops or seminars
  • Further disbursement of ECCC funding to final recipient
    • Organizations wishing to coordinate work for a specific species or threat or within a certain geographic area may wish to consider a further disbursement project. A further disbursement project is one where a recipient distributes funds to third parties by means of their own competitive contribution-type program and agreements. Please contact a Regional AFSAR Coordinator for further details

Note:

  • GST/HST/QST/PST is an eligible project expenditure; therefore ECCC may reimburse recipients for the taxes they paid while undertaking the activities of the agreement that are not reimbursable by Canada Revenue Agency or by the provinces. The amount of ECCC’s contribution includes the reimbursement for GST/HST/QST/PST. For example, if ECCC’s contribution is $25,000, this $25,000 includes ECCC’s reimbursement for all eligible expenditures including GST/HST/QST/PST. ECCC will not reimburse the recipient $25,000 plus GST/HST/QST/PST; the $25,000 is all-inclusive
  • the use of universal day rates is not accepted. Costs must be broken down by expense category in order for the Contribution Agreement to be considered legally binding after signing. When costs are broken down into their respective categories, various clauses are triggered in the Contribution Agreement
  • costs, other than those identified herein, are ineligible unless specifically approved in writing by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, or their delegate at the time of project approval and are necessary for the successful completion of the project

10. Other requirements

Impact Assessment Act, 2019

Consult your Regional AFSAR Coordinator to help you evaluate whether the consideration of the environmental effects of a project may be required under the Impact Assessment Act, 2019.

11. To apply

See the AFSAR program website for specific deadlines.

Application form

To apply to the AFSAR program, applicants have to register on ECCC’s one window application system for the Grants and Contributions Enterprise Management System (GCEMS). You are strongly encouraged to contact your Regional AFSAR Coordinator to discuss the project to ensure that it aligns with Program priorities and expected results. This process will typically improve the quality of the application, but does not guarantee that the project will receive funding.

Please note that extensions to the application deadline will not be granted due to personal considerations, minor technical malfunctions of the program’s online system or other reasons. Applicants are encouraged to submit their applications early, as online systems can become slower as the deadline nears, due to a high volume of proponents accessing the system.

Communication with applicants regarding application status during the project review and selection phase is prohibited until the departmental approvals in principle have been granted. ECCC will notify all applicants of such approvals in principle and will do so for each individual application submitted. ECCC aims to send these notifications as early as possible. Therefore, applicants should expect variation in the timing of notifications within a program and between ECCC or other Government of Canada funding programs. Applicants will be notified as soon as funding approvals in principle have been made, and negotiation of the Contribution Agreement will follow. This notification may also be shared with Members of Parliaments of the applicants. The program is unable to reimburse applicants for any expenses incurred prior to the official notification of approval in principle if a Contribution Agreement is not finalized and signed by ECCC and the Applicant.

12. How projects are reviewed

As the demand for funding from AFSAR regularly exceeds the funds available, there is no guarantee that a project will be funded. Every effort will be made to provide applicants with the earliest possible notice once a decision has been made. Applicants are strongly encouraged to work with their Regional AFSAR Coordinators to ensure projects meet the Program priorities.

General

Project applications are reviewed based on a range of considerations:

Program objectives

  • Eligibility requirements for species, applicants, activities, expenses, matching funds, etc.; and
  • Alignment with Program priorities (see AFSAR program website)

Quality criteria

  • Links to conservation activities identified in recovery strategies/action plans for endangered or threatened species, or management plans for species of special concern, where these documents exist
  • Links to conservation activities identified in wildlife/conservation plans for COSEWIC-assessed species not listed on Schedule 1 of SARA
  • Coordination with other habitat conservation programs, for both recovery actions, conservation actions and cost-efficiency
  • Applicant’s ability to plan, manage and complete projects successfully (for example, description of the issues and solutions to be implemented)
  • Appropriateness of budget and schedules; these must be realistic, given the time frame and objectives of the project
  • Clarity, conciseness and quality of the application
  • Other funding sources (matching contributions) and the demonstration of the applicant’s ability to raise funds from non-federal sources
  • Implementation of evaluation and performance measures; and
  • Other regional considerations mentioned in the AFSAR program website

Application evaluation criteria

Eligible applications will be evaluated and prioritized using the following criteria:

  • 60% for alignment with Program objectives, including Program priorities; and
  • 40% for technical merit of the application, which includes (though is not limited to) considerations such as overall quality of the project application, feasibility of the project and consideration of past performance

Please note: The ability of applicants to complete all reporting and administration requirements under the AFSAR Program will be considered during the evaluation. To this end project evaluators will consider past performance in meeting reporting and administration deadlines for all contribution agreements with ECCC. Inability to meet these reporting requirements may result in disqualification of an applicant for future funding.

A high-quality project is one that:

  • addresses and delivers stewardship directly related to the program’s stated priorities
  • implements high-priority stewardship activities listed in recovery strategies and action plans or other species management and conservation plans
  • addresses critical habitat of SARA-listed species
  • benefits multiple species, with targeted species being Priority Species
  • when the project targets species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA, it is developed with the involvement of the recovery expert(s) for the target species and/or with the understanding of recovery activities outlined in recovery documents
  • has an application presented in a clear and logical manner
  • has a well-developed workplan that clearly identifies specific activities for specific species and expected results and/or outcomes of the project
  • has a plan to measure project results
  • demonstrates a high degree of local and regional support from a variety of partners
  • involves individuals and communities with local experience and knowledge, and/or supports capacity building to allow communities to respond to species conservation; and
  • has a high likelihood of success based on applicant experience and realistic deliverables

13. For accepted applications

Once confirmation of approval of the project has been received, applicants will be required to submit additional information, including but not limited to the following:

Cash flow statement

A detailed cash flow statement of all sources of revenue (including all in-kind contributions) and expenditures that are part of the approved project will be required.

Reporting obligations

The Contribution Agreement, between the recipient and ECCC, will specify project report deadlines and will include the required forms. Reporting will be completed online, and recipients will need to provide regular progress reports, annual reports (for multi-year projects) as well as a final report at the end of the project.

These reports will describe project revenue, expenses, accomplishments and detailed descriptions/ quantifications of project outputs and outcomes. Project expected results are basic quantifiable project achievements while project intermediate outcomes include longer term indicators of effectiveness of project activities in supporting the recovery of species and their habitats.

Project expected results for annual or final project reports could include:

  • total land protected, improved or restored
  • number of species targeted for protection or threat mitigation
  • species monitoring results
  • number of individuals directly or indirectly engaged through outreach

Project intermediate outcomes for annual or final project reports could include:

  • effectiveness of stewardship agreements in improving habitat quality
  • effectiveness of management or restoration actions or threat reduction activities
  • effectiveness of directed outreach efforts in improving stakeholder engagement

Outcomes and accomplishments must be reported using the performance indicators identified in the Contribution Agreement. It is important to note that different projects may have different reporting requirements. The Regional AFSAR Coordinator will advise recipients on specific reporting requirements.

SAR survey data sharing

Recipients will be encouraged to provide species occurrence or habitat data collected in the context of the project to their respective provincial/territorial wildlife data repository centre and to ECCC or Parks Canada, as however relevant to your project. Recipients will be asked to confirm in the final report the submission of data.

Intellectual property rights

Any Intellectual Property Rights created by the Recipient in association with their obligations and responsibilities under this Agreement shall vest in and remain the property of the Recipient. ECCC shall have no rights to this intellectual property for any purpose without the express written permission of the Recipient.

Permitting

Recipients will be responsible for obtaining the appropriate permits associated with the project from relevant federal and/or provincial authorities (including those required under the Species at Risk Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and any other provincial or territorial wildlife acts that may apply) wherever the project triggers the need for a permit (for example, it could impact the species).

As permits take time to arrange, recipients should address this need several months before the project start date to reduce delays once a funding announcement is made (see the SARA Registry).

Public acknowledgement

Recipients are responsible for providing ECCC with final copies of any document or material utilizing the ECCC identifier, wordmark and/or acknowledgement statements prior to printing or distribution, for ECCC approval of the use of said logos and/or acknowledgement statements. The Regional AFSAR Coordinator will need to be consulted prior to making any communications products such as publications, public information releases, advertising, promotional announcements, activities, speeches, lectures, interviews, ceremonies and websites. All such communications products originating from the project must acknowledge ECCC’s contribution by displaying the ECCC identifier with the public acknowledgement text along with the ECCC wordmark.

Official languages

The Official Languages Act (Part VII) requires that the Government of Canada promote both official languages and enhance the vitality of Official Language Minority Communities (OLMC) across Canada. It is recognized that projects or organizations funded by ECCC through a contributions program may:

  • have an impact on OLMC; and/or
  • provide potential opportunities to promote the use of both English and French; and/or
  • make it possible to promote Canada’s bilingual nature

Applicants whose project may be delivered in a geographic area with OLMCs or which includes any public events, signage, promotional or other communications may need to consider official language requirements, for example:

  • offer materials produced with project funds (brochures, kits, handouts, newsletters, reports, etc.) in both official languages
  • have directional and educational signs produced in both official languages
  • offer workshop facilitation in both official languages

Any cost related to official language translation is an eligible cost under the program.

Applicants will be required to complete the Official Language Questionnaire for Funding applicants (Module 8 of the application form) in order to assess the official language requirements that may apply to the project. Applicants should discuss any potential official language requirements and opportunities with their Regional AFSAR Coordinator.

Note: Overlap with other federal funding programs

You can only receive funding from one federal funding program for each approved activity. Any application submitted to other Environment and Climate Change Canada funding programs (for example, HSP and EcoAction, etc.) must be for activities that are different from those submitted in the AFSAR application. Organizations should review information from other Environment and Climate Change Canada funding programs to determine which program is the best fit for their project.

14. Main links

Please see the following websites for additional information that may be useful for your application:

Please contact us at ec.faep-afsar.ec@canada.ca or contact the appropriate Regional AFSAR Coordinator for all other questions. Please note that Regional AFSAR Coordinators are available to answer questions during regular business hours, local time.

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