Habitat stewardship for species at risk

As part of Canada's national strategy for the protection of species at risk, the Government of Canada established the Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) for Species at Risk. The overall goals of the HSP are to "contribute to the recovery of endangered, threatened, and other species at risk, and to prevent other species from becoming a conservation concern, by engaging Canadians from all walks of life in conservation actions to benefit wildlife."   The HSP allocates approximately $12.2 million a year to projects that both conserve and protect species at risk and their habitats and to those that prevent other species from becoming a conservation concern.

Funding under the HSP is separated into two distinct streams:

  1. HSP Species at Risk stream focuses on projects addressing the recovery of species at risk listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA)
  2. HSP Prevention stream focuses on projects addressing other species, beyond those listed on SARA to prevent them from becoming a conservation concern

For both streams, activities must take place on private lands, provincial Crown lands, Indigenous lands, or in aquatic and marine areas across Canada. The program also fosters partnerships among organizations interested in the recovery of species at risk and other species.

The HSP is one of the three main federal funding programs that focus on the protection and recovery of species at risk.  The others are the Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk and the Interdepartmental Recovery Fund.  The Habitat Stewardship Program is administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada and managed co-operatively with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Parks Canada Agency.


Stewardship is clearly making a difference in habitat protection, the recovery of species, and the preservation of biodiversity. The HSP started in 2000, as one of three pillars in Canada’s national strategy for the protection of species at risk. The other two pillars are the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, endorsed by the provinces and territories, and SARA. Under SARA, stewardship is the first step in protecting Critical Habitat. Hundreds of stewardship projects are underway across Canada, many of them funded by the HSP. The program directs funds where they are needed most and into the hands of people who can make a difference--those who work on Canada's lands and waters and who care about this country's natural heritage.

To guide the effective use of limited resources, national and regional planning partners establish the overall priorities annually and then specific projects are developed. Activities that respond to regional priorities are regionally reviewed and recommended for funding in the following six regions: Pacific, Prairie, Northern, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic. Review committees represent the three responsible departments, as well as provincial, territorial, conservation and other stakeholder interests.

The HSP helps implement SARA and also works to keep healthy species healthy. While the Species at Risk stream supports the recovery of species at risk and their habitats, the Prevention stream fosters stewardship projects aimed at preventing other species from becoming a conservation concern. Under this latter stream, all species not listed under SARA are eligible and national/regional priorities are identified annually.

The program also fosters land, water and resource use practices that maintain the habitat necessary for the survival and recovery of species at risk, enhancing existing conservation activities and encouraging new ones. Furthermore, in some cases, entire landscapes and marine coastal areas are important enough, in terms of the conservation of species at risk, to become priorities themselves.

Priority landscapes that have been targeted by the Species at Risk stream include:

  • the Garry oak (Quercus garryana) ecosystem of southern Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and Fraser Valley of British Columbia, which is home to more than 20 species at risk nationally
  • the tallgrass prairie and aspen parkland region of Manitoba, where habitat protection efforts benefit plant and bird species at risk, such as the Small White Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium candidum) and Sprague's Pipit (Anthus spragueii)
  • the Upper Thames watershed of southern Ontario, where 37 species at risk are under threat from development and aggregate land use
  • the St. Lawrence Lowlands of southern Quebec, where the Missisquoi Bay wetlands provide the last large sanctuary for the Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera)
  • the coastal limestone barrens of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula, which house dozens of plant species at risk, including at-risk Salix and Braya species

Since program inception in 2000 and up to the end of March 2015, the Species at Risk stream invested over $151.5 million to support more than 2400 local species at risk conservation projects, benefitting the habitat of more than 420 species at risk. These projects have in turn leveraged an additional $397 million for a total investment of over $548 million in stewardship projects to support the recovery of species at risk. The program has established over 460 partnerships with Indigenous organizations, landowners, resource users, nature trusts, provinces, the natural resource sector, community-based wildlife societies, educational institutions and conservation organizations. Every year, on average, 200 000 ha are protected through direct actions taken by landowners, land managers, or conservation agencies. The program reaches more than a million people every year through outreach and education activities. Additionally, during its first year of operation, the Prevention stream invested more than $2.5 million in 81 aquatic and terrestrial stewardship projects.

What is stewardship?

Stewardship refers to the wide range of actions that Canadians take to care for the environment, ranging from conserving wild species and their habitats directly, to improving the quality of habitat by mitigating human impact. These types of conservation activities, particularly those that protect aquatic and terrestrial habitats, are essential to the recovery of species at risk. They are also instrumental in preventing other species from becoming at risk.

Some of the ongoing stewardship activities supported by the HSP include:

Species at Risk stream:

  • removing invasive White Sweet Clover at Prairie Point Alvar in Ontario in order to improve the habitat of the Endangered Gattinger’s Agalinis, a branching, slender plant
  • developing a landscape management strategy for the winter habitat of the Threatened Woodland Caribou in Manitoba
  • recruiting local volunteers to rope all-terrain vehicle trails in order to protect a bog that is the habitat to the largest population of the Endangered Eastern Mountain Avens in Nova Scotia
  • monitoring marine mammal populations and protecting important habitats from disturbance along the Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific coasts

Prevention stream:

  • Acquiring lands in the Mont Saint-Hilaire region of Quebec to protect the Shagbark Hickory from habitat degradation cause by urban and agricultural development
  • Restoring fish flows and habitat in Shuttleworth Creek in British Columbia to increase the available spawning habitat for Sockeye Salmon, Steelhead Salmon, Rainbow Trout, and Longnose Dace

Partnerships are the key to making stewardship a successful conservation tool in Canada. Federal and provincial governments encourage action by providing scientific information, technical assistance and economic incentives. Non-governmental organizations help private landowners and concerned citizens identify and implement effective stewardship activities. Many other partners are also involved, including fishers, Indigenous organizations, educational institutions and community organizations.

Program goals and expected results

Protecting habitat and contributing to the recovery of species at risk, as well as preventing other species from becoming a conservation concern, are the HSP's main goals.

The Species at Risk stream focuses on results in four main areas:

  • important habitatFootnote1 for species at risk recovery is secured or otherwise protected
  • important habitat for species at risk recovery is improved (restored/enhanced) and/or managed to meet species’ recovery needs
  • threats to species at risk and/or their habitat that are caused by human activities are stopped, removed and/or mitigated
  • project benefits are sustained over time by engaging Canadians (landowners, resource users, volunteers) to participate directly in activities that support the recovery of species at risk

The Prevention stream focuses on the same results as the Species at Risk stream but with a focus on species beyond those listed on Schedule 1 of SARA.

In addition to the above expected program results, the program requires a minimum of 1:1 leveraging on funds that it invests so that, for every $1 provided by the HSP, at least $1 is raised by project recipients. This leveraging can take in the form of either financial or in-kind resources (equipment loans, donations of building materials and volunteer labour). Partner funding and other support broaden the scope of projects, improve on-the-ground results, and strengthen the public and private collaboration that is essential to involving all Canadians in stewardship activities for all species.



The annual call for proposals takes place in the fall.

On-line system

Applicants should contact their Regional Coordinator to obtain access to the HSP on-line application form.

Program contacts

To become involved in the HSP, you must have an eligible project. Contact your regional coordinator, from the list of regions below, to find out whether your organization and project would be a candidate for funding.

For general Environment and Climate Change Canada or Canadian Wildlife Service inquiries, please contact 1-800-668-6767 or contact us by e-mail

The annual call for proposals takes place in the fall.

Email: ec.PIH-HSP.ec@canada.ca.

  • New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador
    (506) 364-5040
  • Quebec
    (418) 649-6313
  • Ontario
    SAR stream: (416) 739-4986, Prevention stream: (416) 739-4100
  • Manitoba/Saskatchewan
    (204) 984-0863
  • Alberta
    (780) 951-8672
  • Northwest Territories and Nunavut
    (867) 669-4710
  • Yukon
    (867) 393-7976
  • British Columbia
    (604) 350-1989
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