Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk: program overview

1. Background

One of the Government of Canada’s conservation mandates is the conservation of nature, including the recovery of species at risk. The Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk (HSP), established in 2000, delivers on these results by providing funding for projects submitted by Canadians that contribute directly to the recovery objectives and population goals of species at risk (SAR) listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and that prevent other species from becoming a conservation concern. Project activities must take place on private land, provincial Crown land, lands under the administration and control of the Commissioner of Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut, or IndigenousFootnote 1  land across Canada.

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

Regional 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). More specific questions related to funding amounts, outcome reporting, species data sharing, and project permits, can also be directed to the appropriate Regional HSP Coordinator.

For general information about the terrestrial HSP program, including contact information for Regional HSP Coordinators, please consult the HSP program website or send specific questions to HSP-PIH@ec.gc.ca. Section 13 of this document provides links to online resources 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 HSP projects should contact the appropriate aquatic Regional Coordinator.

2. Program Objectives and Expected Results

Program Objectives

The overall program objectives of HSP are to:

  • Support habitat projects that benefit species at risk and prevent others from becoming a conservation concern;
  • Enable Canadians to become actively and concretely involved in stewardship projects for target species that will result in tangible and measurable conservation benefits; and,
  • Improve the scientific, sociological and economic understanding of the role that stewardship has as a conservation tool.

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 Recipients

Canadian non-governmental organizations, Indigenous organizations and communities, individuals, local organizations (such as community associations and groups), private corporations and businesses, educational institutions, as well as provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, and provincial Crown corporations are eligible for funding.

If the proposed project is expected to take place on Indigenous land, either entirely or partially, and the applicant is a non-Indigenous organization, individual and/or has no rights to the land (e.g., through a permit, lease and/or as a Certificate of Possession holder), the applicant must provide signed letter(s) of support from the affected Indigenous community.

Federal departments, federal agencies and federal Crown corporations are not eligible to receive HSP funds.  

4. Eligible Species

The following species are eligible for funding under the HSP:

  • 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 been listed on Schedule 1 of SARA. 

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

Please consult the HSP 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 HSP. 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 consult the Species at Risk Public Registry. To search for COSEWIC-assessed species and to obtain their respective status reports please visit the COSEWIC website.

5. Eligible Activities

The following activity categories are eligible for funding under the HSP. 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 HSP 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 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 (e.g. educational signage)
    • Protection and rescueFootnote 3 /prevention of harm to target species (enabling species migration around roadways, fences for the exclusion of habitat disturbances, etc.)
    • Application of modified or new technology to prevent accidental harm (e.g., 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 their monitoring and data collection activities 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 Indigenous Knowledge
  • Project Evaluation: Assess the social and biological results and effectiveness of stewardship activities.
    • Conduct project or program results assessment(s)
  • 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 (e.g., 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.


  • 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.
  • The creation of promotional merchandise (such as hats or mugs) is not eligible for HSP funding.
  • Scientific research activities, captive breeding, captive rearing, 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 HSP funding. However, HSP-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.

6. Consolidating Projects and Multi-Year Funding

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

Multi-year project applications 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 HSP multi-year funding can apply to receive additional HSP funding to undertake new and additional activities that are within the original scope/objectives  of their current project, by way of an amendment to their existing contribution agreementFootnote 4. Contact a Regional HSP Coordinator for details.

Projects are administered at the regionalFootnote 5 scale. Applicants whose projects cross 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 Regional Coordinator early in the application process.

7. Matching Contributions

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

  • Provincial agencies, non-governmental organizations, private landowners, the private sector, and the applicant, are all eligible sources of matching funds.
  • For non-Indigenous applicants, a minimum of 1:1 matching contributions (from non-federal sources) is required ($1 confirmed match for $1 HSP 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.
  • For Indigenous applicants, a minimum of 0.20:1 matching contributions (from non-federal sources) of the HSP funding amount is required ($0.20 match for each $1 of HSP 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 multi-year projects, the program’s requirement for matching contributions is based on the ability of the applicant to obtain that support over the entire length of the project, and approval is not contingent on securement of all matching funds up front.Footnote 6 
  • Federal funds (e.g., EcoAction, Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk [AFSAR] and federal funds administered by third-party non-governmental organizations) are not eligible as match for HSP funding. See section 12 for other requirements relating to the use of funds from other federal funding programs. 
  • Please note that Band contributions for projects are considered as eligible sources of matching contributions.
  • All proposed contributions must be listed in the application. If the HSP 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 “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 the total cost of the materials and supplies. For specifics on the eligibility of and limitations on in-kind resources, please contact a Regional HSP Coordinator.

8. Project Funding and Eligible Expenses

Project Funding

Funding is variable and dependant on project activities. In an effort to promote collaboration and multi-year projects, the minimum funding request for new and multi-year projects is $25,000.

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

Eligible Expenses

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

Eligible expenses may include reasonable and properly itemized costs for:

  • Salaries and wages
    • SalariesFootnote 7 , wages and benefits (directly associated with the project activities).
  • Management and professional service expenditures
    • Costs associated with services required to support a project, such as accounting, Elders/knowledge-holders fees, insurance (related to the project), legal (other than litigation) costs, official languages translationsFootnote 8 and other professional fees (other than travel)
  • Contractors
    • Costs associated with consultants and contractors’ engaged to undertake project activities (subject to regional limits)Footnote 9
  • Travel (as per the Treasury Board Secretariat’s DirectiveFootnote 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
  • Material and supplies expenditures
    • Office supplies and materials
    • Field/laboratory equipment and field supplies
    • Includes equipment purchase costs under $10,000
  • Purchase of capital assets
    • Purchase of a single, tangible asset (with a useful life of more than one year) using more than $10,000 of ECCC funds (subject to approval in advance)
  • Equipment rentals
    • Lease, rental and/or repair of equipment used to undertake or support the project activities (subject to regional limits)
  • Land acquisition, leases, easements, covenants, servitures
    • Costs of land acquisition or other means of land securement
    • Costs associated with land acquisition or other means of land securement i.e. leases, easements, covenants or servitudes
    • May include appraisal fees and legal costs
  • Communication and printing, production, and distribution expenditures
    • Printing costs, websites, supplies etc…
  • Vehicle rental and operation expenditures
  • Lease of office space
  • 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 HSP contribution; note that overhead costs are not included as part of the other eligible expenditures categories
  • Other expenditures
    • Meeting and training fees (e.g., materials and hall rental), registration fees for courses, conferences, workshops or seminars
  • Expenditures for preparing an independent financial accounting
    • Projects over $100,000 may be required to submit an independently verified financial report at the end of the project
  • Further disbursement of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) funding to final recipients
    • 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 HSP Coordinator for further details.


  • 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.

9. Other Requirements

Non-federal Lands

Funds can only be used for activities on non-federal lands. Activities occurring on federal lands (e.g., National Parks, National Wildlife Areas, Canadian Forces bases) are not eligible; however, First Nation Reserve lands and lands under the administration and control of the Commissioner of Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut are considered eligible lands under the HSP.

Impact Assessment Act, 2019

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

10. To Apply

See the HSP program website for specific deadlines.

Application Form

To apply to the HSP program, applicants have to register on ECCC’s one window application system for the Grants and Contributions Enterprise Management System (GCEMS). It is also recommended that you contract your Regional HSP Coordinator to discuss the proposed project to verify that it is aligned 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, 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.

Due to Government of Canada policy, communication with applicants regarding application status during the project review and selection phase is prohibited until the final departmental approvals have been granted. ECCC will notify all applicants of funding decisions and will do so for each individual application submitted. ECCC aims to send these notifications as early as possible; however, 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 decisions have been made, and negotiation of Contribution Agreements with successful applicants will follow. The program is unable to reimburse applicants for any expenses incurred prior to the official notification. 

11. How Projects Are Reviewed

As the demand for funding from HSP 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 HSP Coordinators to ensure projects meet the Program priorities.


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 HSP 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
  • Applicant’s ability to plan, manage and complete projects successfully (e.g., 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;
  • Coordination with other habitat conservation programs and/or partners, for both recovery actions and cost-efficiency; and
  • Other regional considerations mentioned in the HSP 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 application and consideration of past performance

Please note: The ability of applicants to complete all reporting and administration requirements under the HSP will be considered during the evaluation. To this end, project evaluators will consider past performance in meeting reporting and administration deadlines for HSP projects and other 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 activities directly related to the Program priorities;
  • Integrates with and supports other existing stewardship programs;
  • Implements high-priority stewardship activities listed in recovery strategies and action plans or other SAR management and conservation plans;
  • Addresses the critical habitat of SARA-listed species;
  • Benefits multiple species, with targeted species being Priority Species;
  • Was developed with the involvement of recovery expert(s) for the target species and/or with the understanding of recovery activities outlined in recovery documents when the project targets species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA;
  • Has secured more than the required total matched funding from non-federal sources in cash;
  • Has a concise application presented in a clear and logical manner;
  • Has a well-developed workplan;
  • 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/knowledge; and
  • Has a high likelihood of success based on applicant experience and realistic deliverables.

12. 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. 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 area secured, protected, improved or restored
  • number of species targeted for protection
  • target 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 HSP Coordinator will advise recipients on specific reporting requirements.

Survey Data Sharing

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


Recipients will be responsible for obtaining the appropriate permits associated with the project from relevant federal and/or provincial authorities (including those required under SARA, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, and any other provincial or territorial wildlife acts that may apply) wherever the project triggers the need for a permit (e.g., it could impact target 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 HSP 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 (OLMCs) across Canada. It is recognized that projects or organizations funded by ECCC through a grants and 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, a project may be required to:

  • Offer materials produced with project funds (websites, 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

Cost directly related to official language translation required under the Official Languages Act for a project is an eligible cost under the program.

Applicants will be required to complete the Official Language Questionnaire for Funding Applicants (included in 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 HSP Coordinator.

Note: Overlap with Other Federal Funding Programs

You can only receive funding from one federal funding program for each proposed activity. Any application submitted to other Environment and Climate Change Canada funding programs (e.g., AFSAR,  EcoAction, etc.)  for activities that are different from those submitted in the HSP 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.

13. Main links

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

For any further questions, please contact us at HSP-PIH@ec.gc.ca or contact a Regional HSP Coordinator. Please note that Regional HSP Coordinators are available to answer questions during regular business hours, local time.

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