Species at risk conservation: national framework


The purpose of the National Framework for Species at Risk Conservation (NFSARC) is to support the implementation of the 1996 Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk by providing a set of common principles, objectives and overarching approaches for species at risk conservation that all participants can share and work toward in a collaborative way.


The specific objectives of the Framework are to:


In 1992, Canada became the first western industrialized nation to ratify the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and pledged to provide "effective protection" for Canadian species at risk and the critical habitat and ecosystems on which they depend.

Implementation of the Convention required, among other actions, the development of a Canadian Biodiversity Strategy to provide strategic direction and a framework for action at all levels of government. The Strategy promotes the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources, and describes how Canada will contribute to, and be involved with, international efforts to implement the Convention.

The related Biodiversity Outcomes Framework complements the Strategy by defining the outcomes that need to be achieved to maintain Canada's biodiversity. A fundamental goal of the Biodiversity Outcomes Framework is to prevent wild species in Canada from becoming at risk. Intervention at early stages of risk is fundamental to effective management of resources and landscapes as it minimizes the need for costly and intrusive recovery efforts. Governments, Aboriginal organizations and communities, industry sectors and other stakeholders will have access to a greater range and variety of options to manage land use when working together proactively.

Another key component of the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy is the 1996 Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. The provinces and territories hold primary responsibility for wildlife species in Canada and for the management of provincial and territorial lands upon which many species at risk rely, while the federal government exercises direct responsibility for aquatic species and migratory birds and for species found on federal lands. Conservation of species at risk therefore requires a collaborative approach, with recognition and coordination of responsibilities and activities across all jurisdictions and participants. The Accord outlines commitments by federal, provincial and territorial ministers to designate species at risk, protect their habitats, and develop recovery plans as well as complementary legislation, regulations, policies and programs, including stewardship.

Consistent with commitments set out in both the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy and the 1996 Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) came into full force in 2004. The objectives of the federal Species at Risk Act are to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity, and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.

Provinces and territories also have legislative, regulatory and policy instruments for the protection of species at risk. The roles and responsibilities of federal, provincial, and territorial governments in the delivery of species at risk programs are further clarified through bi-lateral agreements and other instruments.

The Species at Risk Conservation Cycle

Species at risk conservation is built on a cycle of assessment, protection, recovery planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation, as shown in the diagram that follows. It is premised on an adaptive management approach whereby monitoring progress towards achieving the stated conservation and protection objectives and evaluating the effectiveness of adopted strategies are performed on an ongoing basis and are incorporated into each of the different components of the conservation cycle. Early action at appropriate points on the cycle will be encouraged to expedite implementation of effective protection and recovery measures. Consistent with the 1996 Accord, lack of full scientific certainty will not delay measures to avoid or minimize threats to species at risk.

To ensure a nationally coordinated and consistent process for species at risk conservation and effective decision-making the Framework identifies:

Table of Contents

Species at Risk Conservation Cycle

Foundational Elements


Assessment involves a two-stage examination and review process as follows:

  1. First, jurisdictions collectively review the general status of their wildlife species, using the best available information and inventory data, to determine whether any species under their jurisdiction may be at risk.
  2. Next, those species that may be at risk are further examined, using a science-based approach, to more fully understand the nature and severity of the risk. The end result may be a classification as: extinct; extirpated, endangered; threatened; special concern; data deficient; or, not at risk.

The objective of assessment is to formally identify those species that are at risk, or are trending towards becoming at risk, so that appropriate steps may be planned and implemented to protect and/or recover them.

A set of key principles will guide the assessment process. Specifically, the assessment process will:


Once a species is determined to be at risk, measures need to be instituted as quickly as possible to protect the species, provide safeguards against further declines, and support recovery initiatives.

The objective of protection is to protect individuals from being harmed, and protect areas on which they depend. Application of protection measures can precede the development of a plan or strategy that will detail recovery objectives and the actions, including further protection measures, needed to reach these objectives.

A set of key principles will guide the protection process. Specifically, the process will:

Recovery Planning

Recovery planning is a two-staged process that involves the:

The objective of recovery planning is to improve the likelihood of survival and recovery of species at risk by identifying the scientific, social, economic and ecological implications associated with recovery of the species and developing a workable suite of actions that can be implemented in a timely manner by jurisdictions and stakeholders.

A set of key principles will guide the recovery planning process. Specifically, the process will:


Implementation is the process by which the actions identified in the recovery planning stage are carried out to achieve recovery goals, objectives and strategies.

The objective is to ensure that measures are put in place by responsible jurisdictions, land owners, land managers, and other responsible interests, to meet the goals and objectives identified in the recovery planning stage.

A set of key principles will guide the implementation process. Specifically, the process will:

Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring and evaluation refers to the process of examining what has been done to date to ensure that the conservation measures are on the right track and achieving the stated recovery goals and objectives.

The objective of monitoring and evaluation is three-fold:

  1. to detect changes in the conservation status of a species;
  2. to determine the effectiveness of protection and recovery measures; and
  3. to measure progress towards achieving recovery goals.

A set of key principles will guide the monitoring and evaluation process. Specifically, the process will:

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