Species listing process: Species at Risk Act


The Species at Risk Act (SARA) separates the scientific assessment process from the listing decision. This approach ensures that scientists can provide fully independent recommendations, and that decisions affecting Canadians are made by elected officials who can be held accountable for those decisions.

The species listing process under SARA

COSEWIC uses the best biological information on a species deemed to be in some danger of disappearing from Canada to assess the risk status of that species. It reviews research information on population and habitat status, trends, and threats; uses community and Aboriginal traditional knowledge; and applies assessment criteria based on international standards.

COSEWIC assesses the species as extinct, extirpated, endangered, threatened, special concern, data deficient, or not at risk.

COSEWIC sends its assessment and supporting evidence (that is rationale and status reports) for species classified as at risk (Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern) to the Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council once per year. The COSEWIC assessment and the reasons for it are also posted on the SAR Public Registry.

The Minister of the Environment has 90 days in which to publish Response Statements on the Public Registry. These statements indicate how the Minister intends to respond to each COSEWIC assessment and, to the extent possible, provide timelines for action. Certain species may require extended consultation.

The minister of the Environment forwards COSEWIC assessments to the Governor in Council (GIC).

The Governor in Council within nine months after receiving the assessment may, on the recommendation of the Minister, by order :

  1. accept the assessment and add the species to the List
  2. decide not to add the species to the List; or
  3. refer the matter back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration

If the GIC does not make a decision within nine months of receiving the COSEWIC assessment, the Minister shall by order amend the List according to COSEWIC's assessment.

Once a species is added to Schedule 1, it benefits from all the legal protection afforded, and the mandatory recovery planning required, under SARA.

The listing process, begins with a species assessment that is conducted by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Based on a status report, species specialist subcommittees assess and assign the status of a wildlife species believed to be at some degree of risk. When COSEWIC completes its assessment, they must provide the Minister with a copy of the assessment and its reasons for the status designation.

Upon receiving an assessment, the Governor in Council may on the recommendation of the Minister, amend the List and add a wildlife species; reclassify a listed wildlife species; or remove a listed wildlife species. When the Governor in Council has not taken a course of action within nine months of receiving the assessment, the Minister shall amend the List in accordance with COSEWIC's assessment.

Under SARA, wildlife species that are listed on Schedules 2 and 3 must be assessed by COSEWIC within a given timeframe. These wildlife species follow the same process for assessment and classification, but are not included on the official list.

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