Permits for activities affecting wildlife species at risk: questions and answers
Questions and Answers
What do these regulations do?
The Permits Authorizing an Activity Affecting Listed Wildlife Species Regulations impose a 90-day timeline on the government to either issue or refuse permits under section 73 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to carry out activities that may affect listed wildlife species.
Why have these regulations been developed?
These regulations support the implementation of the Government of Canada’s Responsible Resource Development Plan. These regulations are anticipated to contribute to consistency, predictability and transparency in the SARA permitting process by providing applicants with clear and measurable service standards.
Who is affected by the regulations?
Anyone seeking a SARA section 73 permit, including scientific researchers and proponents of resource development projects, may be affected by the regulations. The regulations apply a 90-day time limit on government when issuing or refusing a permit authorizing a person to engage in an activity affecting a listed wildlife species, any part of its critical habitat, or the residences of its individuals.
The regulations do not apply to permits or authorizations issued by one of the competent ministers under other federal Acts, such as Fisheries Act Authorizations or Migratory Birds Regulations permits, which have, under section 74 of SARA, the same effect as SARA permits.
What is the time limit for the issuance of SARA s.73 permits?
The regulations specify that the competent minister must either issue or refuse a permit within 90 days after the date of the notice indicating that the application has been received.
Can the 90 day time clock be paused?
Yes. When incomplete applications are received the competent minister will notify the applicant and the 90 day time limit will be “paused” or “suspended” until all the missing information is received. Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Parks Canada Agency intend to develop and publish tools to assist applicants in completing their applications and will ensure timely communication with applicants in regards to any missing information required for the assessment of their application.
What information needs to be included in permit applications?
An application must include information that:
- Demonstrates that the activity is scientific research relating to the conservation of the species and conducted by qualified persons, benefits the species or is required to enhance its chance of survival in the wild, or that affecting the species is incidental to the carrying out of the activity;
- Demonstrates that all reasonable alternatives to the activity that would reduce the impact on the species have been considered and the best solution has been adopted;
- Demonstrates that all feasible measures will be taken to minimize the impact of the activity on the species, its critical habitat or the residences of its individuals; and
- Describes any changes that the activity may cause to the listed wildlife species, its critical habitat or the residences of its individuals, the possible effects of those changes and the significance of those effects.
Are there exceptions to the 90 day time limit?
In the following circumstances, the 90 day time limit may not apply:
- where additional consultations are required (e.g. consultations with Aboriginal people);
- where another Act of Parliament or land claim agreement requires that another decision be made before the permit can be issued or refused (e.g. where an environmental assessment needs to be completed prior to a decision being made with respect to a SARA permit application);
- where the terms and conditions of a permit previously issued to the applicant under s. 73 of SARA have not been met (e.g. if required reports related to earlier permits have not been received by the issuing department/agency);
- where the applicant requests or agrees that the time limit not apply; or
- where the activity described in the permit application is modified before the permit is issued or refused.
In these cases, the competent minister will notify the applicant that the 90 day time limit does not apply.
What are the anticipated costs and benefits of the regulations?
The regulations do not change administrative or other costs to businesses, and may yield modest benefits to businesses through increased certainty, predictability and timeliness in the permitting process.
Implementation of the regulations is not expected to cost government in the near term. In the future, there may be modest costs to the government to continue to meet the time limits, should a large increase in the volume of permit applications occur due to new resource projects, new species being listed, and / or new critical habitat being identified.
Do the regulations affect environmental protection?
The process for the scientific assessment of permit applications will not be changed by the regulations and the high environmental standards that have been established will be maintained.
How is compliance with the regulations being promoted?
A compliance promotion plan has been developed with the goal of assisting applicants in submitting complete applications to help ensure the time limits are consistently met. The information for applicants posted on the Species at Risk (SAR) Public Registry has been updated to include information on the regulations. In addition, Environment Canada has implemented a new tracking mechanism to help ensure that inquiries from the public in regards to permits and permit applications are responded to in a timely manner. Other internal activities in support of implementation are also being planned, including enhancements to the SARA e-permitting system for permits issued by Environment Canada relating to tracking, monitoring and notification, for both applicants and regional permitting offices.
How is compliance with the time limits being reported?
Environment Canada will report publicly on the Department’s website on its progress toward meeting the time limits for issuing permits. Environment Canada, the Parks Canada Agency and Fisheries and Oceans Canada will also communicate information related to the issuance of SARA permits through the SARA Annual Reports.
When might I need a SARA permit?
Permits are required by anyone who wishes to conduct an activity that would otherwise violate SARA’s prohibitions. SARA contains prohibitions against the killing, harming, harassing, capturing, taking, possessing, collecting, buying, selling or trading of individuals of endangered, threatened and extirpated species listed in Schedule 1 of the Act. The Act also contains a prohibition against the damage or destruction of their residences (e.g. nest or den).
These prohibitions apply to individuals of such SARA-listed species that are:
- found on federal lands in a province, or on lands in a territory under the authority of the Minister of the Environment or of the Parks Canada Agency;
- migratory birds protected by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, anywhere they occur, including private lands, lands in a province and lands in a territory; and
- aquatic species anywhere they occur, including private lands, lands in a province and lands in a territory.
SARA also contains a prohibition against destroying any part of critical habitat of any listed endangered or threatened species, or any listed extirpated species if a recovery strategy has recommended its reintroduction, if:
- the critical habitat is on federal land, in the exclusive economic zone of Canada or on the continental shelf of Canada;
- the listed species is an aquatic species; or
- the listed species is a species of migratory birds protected by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994.
What activities are eligible for a SARA permit?
To be eligible for a permit, the proposed activity must:
- be scientific research relating to the conservation of the species and conducted by qualified people; or
- be an activity that benefits the species or is required to enhance its chance of survival in the wild; or
- have an effect(s) on the species that is incidental to the carrying out of the activity.
In addition, all of the following pre-conditions must be met:
- all reasonable alternatives to the activity that would reduce the impact on the species have been considered and the best solution has been adopted;
- all feasible measures will be taken to minimize the impact of the activity on the species or its critical habitat or the residences of its individuals; and
- the activity will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species.
Please note, however, that permits will be considered on a case-by-case basis, and the decision to authorize the activity is science-based. Existing recovery strategies and action plans will be taken into consideration when applications are reviewed. A competent minister is not required to authorize a proposed activity even if the proposed activity is eligible and meets all of the three pre-conditions.
Where can more information be found?
For more information on SARA permits and how to apply, please visit the SAR Public Registry.
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