Species at Risk Act annual report for 2011: chapter 1

1 Introduction

1.1 The purpose of the annual report

The Species at Risk Act (SARA) received Royal Assent on December 12, 2002, and came fully into force on June 1, 2004.

This report summarizes SARA-related activities carried out in 2011. The report fulfils the Minister of the Environment's obligation, under section 126 of the Act, to prepare an annual report on the administration of SARA for each calendar year. The Act requires that the report include a summary of:

  • (a) the assessments of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and the Minister's response to each of them;
  • (b) the preparation and implementation of recovery strategies, action plans and management plans;
  • (c) all agreements made under sections 10 to 13;
  • (d) all agreements entered into and permits issued under section 73, and all agreements and permits amended under section 75 or exempted under section 76;
  • (e) enforcement and compliance actions taken, including the response to any requests for investigation;
  • (f) regulations and emergency orders made under SARA; and
  • (g) any other matters that the Minister considers relevant.

This introductory section provides background information on SARA and outlines the responsibilities of the federal departments and agencies under the Act. Subsequent sections describe the following activities under SARA:

  • assessment and listing;
  • protection measures for listed species;
  • recovery planning for listed species;
  • recovery implementation;
  • monitoring and evaluation; and
  • consultation and governance.
Diagram 1 illustrates how the conservation of species at risk is shared by all jurisdictions in Canada, and is a process based on assessment, protection, recovery planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.

1.2 Background on SARA

1.2.1 The government's strategy for Species at Risk

SARA is the legislative basis for the Government of Canada's strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. It supports the federal commitments under the 1996 Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk to prevent species in Canada from becoming extinct as a consequence of human activity. The Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk also supports these commitments, by providing a mechanism to encourage action by all Canadians in the recovery of species at risk (see section 5.2.2.1). Conservation of species at risk is shared by all jurisdictions in Canada, and is a process based on assessment, protection, recovery planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation, as illustrated in the diagram above. The Act recognizes this joint responsibility and that all Canadians have a role to play in the protection of wildlife.

1.2.2 The purpose of SARA

SARA is an important tool for conserving and protecting Canada's biological diversity. The purposes of the 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.

The Act establishes a process for conducting scientific assessments of the status of individual wildlife species and a mechanism for listing extirpated, endangered, threatened and special-concern species. SARA also includes provisions for the protection, recovery and management of listed wildlife species and their critical habitats1 and residences,2 as appropriate.

SARA complements existing legislation and supports domestic implementation of certain international conventions, including:

  • the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act;
  • the Canada Wildlife Act;
  • the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994;
  • the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act;
  • the Fisheries Act;
  • the Oceans Act;
  • the Canada National Parks Act;
  • the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act;
  • the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act;
  • the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; and
  • the Convention on Biological Diversity.

1.3 Responsible authorities for implementation of SARA

The Parks Canada Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Environment Canada are the three government organizations, commonly referred to as the “competent” departments, that share responsibility for the implementation of SARA. The ministers responsible for these organizations are known as the “competent” ministers under SARA. The Minister of the Environment is the minister responsible for both Environment Canada and the Parks Canada Agency. Ministerial responsibilities are as follows:

  • The Minister responsible for Parks Canada Agency is responsible for individuals of species found in or on federal lands and waters it administers.
  • The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for aquatic species at risk other than individuals in or on federal lands administered by the Parks Canada Agency.
  • The Minister of the Environment is responsible for all other species at risk.

The competent ministers have the authority to make many of the decisions in their areas of responsibility, including ministerial protection orders.

The Minister of the Environment is the minister responsible for the overall administration of SARA, except in so far as the Act gives responsibility to another minister (i.e., the other competent minister). The Minister of the Environment is required to consult with the other competent ministers as necessary on matters related to SARA administration. Orders in Council to list species under SARA are made by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment.

1 Under SARA, “critical habitat” is defined as the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species (see section 4.2).

2 “Residence” means a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating.

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