Species at Risk Act annual report for 2011: chapter 4

4 Recovery planning for listed species

4.1 Legislative background

Species recovery includes a wide range of measures to restore populations of species at risk. Under SARA, the competent ministers must prepare recovery strategies and action plans for species listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened, and management plans for species listed as being of special concern. Recovery strategies identify threats to the species and its habitat, identify critical habitat to the extent possible, and set population and distribution objectives for the species, while action plans outline the actions to be taken to meet the objectives in the recovery strategy. Management plans include measures for species conservation.

Table 6 shows the required timelines for developing recovery strategies and management plans. The timelines for developing action plans are set within the recovery strategies. Posting of SARA recovery documents is the responsibility of the federal competent minister for the species, however, they must be developed in cooperation and consultation with all relevant jurisdictions and directly affected parties. In some cases, the preparation of SARA recovery documents may be undertaken by a provincial or territorial government, but the document must meet SARA requirements to be approved for posting.

Table 6: Timeline for developing recovery documents (in years)
Species listing date
Recovery strategy Management plan
Endangered Threatened or extirpated Special concern
June 5, 2003
3
4
5
New listings after June 5, 2003
1
2
3
Reassessed Schedule 2 or 3 listings, after June 5, 2003
3
4
5

Proposed recovery strategies, action plans and management plans are posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry for a 60-day public comment period. The competent ministers consider comments and make changes where appropriate. The final documents are posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry within 30 days of the close of the public comment period. Five years after a recovery strategy, action plan or management plan comes into effect, the competent minister must report on progress made toward the stated objectives.

4.2 Recovery planning

In 2011, the federal government continued its ongoing effort to improve and enable effective and consistent implementation of the federal SAR Recovery Program. Environment Canada, the Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada collaborated to draft revised templates and guidelines for the development of action plans, including guidance on evaluation of the socio-economic costs of an action plan and the benefits to be derived from its implementation. Work also included laying policy groundwork for revising guidelines on setting population and distribution objectives.

Environment Canada's multi-year plan to address the backlog of recovery documents has produced significant results. Building on considerable progress in 2010, Environment Canada posted recovery documents for 34 species in 2011 and a large number of recovery documents have been drafted and are expected to be posted in the near future. Environment Canada has developed a toolbox for practitioners to support scientifically sound and well documented critical habitat identification. In addition, a training program addressing the new policy and guidance initiatives was developed for Environment Canada staff.

Parks Canada posted recovery planning documents for 22 species in 2011. The Agency also completed the Guidelines in Compliance with the Species at Risk Act and a series of internal operational procedures which provide detailed guidance to Agency staff for implementing the Act in Parks Canada sites.

Recovery strategies

A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to reverse the decline of a species. It sets population and distribution objectives that will assist the recovery and survival of species, and identifies the threats to the species and its habitat and the main activities to address these threats. A single recovery strategy may address multiple species at risk. Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Parks Canada Agency use a multi-species / ecosystem-based approach for the recovery of species at risk where appropriate.

On August 26, 2011, Environment Canada posted the proposed recovery strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population in Canada on the Species at Risk Public Registry. To inform the recovery strategy process for the Boreal population of Woodland Caribou (boreal caribou), Environment Canada engaged in extensive scientific investigation and analysis to understand the species' biology and ecology, identify threats to the species, define population and distribution objectives, and allow for the identification of critical habitat. To complement this scientific work, the Department considered information gathered from Aboriginal communities and organizations, stakeholder groups, the provinces and territories, and wildlife management boards. Environment Canada also completed a separate process to gather Aboriginal traditional knowledge. Two supporting documents, the Scientific Assessment to Inform the Identification of Critical Habitat for Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, In Canada: 2011 Update and the 2011 Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Summary Reports on Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population are posted along with the proposed national recovery strategy on the Species at Risk Public Registry. Once completed, the national recovery strategy will form the basis of the Government of Canada's work to protect boreal caribou and their habitat.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada was inspired by similar threats to geographic distributions and knowledge gaps around Pacific populations of Blue, Fin and Sei Whales to develop a combined recovery strategy for these three species in 2006. A better understanding of their population structure and distribution is required to be able to recover these rare species, which tend to live far from shore and regularly travel vast distances both inside and outside Canadian Pacific waters. Before 2002, the only source of data on the Pacific populations of these species came from historical whaling records. However, over the past ten years, scientists in the Cetacean Research Program at Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Pacific Biological Station have used a variety of approaches and technologies to understand more about how these whales spend segments of their lives in the waters off the British Columbia coast. The knowledge of what habitat is important to Blue, Fin and Sei Whales in British Columbia and how best to protect that habitat is increasing through a number of activities such as ship-based surveys, photo identification of individual whales, deployment of remote acoustic monitoring stations that record whale calls, and the attachment of satellite tags to whales in order to track movement. This foundational research is helping the Government of Canada meet the objectives set out in the recovery strategy.

In 2011, all three competent departments continued to work on recovery strategies at various stages of development. Recovery strategies that were posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry are listed in Table 7.

Table 7: Number of recovery strategies posted in 2011, and the listed species at risk covered by them, by competent department
Competent department Proposed Final
No. Species covered No. Species covered
Environment Canada 17
  • White Flower Moth
  • Soapweed and Yucca Moth*
  • Ord's Kangaroo Rat
  • Bluehearts
  • Heart-leaved Plantain
  • Acadian Flycatcher and the Hooded Warbler*
  • Fernald's Braya and Long's Braya*
  • Woodland Caribou, Boreal population
  • Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid
  • Showy Goldenrod
  • Skinner's Agalinis
  • White Prairie Gentian
  • White-headed Woodpecker
  • Maritime Ringlet
  • Least Bittern
  • Victorin's Gentian
  • Blunt-lobed Woodsia

*Total of 20 species covered

5
  • White Flower Moth
  • Soapweed and Yucca Moth*
  • Blanchard's Cricket Frog
  • Green-scaled Willow
  • Prothonotary Warbler

*Total of 6 species covered

Fisheries and Oceans Canada 1
  • Beluga Whale, St. Lawrence Estuary population
3
  • Striped Bass, St. Lawrence Estuary population
  • North Pacific Right Whale
  • Basking Shark, Pacific population
Parks Canada Agency 12
  • Eastern Ribbonsnake, Atlantic population
  • Blanding's Turtle, Nova Scotia population
  • Baikal Sedge
  • Common Hoptree
  • Muhlenberg's Centaury
  • Rayless Goldfields
  • Brook Spike-primrose
  • Dense-flowered Lupine
  • Rigid Apple Moss
  • Ermine haidarum subspecies
  • Dwarf Hackberry
  • Contorted-pod Evening-primrose
12
  • Dwarf Lake Iris
  • Bolander's Quillwort
  • Red Mulberry
  • Lakeside Daisy
  • American Water-willow
  • Pitcher's Thistle
  • Dense-flowered Lupine
  • Rigid Apple Moss
  • Hill's Thistle
  • Ermine haidarum subspecies
  • Dwarf Hackberry
  • Contorted-pod Evening-primrose

Identification of critical habitat

SARA defines “critical habitat” as the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species. Competent ministers must identify critical habitat to the extent possible, based on the best available information, in recovery strategies and action plans. This requirement helps to protect habitat, maintaining its quality and amount so as to achieve the population and distribution objectives established in the recovery strategy. Environment Canada, the Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada continued to work with government and non-government stakeholders to address policy development, intergovernmental responsibilities and the science associated with identifying critical habitat.

Building on the progress made in previous years, Environment Canada identified critical habitat for 5 species in final recovery documents during the 2011 calendar year. Critical habitat was also identified for an additional 12 species in proposed documents that were posted on the SAR Public Registry.

In 2011, the Parks Canada Agency played a leadership role in identifying critical habitat for 11 species: Bolander's Quillwort, Dwarf Lake Iris, Red Mulberry, Lakeside Daisy, American Water-willow, Pitcher's Thistle, Dense-flowering Lupine, Rigid Apple Moss, Hill's Thistle, Dwarf Hackberry, and Contorted-pod Evening-primrose. Where insufficient information existed to identify critical habitat in a recovery strategy, the Agency implemented studies that will enable the identification of critical habitat in the associated action plan.

In 2011, Fisheries and Oceans Canada implemented research and monitoring activities and studies to identify critical habitat for 22 species. For example, marine tracking work is ongoing on adult Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon related to their migration out to sea in order to better understand marine survival and species distribution in the marine environment. This information will assist with the identification of marine critical habitat areas for this species.

Action plans

An action plan outlines the projects or activities required to meet the population and distribution objectives outlined in the recovery strategy. This includes information on species' critical habitat, protection measures, and an evaluation of the socio-economic costs and benefits. It is the second part of the two-part recovery planning process and is used to implement the projects or activities for improving the species' status.

In 2011, Environment Canada posted final action plans for three species (Small Whorled Pogonia, Horsetail Spike-rush, and Red Crossbill) on the SAR Public Registry.

In 2011, Parks Canada posted one combined final recovery strategy and action plan (Bolander's Quillwort). In addition, Parks Canada is developing a site-based multi-species approach to action planning to prioritize conservation actions for the suite of species at risk found in Parks Canada heritage places. In 2011, Parks Canada initiated multi-species action plans for 9 protected heritage places.

In 2011, Fisheries and Oceans Canada posted a proposed action plan (Northern Abalone) and advanced a number of draft action plans.

Management plans

Species of special concern are those that may become a threatened or an endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats. SARA authorizes the government to prepare management plans for species of special concern, rather than recovery strategies and action plans.

A management plan differs from a recovery strategy and an action plan in that it sets goals and objectives for maintaining sustainable population levels of one or more species of special concern that are particularly sensitive to environmental factors, but that are not in danger of becoming extinct. Whenever possible, these management plans will be prepared for multiple species on an ecosystem or landscape level.

In 2011, all three competent departments continued to work on management plans at various stages of development. The management plans that were posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry in 2011 are listed in Table 8.

Table 8: Number of management plans posted in 2011, and the listed species at risk covered by them, by competent department
Competent department Proposed Final
No. Species covered No. Species covered
Environment Canada 9
  • Fernald's Milk-vetch
  • Frosted Glass-whiskers, Nova Scotia population
  • Victorin's Water-hemlock
  • Louisiana Waterthrush
  • Barrow's Goldeneye, Eastern population
  • Woodland Caribou, Northern Mountain population
  • Columbian Carpet Moss
  • Lewis's Woodpecker
  • Cryptic Paw Lichen
5
  • Fernald's Milk-vetch
  • Frosted Glass-whiskers, Nova Scotia population
  • Victorin's Water-hemlock
  • Yellow-breasted Chat, virens subspecies
  • Cerulean Warbler
Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2
  • Grass Pickerel
  • Columbia Sculpin

 

5
  • Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel
  • Bridle Shiner
  • Banded Killifish, Newfoundland population
  • Steller Sea Lion
  • Grey Whale, Eastern North Pacific population
Parks Canada Agency 3
  • Banded Cord-moss
  • Coastal Wood Fern
  • Twisted Oak Moss
3
  • Banded Cord-moss
  • Coastal Wood Fern
  • Twisted Oak Moss
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