Species at Risk Act annual report 2012: chapter 5

5 Recovery Implementation

5.1 Protection of Critical Habitat

SARA requires that all critical habitat identified in a recovery strategy or action plan be protected against destruction. This includes critical habitat located in the exclusive economic zone or on the continental shelf of Canada.

In 2012, Environment Canada developed an approach to facilitate the assessment of critical habitat protection on federal lands and continued to engage a number of federal departments in discussions on issues related to the protection of critical habitat on lands under federal authority. In addition, a risk management approach was developed to augment the critical habitat effective protection assessment process developed in 2010 in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments. Efforts to formalize other aspects of critical habitat protection on lands under the administration of Environment Canada, other federal departments, and provincial and territorial governments are ongoing.

In 2012, the Agency protected critical habitat for four species in four of its protected heritage areas: Dwarf Hackberry (Point Pelee National Park of Canada), Bolander's Quilwort (Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada), Burrowing Owl (Grasslands National Park of Canada) and Baikal Sedge (Kluane National Park of Canada). Efforts are ongoing to finalize protection measures for critical habitat of other species on lands administered by the Agency.

The provinces and territories are primarily responsible for the management of non-federal lands, natural resources and wildlife located on those lands. This includes the protection of the critical habitat of species at risk on non-federal lands (other than aquatic species) and implementation of protection measures through their own legislation and programs. The critical habitat prohibitions set out in subsection 615 of SARA only apply to non-federal lands when the Governor in Council makes an order, commonly referred to as a safety-net order. The Minister may only recommend a safety-net order to the Governor in Council if there are no other federal laws that will protect and if the Minister is of the opinion that the laws of the province or territory do not effectively protect a species' critical habitat.

5.2 Recovery Activities

5.2.1 Competent Departments' Recovery Activities

In 2012, Environment Canada biologists across Canada continued to lead and support activities, including research projects, education and awareness, habitat restoration and enhancement initiatives, monitoring, assessment, and more. These activities supported the recovery of numerous species at risk from a wide variety of taxa.

For example, the endangered Ivory Gull is a circumpolar species with a small breeding population in northern Canada. Location data obtained through the use of satellite telemetry has provided information about previously unknown nesting areas, unknown or unconfirmed routes, and timing of seasonal migrations. The data also revealed that a large proportion of the global population may winter in Canadian waters in the north Atlantic Ocean close to a proposed all-season shipping route for an area of high marine traffic, which is anticipated to include all-season shipping in the near future.

Ivory Gull photographed in the breeding colony at the Seymour Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Ivory Gull photographed in the breeding colony at the Seymour Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary © Mark Mallory

In 2012, Fisheries and Oceans Canada led or supported a number of activities aimed at protecting and recovering aquatic species at risk. These activities are diverse in range and scope, such as scientific research projects for enhancement of critical habitat, developing compliance and enforcement tools, and education and awareness.

For example, incidental capture in commercial fisheries has been identified as the primary source of human-induced mortality for wolffish. Fisheries and Oceans Canada increased patrols and deployed fishery officers to verify if incidental captures of wolffish are being properly handled and the wolffish quickly released. Random verifications were also conducted at landing stations and plants for illegal capture of wolffish.

A number of studies were also conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists to gain a better understanding of the life stages of many aquatic species at risk. For example, a survey was undertaken to fill out information gaps on the distribution of the Northern Madtom in Lake St. Clair. Another study looked at larval drift and timing as well as habitat preference for the Nechako River population of White Sturgeon.

In 2012, the Parks Canada Agency continued to implement recovery activities in and around protected heritage places, including research, restoration activities, and public outreach and education. The Parks Canada approach integrates public and stakeholder involvement with direct recovery actions.

Several Parks Canada projects are conducted in partnership with non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, private citizens and Aboriginal communities. In 2012, in national parks across Canada, approximately 560 volunteers recorded over 10 000 hours dedicated to projects related to species at risk, such as the year-round Garry Oak ecosystem restoration volunteer program that is achieving real outcomes on the conservation front, helping remove invasive species, restoring habitats or contributing to species reintroduction. These volunteer projects also contribute to connecting Canadians to Parks Canada's protected heritage areas.

Beyond our borders: working with partners to identify Piping Plover wintering areas

Up until the winter of 2011, the whereabouts of endangered Piping Plovers during the non-breeding season had mostly been a mystery, with only 40% to 60% of breeding Piping Plovers ever accounted for in the winter. Thanks to an international collaboration involving biologists from Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service, the Bahamas has been discovered as the second most important wintering site for Piping Plover.

Islands in the Bahamas were surveyed during the 2011 International Piping Plover Census, which has occurred every five years since 1991. Over a thousand birds were counted; a considerable increase from earlier counts, reflective of survey effort (1991: 19 birds; 1996: 25 birds; 2001: 35 birds; 2006: 417 birds). The discovery of concentrations of Piping Plover in the Bahamas is very exciting, and identification of this significant wintering area helps fill an important knowledge gap. Uncovering key wintering sites enables identification of potential threats and will help direct conservation initiatives that, to date, have focused primarily on threats to the species on its breeding grounds.

In 2012, Environment Canada continued to work with colleagues at the Bahamas National Trust, the National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey to support Piping Plover conservation initiatives in the Bahamas.

Reintroduction of the Pink Sand-verbena

Pink Sand-verbena is a globally rare plant and one of the rarest species in Canada. Historically, it was known in three locations in Canada, all on the stormy west coast of Vancouver Island. For many years, Pink Sand-verbena was thought to be extirpated because it had not been observed since the 1940s, but in 2001, it was found on the West Coast Trail of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (PRNPR). This was exciting because it allowed Parks Canada ecologists, in partnership with local naturalists, to collect seed and start growing seedlings in a greenhouse for translocation to the wild. Restoration efforts have been underway for five years to bring the highly endangered Pink Sand-verbena back from the brink of extirpation in Canada.

Although it is too early to say if the species will persist, 2012 was an exciting year for the project. Restoration efforts at Wickaninnish Beach were wildly successful, with hundreds of plants flourishing and creating thousands of seeds for the local seedbank. It is expected that some plants will survive over the winter, which would be an encouraging sign that restoration efforts at this site will be successful. In addition, Parks Canada partnered with Huu-ay-aht First Nation, to begin work at a third restoration location at Keeha Beach on Treaty Settlement Lands owned by the Huu-ay-aht First Nation. Parks Canada is grateful to Huu-ay-aht First Nation for their support and participation in restoration efforts because some of the best habitat for the species is at Keeha Beach. With the restoration efforts started at Keeha Beach in 2012, Parks Canada has now reached the recovery strategy objective of establishing three populations, an important milestone on the road to bringing this fragile species back from the brink.

Members of the Pink Sand-verbena restoration team of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve planting seedlings of this endangered plant at Keeha Beach near Bamfield, British Columbia.

Members of the Pink Sand-verbena restoration team of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve planting seedlings of this endangered plant at Keeha Beach near Bamfield, British Columbia © Parks Canada, Photo: Ross Vennesland

Saving a Humpback Calf

On September 3, 2012, a British Columbia Marine Mammal Response Network member, who operates Rendevous Dive Charters in Barkely Sound, was taking a group out for a dive when they encountered a humpback whale mother and calf pair. The group noticed that the calf was encumbered with a mass of commercial crab floats. The line around the tail stock was cutting deeply into the animal, and the calf was struggling. The 24-hour Fisheries and Oceans Canada Marine Mammal Response Program incident hotline was immediately called and the expert rapid response whale disentanglement team was put into action. Within two hours, conservation and protection officers were on the water searching for the entangled whale. After several hours of searching, the entangled calf and mother were located. It took over three hours of intense effort to remove all the gear from the calf. The 45-foot mother humpback stayed directly beside the calf for the entire rescue effort. Although the wounds from the entangled gear were significant, it is believed that the calf will make a full recovery. Researchers will be using fluke identification photographs to follow the progress of the calf for many years to come.

Members of the Pink Sand-verbena restoration team of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve planting seedlings of this endangered plant at Keeha Beach near Bamfield, British Columbia.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada marine mammal response team member cuts away commercial crab gear to free the humpback whale calf © Fisheries and Oceans Canada

5.2.2 Other Recovery Activities Habitat Stewardship Program

The federal Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) for Species at Risk was established in 2000 as part of the National Strategy for the Protection of Species at Risk. The program's goal is to engage Canadians in conservation actions that contribute to the recovery of species at risk, with priority given to endangered and threatened SARA-listed species. Funded projects focus on these four expected results:

  • securing or protecting important habitat for the recovery of species at risk;
  • improving, through restoration/enhancement, or managing important habitat to meet the recovery needs of species at risk;
  • removing or mitigating threats to species at risk caused by human activities; and/or
  • engaging Canadians (landowners, resource users, volunteers) to participate directly in activities that support the recovery of species at risk so that project benefits are sustained over time.

The HSP is co-managed by Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Parks Canada Agency, and administered by Environment Canada on a regional basis. Regional implementation boards include representatives from the two federal departments and the Agency, provincial and territorial governments, and other stakeholders where appropriate. These boards provide advice on program direction such as priorities and project selection for their regions. Since its inception, the HSP has contributed over $117 million to 2047 projects, leveraging an additional $287 million in matching funds from project partners.

During the twelfth year of the program (2011–2012), 195 new projects and 13 previously approved multi-year projects, involving 151 funding recipients, contributed to the recovery of over 330 SARA-listed species across Canada. A total of $11.5 million in funding was awarded to these projects, and an additional $25.9 million was leveraged from partners, for a total investment of $37.4 million. These contributions provided support to stewardship efforts across Canada that resulted in the securement and protection of 364 142 hectares (ha) of land, including 7562 ha through legally binding means, such as acquisition or conservation easements. Non-binding protection accounts for 356 580 ha, and covers 322 647 ha through renewed stewardship agreements and 33 933 ha through new stewardship agreements to conserve land. The program also supported the improvement or restoration of 14 511 ha of land and 49 km of shoreline.

Riparian habitat rehabilitation for species at risk in the South Okanagan and Similkameen Valley – The Nature Trust of British Columbia

In the South Okanagan and Lower Similkameen region of British Columbia, only 13% of the original riparian habitat of the endangered Yellow-breasted Chat, Western Screech-Owl and Tiger Salamander remains intact. The objective of this HSP-funded project was to protect and restore known nesting and breeding sites within these riparian ecosystems to provide recovery habitat for these listed species, among others.

Since degradation and disturbance of riparian habitat due to human activity are the main threats to the project's target species, project activities were cooperatively conducted on private lands, provincial Crown lands and First Nation Reserves where few other mechanisms for the protection of these habitats are available. By the time the project ended, 6 hectares of key riparian habitat had been protected and improved through the installation of 2 500 metres of fencing at five sites and the removal of invasive plants from six sites. Additionally, signage was installed at the project sites to raise public awareness of the recovery efforts taking place there. At the same time, previously unapproached landowners were contacted to encourage them to participate in recovering critical riparian habitat on their land on a voluntary basis.

The Nature Trust of British Columbia has been running the species at risk habitat rehabilitation program in the South Okanagan and Similkameen Valley for more than 10 years. Its success has been demonstrated in the number of project sites voluntarily provided by landowners and the amount of species at risk habitat protected. It has become so well known within the community that the Nature Trust cannot keep up with the number of landowners who are interested in protecting species at risk habitat on their lands. Throughout the 2011–2012 project, the detected presence of target species, including Yellow-breasted Chat, at the project sites was very encouraging. Comprehensive monitoring of vegetation and avian response to the project will guide future project sites and selected protection methods that will benefit the overall program. Interdepartmental Recovery Fund

The Interdepartmental Recovery Fund (IRF) is administered by Environment Canada as part of the National Strategy for the Protection of Species at Risk. Established in 2002, the IRF supports federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations in their efforts to meet the requirements of SARA. Funded projects must predominantly occur on lands owned or administered by federal organizations other than the SARA competent departments and directly relate to the implementation of activities under recovery strategies or action plans, or surveys of species at risk. For survey and recovery projects, endangered or threatened SARA-listed species are given higher priority. Since 2009, the IRF has also supported activities that assist federal organizations in preparing high-quality proposals for surveys and recovery activities.

During the IRF's first 10 years (2002–2012), it has invested $18 million in 596 projects. In 2011–2012, the IRF supported 41 projects totalling $1.34 million in support of the recovery of 122 species (see Table 9 for breakdown by federal agency). Of the total funds, 68% was applied to recovery actions, 29% to surveys and 3% to 1 planning project. Projects were implemented by 9 federal departments and 3 Crown corporations or agencies who collectively contributed an additional $1 091 968 (in-kind and cash) to the 2011–2012 projects. The projected allocation for the 2012–2013 fiscal year is $1.2 million.

Table 9: Interdepartmental Recovery Fund expenditures, by federal agency, in fiscal year 2011–2012
Lead organization
No. of projects IRF ($)
Department of National Defence
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Environment Canada
Transport Canada
National Research Council Canada
Natural Resources Canada
Atomic Energy of Canada
National Capital Commission
Canadian Museum of Nature
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Parks Canada Agency


Recovery: experimental translocations of Ord's Kangaroo Rats – Department of National Defence

The Ord's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii) is a small nocturnal rodent adapted to open-terrain habitat in arid regions. This species reaches the northern limit of its range in Canada, where it is isolated from the nearest populations in Montana by 270 km. Recent population viability analysis of the species in Alberta has revealed that two outlying populations in Alberta are at extreme risk of extirpation. The Ord's Kangaroo Rat is now recognized as endangered, both provincially under the Alberta Wildlife Act and federally under Canada's Species at Risk Act. These outlying populations live in the highest quality habitat in Alberta, but because of their limited size and extreme isolation from the nearest U.S.population, they have a low probability of survival in the near future unless it is possible to facilitate ecological “rescue” by way of translocation. Translocation involves the capture, transport and release or introduction of species from one location to another. While the effectiveness of translocation to curb this species' population decline has not been demonstrated, it has been identified as a viable management tool.

This IRF-funded project focused on a population of Ord's Kangaroo Rats at Canadian Forces Base Suffield in Alberta. The project objective was to experimentally translocate Ord's Kangaroo Rats from suitable source sites and monitor their response at target relocation sites within CFB Suffield using passive integrated transponder tags. Research on translocating Ord's Kangaroo Rats to suitable habitat is considered a medium-priority activity in the Recovery Strategy for the Ord's Kangaroo Rat in Canada. This study demonstrated a successful approach for the translocation of animals from source to target sites.

Ord's Kangaroo Rat
Ord's Kangaroo Rat © The Provincial Museum of Alberta Aboriginal Funds for Species at Risk

The Aboriginal Funds for Species at Risk (AFSAR) program helps Aboriginal organizations and communities across Canada build capacity to participate in the conservation and recovery of species protected under SARA and species at risk designated by COSEWIC. The program also helps to protect and recover critical habitat or habitat important for species at risk on or near First Nations reserves or on land and waters traditionally used by Aboriginal peoples. The program is co-managed by Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Parks Canada Agency, with the support of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the guidance of national Aboriginal organizations. Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada share project administration responsibilities.

Overall, since its inception in 2004, AFSAR has contributed nearly $20 million to 600 projects, leveraging an additional $13 million in matching funds from project partners. In the 2011–2012 fiscal year, AFSAR provided $3.2 million for 87 projects, of which approximately $1.04 million targeted aquatic species at risk. These projects leveraged additional funds that exceeded $2.6 million (cash and in-kind). The projects involved 76 Aboriginal organizations and communities as recipients and benefited 186 SARA-listed species through increased Aboriginal awareness of species at risk and through the development of strategies, guidelines and practices or the completion of monitoring studies, surveys and inventories.

Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation species at risk inventory and capacity-building project

The goal of this initiative was to strengthen the long-term capacity of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, near Wiarton, Ontario, to implement recovery activities identified in a number of recovery strategies. This AFSAR-funded project contributed to the mitigation of threats to over 20 SARA-listed species at risk and their habitat through activities such as habitat improvement (e.g., invasive species removal, rerouting of trails away from sensitive habitat), education (elementary school visits, dissemination of stewardship materials) and outreach (natural and cultural heritage interpretation).

The Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation trained "Keepers of the Earth" volunteers in habitat restoration, field survey techniques, data recording, species monitoring and community outreach activities for species at risk, including endangered species (Butternut and Gattinger's Agalinis), threatened species (Blanding's Turtle, Hill's Thistle, Dwarf Lake Iris and Massasauga Rattlesnake), and species of special concern (Tuberous Indian-plantain and American Hart's-tongued Fern). Species at risk observations were documented and confirmed by the project coordinator.

Invasive species have been a significant threat to the species at risk on the Prairie Point Alvar, a limestone plain with little to no soil cover, located within the First Nation Reserve. In 2011–2012, following positive results of work supported through previous AFSAR funding on the removal of invasive plants, invasive White Sweet Clover was removed on one hectare of land on the Alvar. This work led to discussions between Chief and Council, the community and other experts to draft an Invasive Species Management and Restoration Plan. Implementation of recommendations in the plan began in 2012 on the Prairie Point Alvar.

This project has successfully increased community knowledge and engagement on this First Nation Reserve. Further, the growing awareness and participation by the community in this project has led to tangible results, where species at risk sightings are now regularly being reported in the project area.

Volunteer removing invasive White Sweet Clover at Prairie Point Alvar
Volunteer removing invasive White Sweet Clover at Prairie Point Alvar © Jarma Jalavo Natural Areas Conservation Program

The Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) was created by the Government of Canada in 2007 with an investment of $225 million towards the long-term protection of more than 200 000 ha (half a million acres) containing diverse ecosystems, wildlife and natural habitat. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) administers the NACP, and, in working with other non-profit, non-governmental conservation organizations, uses NACP funds to help secure full or partial interests in private lands across southern Canada containing significant ecologically sensitive natural areas.

Using a science-based process, the NCC and its partners work to acquire these lands through donation, purchase or stewardship agreements with private landowners. Under the NACP, priority is given to lands that are nationally or provincially significant, protect habitat for species at risk and migratory birds, or enhance connectivity or corridors between existing protected areas such as national wildlife areas, national parks and migratory bird sanctuaries.

The program has a 1:1 matching requirement, meaning that NCC must match each federally invested dollar with at least one of its own in combination with its partners. To date, the NCC and its partners, through a combination of matching funds, pledges and donations from private landowners, have invested more than $350 million in the program. As of December 2012, more than 354 000 ha of ecologically significant lands have been acquired under the NACP. The land securement goal set out in the funding agreement has been surpassed as a result of the purchase of large properties or development rights over large areas. The NACP has also contributed to the protection of habitat for at least 146 different species at risk and to other elements of biodiversity. Outreach and Education

SARA recognizes that all Canadians have a role to play in conserving wildlife, including preventing wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct. The Act also recognizes that the conservation efforts of individual Canadians and communities should be encouraged, and that stewardship activities contributing to the conservation of wildlife species and their habitat should be supported to prevent species from becoming at risk. Stewardship and cooperation are encouraged through funding programs and joint programs for species at risk. Outreach constitutes an important component of projects receiving funding through the Species at Risk funding programs.

Environment Canada has continued educating Canadians about species at risk through its longstanding partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Federation in delivering the Hinterland Who's Who wildlife education program, and through developing and publishing species profiles on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada continues to invest in key outreach and educational activities to better inform Canadians about aquatic species at risk and their responsibilities under SARA. For example, in 2012, Fisheries and Oceans Canada held several Aquatic Species at Risk Information Sessions in communities across southern Ontario. The objective was to improve community awareness and understanding of SARA; in particular, implications of critical habitat protection orders. All information sessions were held in collaboration with Ontario Conservation Authority staff. Total attendance exceeded 320 participants.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada also organized a three-day fisheries trade/SARA awareness workshop with enforcement staff from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The three days included some basic identification of species (both invasive and SARA-listed) and two half-day tours of fish markets in the Greater Toronto Area. The purpose was to educate enforcement staff on local seafood markets as a possible outlet for illegally harvested SARA species.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada carried out over 70 market probes in 2012, building intelligence on the markets. This collaborative effort allowed for both federal and provincial enforcement agencies to further their capacity, as well as to foster a strong foundation for future partnerships and information sharing regarding SARA species.

At Parks Canada, education and outreach activities relating to species at risk occur in and around heritage places at the local and regional levels, where an understanding of the species in the “backyard” of local communities and local national parks is appreciated.

At the national level, outreach efforts are focused on reaching audiences in urban areas that may not know Parks Canada or its challenges. In 2012, efforts included outreach to youth, families and new Canadians in Canada's three largest cities--Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver--and a few other urban areas across Canada. The objective was to make an initial connection with these audiences and build an understanding of the value of protected areas and some of the challenges they face, including the species at risk they protect. This leads to support for species at risk protection and management in Canada.

5 Subsection 61(1) of SARA states that no person shall destroy any part of the critical habitat of a listed endangered species or a listed threatened species that is in a province or territory and that is not part of federal lands.

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