Species at Risk Act annual report 2013: chapter 6

6 Recovery Implementation

6.1 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 2013, Environment Canada protected critical habitat for the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) in the Cape Jourimain and Portage Island National Wildlife Areas and, in tandem with the Parks Canada Agency, issued an Emergency Protection Order to counter imminent threats to the survival of the Greater Sage-Grouse.

In 2013, the Parks Canada Agency protected critical habitat for four species in eight National Parks: Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) (Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada, Kejimkujik National Park of Canada, Gros Morne National Park of Canada and Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada), Maritime Ringlet (Forillon National Park of Canada), Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada and Prince Albert National Park of Canada), and Common Hoptree (Point Pelee 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 and of the natural resources and wildlife located on those lands. As such, other than for aquatic species, the critical habitat prohibitions in SARA only apply on non-federal lands when the Governor in Council makes an order. The Minister must recommend the use of an order to the Governor in Council if the Minister is of the opinion there are no other federal laws that protect a species’ critical habitat and the laws of the province or territory do not effectively protect the critical habitat. To date, the Governor in Council has not issued any such orders under SARA.

6.2 Recovery Activities

6.2.1 Competent Departments’ Recovery Activities

In 2013, Environment Canada continued to lead and support numerous activities, including research projects, education and awareness, habitat restoration and enhancement initiatives, monitoring, and assessment. These activities supported the recovery of numerous species at risk from a wide variety of taxa.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada led or supported a number of activities in 2013 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.

In 2013, the Parks Canada Agency continued to implement recovery activities in and around protected heritage places, including research, restoration activities, and public outreach and education. Several Parks Canada projects are conducted in partnership with non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, private citizens and Aboriginal communities.

Fin Whale Rescue: Gulf and Maritimes Regions

In November 2013, Fisheries and Oceans Canada officers assisted in the rescue of a young fin whale that had become stranded in the shallow waters of Jersey Cove in Cape Breton. It is believed that the 10-metre-long young whale may have come in close to shore to feed and then became trapped by the ebbing tide. The efforts of fishery officers and the Marine Animal Response Society were successful, as they were able to haul the whale back out to sea. The Atlantic population of Fin Whales is listed as Special Concern under SARA.

Fin whale being helped back to sea
Photo: Pat Young © Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Alberta Populations)

The Westslope Cutthroat Trout was once found throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Montana, Oregon, British Columbia and Alberta, but its range today is now vastly reduced. In Alberta alone, Westslope Cutthroat Trout are limited to less than 10% of their historical range and have been declining for a number of reasons, including loss of habitat, changes in habitat quality and exploitation by anglers. Another major factor involves invasive related species of rainbow trout and brook trout, which have been introduced to a number of rivers across the province, causing the Westslope Cutthroat Trout to cross-breed and compete. As a result, the Alberta population was designated as Threatened under SARA in 2013.

It is estimated that, out of approximately 274 water bodies historically occupied by Westslope Cutthroat Trout, there are approximately 51 genetically pure populations remaining. The only genetically pure populations of Westslope Cutthroat Trout that exist in Alberta’s National Parks occur in Banff National Park. Parks Canada is therefore an important partner in recovery efforts for this species, working with other federal and provincial agencies and key stakeholders such as Trout Unlimited Canada and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Parks Canada has launched an ambitious project to help restore Westslope Cutthroat Trout in the Hidden Lake and Corral Creek drainage, located to the north-east of Lake Louise. The project involves creating a long-term headwater refuge in the area, in order to give Westslope Cutthroat Trout a place to recover without the constant pressures of competition from other species. Over the last three years, Banff National Park staff has removed the majority of the invasive fish species from the headwaters, using a combination of gill and trap netting, angling and electrofishing. A naturally occurring barrier--a waterfall--prevents invasive fish species from returning to the refuge once they are removed.

The next step of the project will look at expanding the population of Westslope Cutthroat Trout by translocation of wild trout into both the lake and the upper reaches of both Hidden Lake and Corral Creek.

Westslope Cutthroat Trout
Photo: © Shane Petry, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Collaboration in the Yukon to Recover Baikal Sedge

The Baikal Sedge (Carex sabulosa) is a perennial plant that grows in the loose sandy soil of windswept dune systems in the southwest Yukon. The sedge has long horizontal roots called rhizomes, which help to anchor and stabilize the dunes in which they live.

When the rare Baikal Sedge was listed as threatened under SARA in 2005, Kluane National Park Reserve partnered with local First Nations to compile traditional and scientific knowledge to support recovery of the sedge and its habitat. One of the recovery goals was to complete surveys in the dunes systems to assess the health of the known populations within and outside the Park’s boundaries and to locate and assess any additional populations that might exist outside its known range.

Not only were researchers able to find a previously unknown population within the park, they also found one just outside of Whitehorse.

Baikal Sedge
Photo: © Jennifer Line

6.2.2 Conservation Agreements

A competent minister may, after consultation with the other competent minister and with the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation CouncilFootnote5 or any of its members, enter into a conservation agreement with any government in Canada, organization or person, to benefit a species at risk or enhance its survival in the wild.

The agreement must provide for the taking of conservation measures and any other measures consistent with the purposes of SARA, and may include measures with respect to:

Conservation agreements can also be entered into to provide for the conservation of a wildlife species that is not a species at risk.

In 2013, the competent departments continued work to develop the first conservation agreements under SARA and to finalize guidance for departmental staff on these agreements. Environment Canada continued to pursue the development of agreements with several parties including First Nations and industry partners, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is pursuing the development of agreements for several aquatic species at risk.

6.2.3 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. Funded projects focus on four expected results:

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 provincial and territorial governments, and other stakeholders. These boards provide advice on priorities and project selection for their regions. Since its inception, the HSP has contributed over $127 million to 2178 projects, leveraging an additional $303 million in matching funds from project partners.

During 2012–2013, 131 new projects and 50 previously approved multi-year projects, involving 134 funding recipients, contributed to the recovery of over 451 SARA-listed species across Canada. A total of $9.5 million in funding was awarded to these projects, and an additional $16.1 million was leveraged from partners, for a total investment of $25.6 million. These contributions provided support to stewardship efforts across Canada that resulted in the securement and protection of 166 463 hectares (ha) of land, including 5 973 ha through legally binding means, such as acquisition or conservation easements. Non-legally binding protection through the use of voluntary verbal and written stewardship agreements with landowners accounts for 160 490 ha, and covers 141 612 ha through renewed stewardship agreements and 18 878 ha through new stewardship agreements to conserve land. The program also supported the improvement or restoration of 15 858 ha of land and 66 km of shoreline.

Improving the Habitat of the Copper Redhorse in the Des Hurons River Watershed in Quebec

This fish habitat improvement project took place in an 80 square kilometre area of the watershed of the Des Hurons River, which crosses the St. Lawrence Plain into the Richelieu River at the Chambly Basin (east of Montréal). This watershed is the largest spawning area for the Copper Redhorse, an endangered fish found only in the St. Lawrence lowlands area of Quebec. This area, which is part of the greater St. Lawrence River watershed, has been identified as an HSP regional priority area due to the high impact of human activities on the habitat of important fish species at risk, including the Copper Redhorse.

Agricultural practices have contributed to riverbank erosion and severely altered the water quality of the Des Hurons River, which as a result now contains high concentrations of phosphorus, suspended solids and pesticides. Improving water quality must be done through mobilization and involvement of all riparian (shoreline) landowners, municipalities and members of the agricultural sector.

The two-year project (2011–2012 to 2012–2013) reduced erosion and siltation of key watercourses in order to improve the quality of Copper Redhorse habitat. In 2011–2012, the project identified appropriate measures needed to be undertaken to reduce erosion. In 2012–2013, Union des producteurs agricoles representatives met with 68 agricultural producers, which led to 52 undertaking a variety of landscaping activities (e.g., vegetation planting to stabilize the shoreline, green fertilizers used on 480 ha of crops, 45 waterfalls filled with rocks to prevent erosion, 70 output drains protected to prevent nutrients from reaching watershed and 11 ditch junctions created to reduce soil erosion) that stabilized river banks and reduced nutrient run-off in order to improve a total of 4.5 km of shoreline. In addition, a committee composed of agricultural producers for the protection of the Des Hurons River watershed was established, and will continue after the end of the project, to discuss and exchange information on best management practices to be used on agricultural lands in the watershed.

All of the activities undertaken by the agricultural producers aimed to reduce the high-priority threat (shoreline and streambed soil erosion) outlined in the Copper Redhorse recovery strategy. The habitat improvements brought about by this project should help to prevent further degradation through soil erosion and siltation of the watercourse. The improvements should also contribute to the reduction of nutrient run-off throughout the watershed and therefore make a significant contribution to the overall quality of the habitat for the Copper Redhorse.

Copper Redhorse
Photo: © COVABAR

6.2.4 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 at risk. 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.

Since its inception in 2004, AFSAR has contributed nearly $22 million to 631 projects, leveraging an additional $15 million in matching funds from project partners. In the 2012–2013 fiscal year, AFSAR provided $2.9 million for 71 projects, of which $821,320 targeted aquatic species at risk. These projects leveraged additional funds that exceeded $2.4 million (cash and in-kind) and involved 71 Aboriginal organizations and communities as recipients. Funded projects benefited 181 SARA-listed species, mostly 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.

6.2.5 Interdepartmental Recovery Fund

The Interdepartmental Recovery Fund (IRF) is administered by Environment Canada. Established in 2002, the IRF supports species at risk projects undertaken by federal government departments, agencies and Crown corporations (other than Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Parks Canada Agency). Funded projects predominantly occur on lands owned or administered by federal organizations and directly relate to the implementation of activities identified in recovery strategies or action plans, or surveys of species at risk.

During the IRF’s first 11 years (2002–2013), it has invested $19.4 million in 649 projects. In 2012–2013, the IRF supported 31 projects in 8 federal departments and 4 Crown corporations. Collectively, $1.1 million in program funding and just under $500,000 from project leads supported recovery efforts for 70 species at risk. In 2012–2013, 84.5% of program funds supported recovery actions, while 13.8% supported surveys and 1.6% was directed towards 2 planning projects.

6.2.6 Outreach and Education

SARA recognizes that Canada’s natural heritage is an integral part of our national identity and history. All Canadians have a role to play in the conservation of wildlife species and their habitats, and education and awareness is essential.

Officials from Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Parks Canada Agency promote compliance with the Act, ensuring that Canadians are informed about SARA, their responsibilities under the Act and opportunities to help conserve species at risk.

Environment Canada delivered a range of information in the form of fact sheets, Qs and As, Web content, information sessions, etc. to educate communities and the public about activities that affect species at risk and their habitat. The Department also provided information sessions for Aboriginal and stakeholder communities, as well as signage, area-user brochures and volunteer guardian programs.

Environment Canada continues to educate 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 continued working with partners to provide education and outreach activities such as school visits, trade shows, workshops, and industry and community meetings on the threats to aquatic species at risk and how to help protect these species. Some highlights include:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada hosted species at risk policy and operational working group meetings in Moncton, New Brunswick, on June 5–6, 2013. A simulation of a marine mammal rescue with local fishery officers took place in the Bay of Shediac, providing an opportunity to promote the training and work of departmental fishery officers who respond to marine animals that are stranded or in distress.

The start of 2013 marked year two of a campaign called “Wanted! North Atlantic Right Whales” in search of areas outside of the critical habitat where North Atlantic Right Whales aggregate. Posters were placed on wharves, community bulletin boards, Coast Guard vessels, ferries in all Atlantic coast regions, whale watch companies and Fisheries and Oceans Canada area offices to solicit information from the public on sightings of North Atlantic Right Whales. Pamphlets with additional information on the project were also made available. The Department is currently working to compile a list of the locations from which reports were received.

During 2013, Fisheries and Oceans Canada held 13 outreach sessions throughout Ontario, 8 of which were in partnership with conservation authorities. Since 3 new species had recently been listed and protection orders for critical habitat were pending for 6 fish and 10 mussel species in Ontario, particular emphasis was placed on where critical habitat exists, how critical habitat is defined, and how potential impacts to critical habitat might be mitigated. Over 360 participants took part in these sessions, representing a wide range of stakeholders.

In addition to the outreach sessions, concerted efforts were made in 2013 to develop a SARA guidance document that could be referenced by other regulators (i.e., municipalities) or stakeholders in their planning processes. This new initiative will result in project proponents’ being aware of the need to comply with SARA requirements early in the project planning process.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada completed a session to educate turbot ice fishers in Nunavut on the proper identification and SARA requirements/status of the Atlantic, Spotted and Northern Wolffish. This was completed during the annual compliance and monitoring inspections of the turbot commercial ice fishery.

The Parks Canada Agency promotes species at risk protection through public engagement in efforts to mitigate the factors that adversely affect the protection and recovery of species at risk. In 2013, the Agency continued to implement the Parks Canada Prevention Guidelines, which support the implementation of activities promoting awareness and understanding of species at risk and their habitat.

At Parks Canada, public outreach activities relating to species at risk occur in and around parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas across the country. These activities include interpretative programs, field trips, special events, volunteer programs, media stories and online resources such as Web and social media content. Visitors have the unique opportunity to experience first-hand the places that are key to protecting species at risk.

In addition, Parks Canada has put in place a number of national outreach programs that focus on reaching audiences in urban areas in order to address the low level of awareness among this audience. In 2013, efforts included outreach to youth, families and new Canadians in Canada’s three largest cities--Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver--and a few other urban areas. Creating this awareness and initial connection among urbanites helps foster support for species at risk protection and management.

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