Species at Risk Act annual report for 2017: chapter 4

4. Recovery planning for listed species

4.1 Legislative requirements

Once a species is listed on Schedule 1, there are obligations in the Act for recovery planning. 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 recovery strategy action plan or management plan, as applicable, is to be published on the public registry within 30 days after the expiry 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 the progress made toward achieving the stated objectives.

Recovery strategies have the following steps:

  1. identify threats to the species and its habitat
  2. identify critical habitat to the extent possible
  3. set population and distribution objectives for the species

Action plans outline the projects or activities required to meet the objectives outlined in the recovery strategy. This includes information on the species habitat, protection measures, and an evaluation of the socio-economic costs and benefits. Management plans identify conservation measures needed to prevent a species listed as special concern from becoming threatened or endangered, but do not identify critical habitat.

4.2 Recovery planning activities in 2017

Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the competent ministers must prepare recovery strategies and action plans for the species listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened and management plans for those listed as special concern.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan, published in 2014, identifies the 192 species for which recovery documents would be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014. As of the end of 2017, recovery documents had been posted for 94% of these species. The posting plan and progress in publishing proposed recovery strategies and management plans to date are available on the species at risk public registry.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)’s proposed recovery document posting plan can be viewed online.

4.2.1 Recovery Strategies

In 2017, ECCC posted proposed recovery strategies for 33 species and final recovery strategies for 35 species. The Parks Canada Agency (PCA) posted proposed recovery strategies for two species and a final recovery strategy for one species in 2017. DFO posted proposed recovery strategies for 1 species, but did not post any final recovery strategies in 2017. New recovery strategies that were posted on the species at risk public registry are listed in Table 6.

Table 6: Species for which recovery strategies were posted in 2017 by competent department
Competent department Final recovery strategies: species Proposed recovery strategies: species
Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Aweme Borer
  • Bert's Predaceous Diving Beetle
  • Branched Bartoni
  • Chestnut-collared Longspur Cliff Paintbrush
  • Behr's (columbia) Hairstreak
  • Bent Spike-rush (Great Lakes Plains population)
  • Canada Warbler
  • Cherry Birch
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Drooping Trillium
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Half-moon Hairstreak
  • Jefferson Salamander
  • Nodding Pogonia
  • Ogden's Pondweed
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • Oregon Forestsnail
  • Pale-bellied Frost Lichen
  • Dun Skipper (Western population)
  • Edwards' Beach Moth
  • Queensnake
  • Townsend's Mole
  • Verna's Flower Moth
  • Vesper Sparrow affinis subspecies
  • False Rue-anemone
  • Great Basin Spadefoot
  • Greater Sage-Grouse phaios subspecies
  • Illinois Tick-trefoil
  • Large Whorled Pogonia
  • Lewis's Woodpecker
  • Wolverine (Eastern population)
  • Yellow-breasted Chat auricollis subspecies
  • Mexican Mosquito-fern
  • Mormon Metalmark (Southern Mountain population)
  • Mountain Holly Fern
  • Northern Leopard Frog (Rocky Mountain population)
  • Pacific Gophersnake
  • Pallid Bat
  • Pygmy Short-horned Lizard
  • Red Knot roselaari type
  • Red Knot rufa subspecies
  • Round-leaved Greenbrier (Great Lakes Plains population)
  • Seaside Bone Lichen
    Showy Phlox
  • Spalding's Campion
  • Streambank Lupine
  • Tall Bugbane
  • Tiger Salamander (Southern Mountain population)
  • Victoria's Owl-clover
  • Virginia Goat's-rue
  • Wallis' Dark Saltflat Tiger Beetle
  • Western Silvery Aster
  • Willowleaf Aster
  • Blue Racer
  • Allegheny Dusty Mountain Salamander
  • Desert Nightsnake
    Dun Skipper (Western population)
  • Eastern Foxsnake (Carolinian population)
  • American Chestnut
  • American Colombo
  • Barn Owl (Eastern population)
  • Bicknell's Thrush
  • Bird's-foot Violet
  • Blanding's Turtle Foxsnake (Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population)
  • Blue-grey Taildropper Slug
  • Butler's Gartersnake
  • Eastern Musk Turtle
  • Persius Duskywing
  • Edwards' Beach Moth
  • Five-spotted Bogus Yucca Moth
  • False Rue-anemone
  • Juniper Sedge Frosted
  • Elfin Gattinger's
  • Agalinis
  • Gray Ratsnake (Carolinian population)
  • Northern Barrens Tiger Beetle
  • Northern Leopard Frog (Rocky Mountain population)
  • Gray Ratsnake (Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population)
  • Great Basin Gophersnake
  • Prairie Skink
  • Purple Twayblade
  • Rapids Clubtail
  • Great Basin Spadefoot
  • Greater Sage-Grouse phaios subspecies
  • Grey Fox
  • Illinois Tick-trefoil
  • Karner Blue
  • Mexican Mosquito-fern
  • Mormon Metalmark (Southern Mountain population)
  • Non-pollinating Yucca Moth
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Pallid Bat
  • Pygmy Short-horned Lizard
  • Round-leaved Greenbrier (Great Lakes Plains population)
  • Sharp-tailed Snake
  • Showy Phlox
  • Small-flowered Lipocarpha
  • Small-mouthed Salamander
  • Rusty-patched Bumble Bee
  • Tiger Salamander (Southern Mountain population)
  • Victoria's Owl Slender
  • Bush-clover Spiny
  • Softshell Spotted Turtle
  • Western Silvery Aster
  • Whitebark Pine
  • Wood Bison
  • Wood Turtle
Parks Canada Agency
  • Dromedary Jumping-slug
  • Dromedary Jumping-slug
  • Northern Goshawk laingi subspecies
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Harbour Seal Lacs des Loups Marins subspecies
  • none

4.2.2 Action plans

An action plan identifies the conservation measures required to address the threats to the species and meet the population and distribution objectives outlined in the recovery strategy. An action plan must identify critical habitat or complete the identification of critical habitat, if it is not fully identified in the recovery strategy.

In 2017, ECCC posted a proposed action plan for one species and a final multi-species action plan for four species. PCA posted 10 proposed and 11 final multi-species action plans covering a total of 51 different extirpated, endangered and threatened (EET) SARA-listed species on PCA lands and waters. DFO posted proposed action plans for 6 species and final action plans for 10 species.

Table 7: Species for which action plans were posted in 2017
Competent department Final action plans Proposed action plans
Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Action Plan for Multiple Species at Risk in Southwestern Saskatchewan: South of the Divide:
    • Burrowing Owl
    • Loggerhead Shrike Prairie subspecies
    • Mountain Plover
    • Sprague's Pipit
  • Porsild's Bryum
  • Woodland Caribou, Boreal Population
Parks Canada Agency Multi-species Action Plans (Number of EET SARA-listed species in action plan)k
  • Banff National Park of Canada (7)
  • Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site of Canada (6)
  • Jasper National Park of Canada (7)
  • Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada (12)
  • Kootenay National Park of Canada (5)
  • Mount Revelstoke National Park of Canada Glacier National Park
  • of Canada (5)
  • Pukaskwa National Park of Canada (7) Terra Nova National Park of Canada (5)
  • Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada and Bar U Ranch National Historic Site of Canada (8)
  • Yoho National Park of Canada (3)
  • Banff National Park of Canada (7)
  • Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site of Canada (6)
  • Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (16)
  • Jasper National Park of Canada (7)
  • Kootenay National Park of Canada (5)
  • Mount Revelstoke National Park of Canada Glacier National Park of Canada (5)
  • Pukaskwa National Park of Canada (7)
  • Terra Nova National Park of Canada (5)
  • Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada and Bar U Ranch National Historic Site of Canada (8)
  • Yoho National Park of Canada (3)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

  • Blue Whale (Pacific population)
  • Cultus Pygmy Sculpin
  • Fin Whale (Pacific population)
  • Killer Whale (Northeast Pacific Southern Resident population)
  • Killer Whale (Northeast Pacific Northern Resident population)
  • Nooksack Dace
  • North Pacific Right Whale
  • Northern Bottlenose Whale (Scotian Shelf population)
  • Salish Sucker
  • Sei Whale (Pacific population)
  • Carmine Shiner
  • Hotwater Physa
  • Leatherback Sea Turtle (Pacific population)
  • Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations)
  • Western Brook Lamprey (Morrison Creek population)
  • Western Silvery Minnow

k Note that an individual species may be covered in more than one multi-species action plan.

Action plan for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population in Canada: federal actions

Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population, referred to as ‘boreal caribou,’ are a forest-dwelling, sedentary caribou that are distributed broadly across the boreal forest of Canada and are listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act. The status of this iconic species is considered by many to be an indicator of the overall state of Canada’s boreal forest ecosystem. The primary threat to boreal caribou is unnaturally high predation rates resulting from human-caused habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) 2012 recovery strategy for Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population in Canada set the recovery goal to achieve self-sustaining local populations in all current boreal caribou ranges throughout their distribution in Canada.

On July 27, 2017, the proposed action plan for Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada: federal actions was posted on the species at risk public registry for a 60-day public comment period. The action plan outlines the recovery measures the Government of Canada is taking, or plans to take, to help achieve the recovery goal and population and distribution objectives for boreal caribou, as identified in the recovery strategy. The federal recovery measures are structured under three pillars: knowledge to support recovery, recovery and protection, and reporting on progress.

Boreal Caribou
Boreal Caribou

In order to provide partners and interested parties with a better understanding of the proposed action plan, ECCC hosted four information sessions by webinar in September 2017, which were attended by over 250 people. In total, over 80 written comments on the proposed action plan were received from provinces and territories, wildlife management boards, Indigenous peoples, municipal governments, stakeholders and individual Canadians.

ECCC reviewed all the comments received and revised to the action plan to address comments and concerns expressed. The comments helped ECCC to gain a better understanding of the perspective, ideas, questions, and concerns of partners and interested parties. Some of the comments received did not result in a change to the action plan as they were more applicable to provincial or territorial recovery planning documents, range planning processes or on-going engagement efforts. Other comments were noted for consideration in future research, planning and reporting.

The recovery of this species requires unprecedented commitment, collaboration and cooperation among the various groups involved in the conservation of boreal caribou. The action plan sets out the Federal Government’s contribution to support boreal caribou recovery and protection in collaboration with partners and stakeholders. The implementation of the federal action plan will provide information necessary for better decision-making and improved outcomes for boreal caribou on the ground.

4.2.3 Identification of critical habitat

SARA defines “critical habitat” as the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species and that is identified as the species’ critical habitat in the recovery strategy or in an action plan. Competent ministers must identify critical habitat, based on the best available information.

In 2017, ECCC published final recovery strategies in which critical habitat was identified for 23 species, and proposed recovery strategies in which critical habitat was identified for 26 species. ECCC also published a final multi-species action plan in which critical habitat was identified for one species.

In 2017, PCA identified critical habitat in a final recovery strategy for one species (Dromedary Jumping Slug) and also identified critical habitat in a proposed recovery strategy for one species (Northern Goshawk laingi subspecies). PCA also identified critical habitat for four species in final action plans in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada (Sand-verbena Moth and Seaside Centipede Lichen) and Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada (Eastern Ribbonsnake and Vole Ears Lichen). The Agency also identified critical habitat for one species in the proposed multi-species action plan for Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada (Contorted-pod Evening-primrose). Information for all species mentioned above is posted on the species at risk public registry.

In 2017, DFO published a proposed recovery strategy in which critical habitat was identified for 1 species.

4.2.4 Management plans

Species of special concern are those that may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats. SARA requires competent ministers to prepare management plans for species of special concern. A management plan differs from a recovery strategy and an action plan, in that it identifies conservation measures needed to prevent a species of special concern from becoming threatened or endangered, but does not identify critical habitat. Where appropriate, these management plans may be prepared for multiple species on an ecosystem or landscape level.

Table 8: Species for which management plans were posted in 2017 (by competent department)
Competent department Final management plans: Species Proposed management plans: Species
Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Black-footed Albatross
  • Coeur d'Alene Salamander
  • Northern Red-legged Frog
  • Northern Rubber Boa
  • Oldgrowth Specklebelly Lichen
  • Peregrine Falcon anatum/tundrius
  • Peregrine Falcon pealei subspecies
  • Red Knot islandica subspecies
  • Barren-ground Caribou (Dolphin and Union population)
  • Eastern Wolf
  • Hairy Prairie-clover
  • Lyall's Mariposa Lily
  • Peregrine Falcon pealei subspecies
  • Threaded Vertigo
  • Weidemeyer's Admiral
  •  Western Blue Flag
  • Western Painted Turtle
Parks Canada Agency
  • Nil
  • Nil
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Fin Whale (Atlantic population)
  • Green Sturgeon
  • Sowerby’s Beaked Whale
  • Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Pacific populations)
  • Nil

4.3 Protection of critical habitat

In 2017, ECCC protected critical habitat for three species in four National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) and three Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBS):

  • Piping Plover, melodus subspecies (Big Glace Bay Lake Bird Sanctuary and Black Pond Bird Sanctuary)
  • Lewis’s Woodpecker (Vaseux-Bighorn NWA and Vaseux Lake Bird Sanctuary)
  • Queensnake (Big Creek NWA, Long Point NWA and St. Clair NWA)
Piping Plover
Piping plover

In 2017, PCA protected critical habitat for five species in five protected heritage places (national parks, national historic sites, national park reserves and marine conservation areas):

  • Eastern Ribbonsnake (Atlantic population) (Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada)
  • Northern Abalone (Gwaii Haanas Marine Conservation Area and Haida Heritage Site and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada)
  • Porsild's Bryum (Quttinirpaaq National Park of Canada)
  • Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa subspecies) (Wapusk National Park of Canada)
  • Vole Ears Lichen (Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada)

Efforts are ongoing to finalize protection measures for critical habitat of other species on lands administered by PCA. In 2017, DFO protected critical habitat for the following five aquatic species at risk:

  • Beluga Whale, St. Lawrence Estuary population
  • North Atlantic Right Whale
  • Rocky Mountain Sculpin, Eastslope populations
  • Eastern Sand Darter, Ontario populations
  • Spotted Gar

A joint order was made by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister responsible for Parks Canada Agency to protect critical habitat for the Northern Abalone.

DFO also published proposed orders to protect critical habitat for two species:

  • Northern Bottlenose Whale, Scotian Shelf population
  • Lake Chubsucker

To further help protect aquatic species at risk, DFO encourages people who are considering a construction project to visit the aquatic species at risk map to facilitate locating these species and thus plan their project accordingly.

4.4 Recovery activities

Government of Canada biologists across Canada led or supported dozens of activities, including research projects, education and awareness, habitat restoration or enhancement initiatives, monitoring, assessment, and more.

4.4.1 Competent departments’ recovery activities

In 2017, ECCC continued to lead and support numerous activities targeting the recovery of species at risk. ECCC progressed in the development of conservation agreements under section 11 as a tool bringing partners together to commit to conservation measures for the benefit of species at risk. One conservation agreement was signed in 2017 with an Indigenous band, and negotiations with several other groups have taken place and are expected to result in an increased number of agreements for 2018.

Success Story
Delineating the migration corridor of an endangered species: an example of successful international cooperation for SAR recovery

Migration corridor for Whooping Cranes
Migration corridor for Whooping Cranes

The gradual progress towards recovery of the endangered whooping crane (Grus americana), which migrates twice annually between northern Canada and the southern United States, demonstrates the importance of international cooperation and long-term commitment to monitoring and recovery of migratory species. Close cooperation between Canadian and U.S. governments began in the 1950’s and continues today with a focus on population management, protection of key habitat, reduction of threats, population monitoring and applied research. This cooperative approach has enabled the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population of whooping cranes, the last remaining wild and self-sustaining population of the species, to increase from a low of 14 birds in 1939 to a high of 431 in 2017. In the summer of 2017, biologists from ECCC and Parks Canada observed 98 nesting pairs, the highest number ever counted, in and near Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP), the only location where this population is known to nest. The population continues to grow at an average rate of about 4% per year.

As part of longstanding international efforts to recover this species, government biologists in Canada and the USA recently collaborated to delineate the contemporary migration corridor of whooping cranes. Researchers determined the migration corridor using data from historical observations and recent tracking of cranes using satellite transmitters, highlighting the importance of long term monitoring and focused research. Each year, the fall migration of whooping cranes takes them from their breeding grounds in and near WBNP, through northeastern Alberta and central Saskatchewan, across the Great Plains to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Texas. The Prairie Pothole Region of Saskatchewan and North Dakota, the Nebraska Sandhills area, the Rainwater Basin Area in southeastern Nebraska, and the Playa Lakes Region of Oklahoma and north-central Texas are critically important areas for migrating whooping cranes. The area is characterized in part by a high abundance of wetlands and riverine habitats which are vital as roosting and foraging sites during their migration. The migration corridor is well-defined and compact, occupying an average width from east to west of approximately 300 km, but expanding to just over 400 km wide at the international border.

Over the decades, the whooping crane migration corridor has shifted slightly to the east, at an average rate of 1.2 km per year, and it also narrowed slightly during that time. Changes in the corridor over the past eight decades suggest that agencies and organizations responsible for the recovery of this species may need to modify where recovery actions occur. The study suggested that whooping cranes can modify their migratory behaviour in response to environmental change, likely necessary for persistence of this wetland-dependent species migrating through the drought-prone Prairies and Great Plains. This apparent flexibility in migratory behaviour may contribute to the recovery of the species in a future of uncertain climate and land use changes throughout their annual range. Finally, improved knowledge from this study about the areas used by whooping cranes during migration will contribute to efforts to mitigate potential impacts of industrial development throughout the migration corridor.

In 2017, PCA continued to implement recovery activities in and around protected heritage places, including research, restoration activities, and public outreach and education. Several PCA projects are conducted in partnership with non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, private citizens and Indigenous communities. Conservation and restoration projects are recovering, restoring and enhancing ecosystems and species at risk across Canada; from recovering species at risk in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve on the west coast, to restoring the boreal forest in Terra Nova National Park on the east coast, to reconnecting lakes and rivers in La Mauricie National Park.

In 2017, DFO continued to implement recovery activities including: research, strategic regulatory sign placement, partnering with provincial wildlife conservation staff to share knowledge and build relationships in support of protecting species, environmental restoration opportunities, and targeted site visits.

In its tenth year, DFO’s Marine Mammal Response Program departmental personnel and external partner organizations carried out 261 responses nationally for species at risk.

Responses included:

  • freeing whales from fishing gear entanglements
  • monitoring close approaches by vessels
  • refloating live stranded animals
  • reuniting stranded animals with their pods
  • warming cold, stunned sea turtles
  • performing necropsies on dead animals to determine cause of death; and
  • investigating incidents of harassment

The information collected during these response activities helps DFO monitor and evaluate the threat level from these forms of harm and find ways to reduce entanglements and vessel collisions. Outreach activities help to educate the public on ways to help protect and avoid harming marine animals.

Endangered beluga rescued

A young male beluga whale that lost its way in a northern New Brunswick river was rescued in a unique and complex operation that saw the endangered marine mammal travel by land, air and sea before being reunited with a pod in its natural habitat. The juvenile male whale swam into New Brunswick's Nepisiguit River, perhaps following a school of fish or an impulsive youthful drive for adventure. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, marine mammal groups and scientists banded together and launched a rescue mission to move the wayward beluga back to the deep blue sea.

Rescuers gently helped the whale into a hoop net, using an acoustic deterrent device to direct the beluga towards the netting, and then transferred him to a stretcher. The marine mammal was assessed by a veterinarian and given an injection to keep him calm during the transport which kept him in a pretty stable condition during the transport. The whale was then carried from the river to the back of a truck, where he was transported to the Bathurst, N.B. airport. The beluga was then carefully loaded onto a small airplane and flown to Rivière-du-Loup, about 200 kilometers northeast of Quebec City. The veterinarian stayed by the beluga's side during the flight and gave him intravenous fluids.

The whale's journey continued in Quebec as it was loaded back on to a truck and transported to a port near Cacouna, where it was put on a boat. Rescuers then ferried the young whale to an area near a pod of belugas, and set it free. The whale re-entered the ocean through the St. Lawrence Estuary near Cacouna, Quebec. The whale was equipped with a tracking device to aid scientists in following its movements. Belugas are extremely social creatures, so the rescued whale has a good chance of staying with a new pod.

Fisheries and Oceans, the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, the Marine Animal Response Society, the Vancouver Aquarium, the Shedd Aquarium from Chicago, Ill., the Whale Stewardship Project and veterinarians from the Université de Montréal were major players in the relocation effort.

Beluga whales
Beluga whales

Case study
eDNA - species at risk monitoring and management

Photo: Collection and filtration of water samples for analysis (Credit: Southeastern Anglers)
Photo: Collection and filtration of water samples for analysis (Credit: Southeastern Anglers)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada continues to work to foster innovation and improve monitoring and management techniques for species at risk. Conventional aquatic species monitoring generally relies on morphological methods and surveys (e.g., electrofishing, net capture), which can be time-consuming, labour intensive, and may negatively impact sensitive species and ecosystems. These limitations have created a need for alternative approaches.

DFO has been exploring the feasibility of environmental DNA (eDNA) for use in species monitoring and management. eDNA refers to genetic material that can be extracted directly from environmental samples (water, sediment, etc.) to detect and conduct genetic analyses for the research and management of species. It is an efficient and non-lethal tool that holds the potential to improve biodiversity monitoring, especially when coupled with sensitive and ever-advancing DNA sequencing technology.

eDNA offers the following potential advantages:

  1. can help reduce impacts on rare and sensitive species where direct handling may cause harm
  2. less time-consuming and labour-intensive than conventional methods
  3. real-time monitoring of species at risk and other species important to their survival (e.g. host fish)
As an example of eDNA in practice, DFO started a 2-year (2017-2019) project to develop a species-specific eDNA assay for the Brook Floater and more than 20 aquatic invasive species in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The Brook Floater is a small freshwater mussel that is listed as Special Concern under SARA.
Photo: Non-lethal DNA sampling for the Brook Floater (DFO credit)
Photo: Non-lethal DNA sampling for the Brook Floater (DFO credit)

Field sampling of eDNA occurred in New Brunswick watersheds in 2017-2018 using an easy and low-cost sampling method and involving the contribution of one Indigenous community and a few watershed groups. eDNA testing resulted in a positive detection of Brook Floaters in sites where conventional surveys were recently conducted (2016 and 2017), as well as in sites where surveys were conducted in the past.

4.4.2 Habitat Stewardship Program

The Government of Canada’s 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 overall goals of the HSP are to contribute to the recovery of endangered, threatened and other species at risk, and to prevent other species from becoming a conservation concern, by involving Canadians from all walks of life in conservation actions to benefit wildlife.

The HSP is co-managed by ECCC, DFO and PCA, and administered by ECCC on a regional basis. Regional Implementation Boards include representatives from federal, provincial and territorial governments, and various stakeholders. These boards provide advice on priorities and project selection for their regions.

The most complete data available for the HSP at the end of 2017 is for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Funding under the HSP is separated into two distinct streams.

  1. The species at risk stream
  2. The prevention stream

1. The HSP species at risk stream focuses on projects addressing the recovery of species at risk listed on Schedule 1 of SARA. Results are focused on:

  • 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 or their habitat caused by human activities; 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

During the 2016–2017 fiscal year:

  • 141 new projects and 42 previously approved multi-year projects involving 155 unique funding recipients contributed to the recovery efforts of over 195 unique SARA-listed species across Canada
  • a total of $13.1 million in HSP SAR Stream funding was awarded to these projects, and an additional $33.8 million (cash and in-kind) was leveraged from partners, for a total investment of $46.9 million

These contributions provided support to stewardship efforts across Canada that resulted in the securement and protection of over 132,600 ha of land, including more than 3,000 ha through legally binding means, such as acquisition or conservation easements. Non-legally binding protection was put in place through the use of written conservation agreements with landowners, which accounts for over 129,600 ha, including more than 114,300 ha through renewed conservation agreements and more than 15,300 ha through new conservation agreements. The program also supported the improvement or restoration of more than 27,200 ha of land and 50 km of shoreline.

2. The HSP prevention stream focuses on projects addressing other species, beyond those listed on Schedule 1 of SARA, to prevent them from becoming a conservation concern. It targets the same results as the Species at Risk Stream.

During the 2016–2017 fiscal year:

  • the HSP Prevention Stream funded 63 new projects and 14 previously approved multi-year projects, which support work to prevent species from becoming a conservation concern

A total of over $2.9 million in HSP Prevention Stream funding was awarded to these projects, and an additional $6.1 million (cash and in-kind) was leveraged from partners, for a total investment of over $9 million.

These contributions provided support to stewardship efforts across Canada that resulted in the securement and protection of more than 5,800 ha of land, including 300 ha through legally binding means, such as acquisition or conservation easements. Non-legally binding protection was put in place through the use of  written conservation agreements with landowners, which accounts for more than 5,500 ha, including over 73 ha through renewed conservation agreements and over 5,400 ha through new conservation agreements. The program also supported the improvement or restoration of more than 2,500 ha of land and 19 km of shoreline.

Case study
Engaging farmers in the recovery of species at risk in the Richelieu Valley, Southern Quebec

With support from the Government of Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program (species at risk stream), Groupe ProConseil led a one-year outreach project to work with farmers in southern Quebec on conserving species at risk fish populations Beloeil stream. The work focused on improving the habitat quality for five species listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA): the Endangered Copper Redhorse (Moxostoma hubbsi); the Threatened Eastern Sand Darter (Ammocrypta pellucida); the Threatened Channel Darter (Percina copelandi); the Special Concern Bridle Shiner (Notropis bifrenatus); and the Special Concern River Redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum).

What was the significance of this project?

Working with farmers and developing conservation manuals will help reduce erosion and improve water quality in the Richelieu River watershed. This will lead to improved habitat for five SARA-listed fish.

Why this project is important?

Agricultural and urban development activities have negatively impacted surface water quality on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River near Montreal, Quebec. High concentrations of suspended solids, nutrients and toxic pesticides all enter streams in agricultural runoff from nearby farms. Beloeil Stream in the Richelieu River watershed is one of that area’s most adversely impacted water bodies by local agricultural activities. Management of Beloeil Stream water quality is imperative for the survival of its fish.

Activities and accomplishments
  • A public meeting with 34 local farmers and agricultural advisors was organized to launch the Beloeil Stream conservation program. The project scope, objectives and action plans were presented, along with information on the species at risk targeted by the project.
  • 36 farmers and local officials took part in a day-long tour of demonstration sites to showcase proper stream and streambank conservation measures. The conservation measures included a three meter buffer zone between the stream and the agricultural fields vegetated by grasses, shrubs or trees.
  • 27 willing farmers with land adjoining the Beloeil Stream were provided customized conservation manuals prepared for each farm. The manuals listed specific measures that the farmers could undertake to conserve, protect and restore aquatic habitats and improve stream water quality on their properties. 23 of these farmers also met in person with a biologist and an agrologist to work on specific conservation plans for their farms.
  • Eight farmers were given fall rye seeds as a cover crop and were educated about the use of cover crops on their fields post-harvest as a means of reducing soil erosion over the winter.
  • A six-member project monitoring committee comprised of farmers and representatives of the municipality was established. The committee held three meetings to organize future outreach efforts for promoting stream health.

4.4.3 Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk

The Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk (AFSAR), established in 2004, helps Indigenous 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 reserve land or on land and waters traditionally used by Indigenous peoples.

AFSAR is co-managed by ECCC, DFO, and PCA, with the support of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and the guidance of National Indigenous Organizations. It is administered by ECCC and DFO on a regional basis. Regional Management Teams include representatives from federal, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous representatives, and various stakeholders. These teams provide advice on priorities and project selection for their regions.

The most complete data available for AFSAR at the end of 2017 is for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Funding under AFSAR is separated into two distinct streams:

  1. the species at risk stream
  2. the prevention stream

The AFSAR Species at Risk Stream focuses on projects addressing the recovery of species at risk listed on Schedule 1 of SARA, targeting results in four main areas:

  • strengthening capacity in Indigenous communities for SARA implementation
  • mitigating threats to species at risk, be they individuals or populations
  • protecting, improving or managing critical and important habitat of species at risk; and
  • documenting and conserving Indigenous traditional knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge on species at risk and, where appropriate, helping ensure their use in the development of recovery objectives

During the 2016–2017 fiscal year the AFSAR species at risk stream:

  • provided $3.3 million to 30 new projects and 37 previously approved multi-year projects
  • leveraged additional funds that exceeded $3.3 million (cash and in kind)
  • involved 55 Indigenous organizations and communities as recipients

These contributions provided support to stewardship efforts across Canada that resulted in the securement and protection of just over 2,770 ha of land, including 60 ha through legally binding means, such as acquisition or conservation easements.

Non-legally binding protection was put in place through the use of written conservation agreements with landowners, which accounts for just over 2,700 ha, including renewed and new conservation agreements. The program also supported the improvement or restoration of more than 80 ha of land and 180 km of shoreline. Funded projects helped 98 SARA-listed species, mostly through increased Indigenous awareness of species at risk and through the development of strategies, guidelines and practices or the completion of monitoring studies, surveys and inventories.

2. The prevention stream

The AFSAR prevention stream focuses on projects addressing other species, beyond those listed on Schedule 1 of SARA, to prevent them from becoming a conservation concern. It targets the same results as the species at risk stream.

During the 2016–2017 fiscal year the AFSAR prevention stream:

  • provided over $1.2 million to 29 new and two previously approved multi-year projects to prevent species other than listed species at risk from becoming a conservation concern

These projects involved 26 Indigenous organizations and communities as recipients. These contributions also supported the improvement or restoration of more than 1,430 ha of land and 33 km of shoreline.

4.4.4 Interdepartmental Recovery Fund

Established in 2002, the Interdepartmental Recovery Fund (IRF), administered by ECCC, supports species at risk projects undertaken by federal government departments, agencies and Crown corporations (other than ECCC, DFO, and PCA). 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.

Between its inception in 2002 and the end of March 2017, the IRF has invested over $22.5 million in more than 710 projects which supported recovery efforts for more than 310 SARA-listed species. In the 2016–2017 fiscal year, the IRF supported 15 projects in fourteen federal departments and one Crown corporation. Collectively, $702,000 in program funding and $1.02 million in leveraged funds (cash and in-kind) from project leads and other partners, supported recovery efforts for 42 SARA-listed species. In 2016–2017, 78% of program funds supported recovery actions, 16% supported surveys, and 6% supported planning activities.

4.5 Outreach and education

In 2017, ECCC produced and delivered information in various forms to educate Canadians about the role they can play in protecting species at risk and their habitats. There was also a strong focus on engaging other government departments to provide introductory training on SARA for employees who work directly with the Act.

ECCC 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 by developing and publishing species profiles on the species at risk public registry.

PCA continues to promote species at risk protection and has developed a new Integrated Compliance and Law Enforcement Planning Process. The process will maintain its focus on proactive communication with visitors to highlight the connection between their actions and the effect they can have on the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitat.

Public engagement activities related to species at risk occur in national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas across the country. These activities include interpretative programs, field trips, special events and volunteer activities, including participation in restoration and monitoring projects (i.e., citizen science).

In addition, PCA has a number of outreach programs that focus on reaching youth, families and new Canadians in urban areas in order to increase awareness, understanding and foster support for species at risk protection and recovery. In 2017, this included outreach programs at special events and festivals, and at several partner venues (e.g., zoos and aquariums) in large cities such as Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary and Ottawa. Information about species at risk was also shared through the PCA website, social media, traditional media and organizations that reach out to the public with various programs, articles and websites.

DFO continued working with partners to provide education and outreach activities (e.g.school visits, trade shows, workshops, and industry and community meetings) on the threats to aquatic species at risk and ways to help protect them.

In January 2017, Newfoundland and Labrador fishery officers made presentations on species at risk to the Primary School in Hopedale, Labrador. Students learned about species like Leatherback sea turtles and Beluga whales, played educational games on the topic and had an opportunity to ask lots of questions. Fishery officers plan to continue species at risk outreach sessions in the North Coast communities over the next few years.

As in past years, public outreach activities in Newfoundland and Labrador included life-sized textile replicas of Blue Whale tails, a Beluga Whale, and four Wolffish (2 Northern, 1 Spotted and 1 Striped). This year, 9 white sharks were added to the display. The replicas are used to provide information about the species, the role of the department in protecting them, and the way individuals can help conserve species.

World Oceans Day poster
World Oceans Day poster

During the June 2017 World Oceans Day in Corner Brook Newfoundland, DFO Fishery Officers partnered with the Marine Institute and the Qalipu First Nations, to spread the word on the importance of our oceans and our part in keeping marine life off the endangered species list. Eleven sessions in six schools on the West Coast of Newfoundland reached over 540 students from kindergarten to grade 9. Focus was on the dangers of plastic pollution, such as garbage bags, in our oceans and what it means to the Leatherback Sea Turtle’s survival.

A Qalipu First Nations representative from youth engagement incorporated a water ceremony/dance/prayer piece in the session which promoted interaction with the children on the importance of keeping our waters pure and clean for the survival of all marine life. A giant floor map engaged students in visual fact finding activities that included species migration patterns and feeding areas. The event which spanned three days was declared a huge success by all who attended.

To take a better bag challenge, visit the Word Ocean Day website.

4.6 Species at risk population trends

Determining population trends in rare species can present challenges. Many of these individuals are difficult to find and identify. Species need time to recover and long-lived species may require many decades. In addition, observations of rare species are often difficult to collect.

4.6.1 Consistency of population trends of species at risk

The indicator assesses the recovery trends of species at risk for which final recovery documents and trend information are available. Results should not be interpreted as a measure of recovery success until sufficient time has passed to allow species to recover and to allow enough information to be collected to assess that recovery.

Of the 378 species at risk with recovery strategies or management plans as of May 2017, 143 species have population-oriented objectives and have been reassessed since their recovery documents were finalized.

In 2017, 13 species were added to the indicator. Of the trends for the nine animal species, three were improving, four were not, and two had both some indication of improvement and some indication of decline. For the four plant species, three were improving and one had differing trends at different sites. Overall, there was no evidence that certain species are recovering more quickly than others.

Figure 2: Consistency of species at risk recovery trends with objectives as of May 2017

Long description for figure 2

The graph shows vertical bars to represent the number of species in each of three categories (Yes, Mixed evidence, or No) that indicate whether a species is making progress towards objectives in recovery strategies. For the 113 species for which population trends could be determined, the number of species in each group is as follows:

  • 49 species (43%) in the Yes category, which show progress towards their population objectives
  • 13 species (12%)in the Mixed evidence category, which show some indication of both improvement and decline, and
  • 51 species (45%) in the No category, which do not show progress

4.6.2 Changes in wildlife species status indicator

What the indicator measures

The Changes in the status of wildlife species at risk indicator reports on changes in wildlife species designations for wildlife species assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The committee is composed of independent experts who determine the national status of Canadian wildlife species, subspecies, varieties or other designatable units that are suspected of being at risk of extinction or extirpation.

Identifying wildlife species at risk is the first step towards protecting these species. Wildlife species previously designated as being at risk are reassessed, usually after 10 years, to determine if there is a change in status.

As of May 2017, of the 455 wildlife species for which sufficient data are available to determine if there has been a change in status:, 292 (65%) (Figure 3) show no change in status, 80 (18%) are in a lower risk category and 83 (18%) are in a higher risk category.

Of the 155 wildlife species ranked as endangered (a wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or extinction) in the previous assessment:

  • the majority 130 (84%) remained in that status category
  • the remaining 25 (16%) wildlife species changed to a lower risk category

One extirpated species, the Striped Bass, St. Lawrence River population, was re-introduced and is now considered endangered. Another wildlife species, the Atlantic salmon, Lake Ontario population, was last reported in 1898; it was previously classified as extirpated and is now recognized as extinct.

A Sankey diagram (Figure 3) shows the categories of risk of the wildlife species according to the most recent two assessments. The numbers of wildlife species changing from one category to another are represented by connecting bars with arrows.

Note: The chart shows the change between the two most recent assessments for 455 species. The assessments are from various years up to 2017. Eight (8) species have moved to or from the Data deficient category and are not included here.

Figure 3: COSEWIC: Changes in risk of wildlife species disappearance from Canada, 2016

COSEWIC: Changes in risk of wildlife species disappearance from Canada, 2016
Source: Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, May 2017
Long description for figure 3

A Sankey diagram shows the number of wildlife species in each category of risk according to the most recent two assessments. The actual number of species are shown in the table below. The change in the number of species from one risk category to another is represented by the thickness of the bars connecting the two assessments.  Changes from one category to another occurred for all status of species, except that no endangered species became extirpated or extinct. However, the status of one extirpated species changed to extinct.

Status Previous status – number of species Current status – number of species
Not at risk 19 39
Special concern 142 115
Threatened 108 96
Endangered 155 175
Extirpated 20 18
Extinct 11 12
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