Species at Risk Act annual report for 2017: chapter 8

8. Consultation and governance

8.1 Engagement on SARA policies

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) published a suite of draft policies on Species at Risk Act (SARA) for public consultation, which ended on March 31, 2017. Following the public consultation period, engagement has continued with groups such as the Species at Risk Advisory Committee (SARAC), First Nations Advisory Committee on Species at Risk (FNACSAR), various Indigenous groups and organizations, provinces and territories, and other interested parties. The draft policies include:

  • Policy on critical habitat protection on non-federal lands
  • Policy on protecting critical habitat with conservation agreements under section 11 of the Species at Risk Act
  • Policy on survival and recovery
  • Policy regarding the identification of anthropogenic structures as critical habitat under the federal Species at Risk Act
  • Approach to the identification of critical habitat under the Species at Risk Act when habitat loss and degradation is not believed to be a significant threat to the survival or recovery of the species
  • Species at Risk Act permitting policy; and
  • Listing policy for terrestrial species at risk

ECCC received comments from over 115 representatives from provincial and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, industry, Indigenous groups, and the public. Internal work is ongoing in order to finalize the policies.

8.2 Species at Risk Advisory Committee

The Species at Risk Advisory Committee (SARAC) of the Environment is a multi-stakeholder advisory body established under section 9(1) of SARA to advise the Minister on the administration of the act. Before its re-establishment in 2017, the Committee last met in November 2013.

A 2016 Notice of opportunity on the ECCC Ministerial appointments website and the species at risk public registry resulted in new membership on SARAC. The Minister appointed 28 members to the Committee from a balanced representation of non-governmental organizations from industry, business, academia, agriculture and environment, and also included Indigenous partners from the Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, in the absence of a current National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk. In April 2017, the new SARAC membership met as a collective for the first time to re-initiate the Committee’s activities, where they considered current priorities, reviewed the draft SARA policy suite, and established a work plan, dividing their tasks under the purview of five working groups to realize their goals:

  • Working group 1: multi-species / multi-stakeholder / place-based approach
  • Working group 2: knowledge plan
  • Working group 3: permitting and offsets
  • Working group 4: “operationalize” Survival and recovery policy
  • Working group 5: “Re-engineering” SAR program

On the last day of their meeting in April, a Species at Risk Act Minister’s Round Table Meeting as required under s. 127 of the Act, took place, where SARAC had the opportunity to share their perspectives on the protection and recovery of species at risk in Canada, and discuss their experiences and views to date on the implementation of SARA. At this meeting with the Minister, SARAC explored opportunities for working with partners to shift to a multi-species, place-based approach to protection and recovery, opportunities to implement SARA in different ways; and how this Committee and the federal government will find innovative solutions to recover species at risk while supporting economic growth. The Minister stated her appreciation for the ideas and exchanges, confirmed the government’s intention to fully implement SARA, and expressed a desire for better access to scientific knowledge, including Indigenous Traditional Knowledge. The Minister, together with the Parliamentary Secretary, recognized that SARAC would play a key role in the species at risk file.

Since April 2017, the SARAC working groups have each held multiple meetings. The results of their first six months of efforts were discussed at a second meeting of SARAC in November 2017, where each working group offered considerations and recommendations for SARAC consensus. Those discussions offered additional perspectives to consider, and the working groups planned a path forward to focus on progressive, incentive-based conservation agreements, resources, and implementation; consider opportunities to enhance existing platforms, data standards, and data sharing; explore how offsetting strategies fit into environmental assessments and habitat banking, and linking to federal, provincial and territorial permitting schemes for an aligned approach; explore ecosystem shifts, competition between ecological needs, persistent limitations, feasibility; and develop a plan to address all of the cross-cutting considerations, priorities and themes between different groups. The working groups continue to explore ways to improve the status of species at risk in Canada through improved SARA implementation and SARAC plans to revisit progress on these conversations at their next face-to-face meeting, to be held in Ottawa in May 2018.

8.3 Indigenous groups and SARA

Provisions in SARA recognizes that the role of Indigenous peoples in the conservation of wildlife is essential and that Indigenous peoples possess unique traditional knowledge concerning wildlife species. The National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk (NACOSAR), composed of 6 representatives of Indigenous peoples of Canada, selected by the Minister based on recommendations from Indigenous organizations that the Minister considers appropriate, was created under section 8.1 of SARA to advise the Minister of the Environment on the administration of the Act and to provide advice and recommendations to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC).

In 2017, a hybrid process was agreed to, whereby Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Métis National Council (MNC) and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) recommended candidates to fill one seat each. The other three NACOSAR seats are to be filled through a Notice of Opportunity (NOO) appointment process. The NOO process launched on April 20, 2017 and closed on June 17, 2017. Engagement sessions were held with the AFN, ITK and MNC on the NOO process, and recommendations for appointment were approved by the Minister in December 2017. A collaborative approach is being taken by AFN, ITK, and MNC to develop the new NACOSAR Terms of Reference. Once the Council is re-established, it will likely build on the recommendations provided by the previous Council in April 2016, and build connections to other existing committees such as the Species at Risk Advisory Committee and the First Nation Advisory Committee on Species at Risk.

In 2017, at the request of the AFN, ECCC has co-developed a new committee under section 9 of the Species at Risk Act to engage First Nations in finding solutions to implementing the Species at Risk Act on Federal reserve lands and other issues affecting First Nations peoples in Canada. The newly-established First Nation Advisory Committee on Species at Risk (FNAC SAR) is intended to build relationships with our Indigenous partners.

ECCC provides funds, by way of an $870,000 contribution agreement over three years, to the AFN to support the work of this Committee and will participate in and support its work, as requested. This Committee will support reconciliation with First Nations and provide a forum for advancing discussions around species at risk and conservation on First Nation lands.

Key FNAC SAR accomplishments in 2017 include a draft Terms of Reference for the committee, identification of committee members (initiated in 2017 by the AFN with nine members identified, and expected finalization in early 2018 with confirmation of 12 members), initial FNAC SAR face-to-face meetings (June 2017 and November 2017), and key contributions to Departmental priorities. The FNAC SAR, with input from ECCC, developed an initial critical path and work plan. Priorities include, but are not limited to, case studies focused on socio-economic analysis within SARA, use of traditional knowledge, identification of critical habitat on reserve lands and capacity/resource inventory. Through this section 9 Committee, the AFN also facilitated a constructive call in December, 2017, with the Advisory Committee on Climate Action and the Environment (ACCAE) Elders, AFN leaders, select FNAC SAR members and ECCC, about the draft Boreal Caribou Action Plan. The ACCAE and FNAC SAR provided a high level of participation from across the country, as well as substantive comments, flagging issues for future conversation.

8.3.1 Engagement with Indigenous groups

ECCC met with Indigenous organizations to discuss conservation and stewardship and expressed mutual interests in collaborating on species at risk conservation on reserve lands in 2017. Future collaboration could include focus on engagement capacity, strengthening the SARA consultation process, and further developing collaborative mechanisms for species at risk conservation on reserve lands.

The ECCC and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Coordinating Committee was initiated in 2016, whose purpose is to facilitate a coordinated approach to species at risk conservation on reserve lands by aligning departmental activities related to SARA implementation and land use planning in a manner that respects Indigenous groups’ conservation and development priorities on their lands.

8.3.2 Bilateral administrative agreements

The federal government has bilateral administrative agreements on species at risk with individual provinces and territories. The agreements set out shared objectives, as well as commitments for how governments will cooperate on species at risk initiatives. Agreements are in place with the governments of Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan, and an agreement with the government of British Columbia is in the process of being renewed.

The agreement with Saskatchewan expired in the fall of 2017, and it is currently in the process of being renewed. There is also a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the federal government and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board that covers the listing process for species at risk in Nunavut, and discussions are being held to develop a similar MOU that covers recovery planning.

8.3.3 The National General Status Working Group

The National General Status Working Group (NGSWG) is composed of representatives from each province and territory, and the federal government. Members of the working group are responsible for completing the general status assessments of species in their jurisdictions, which the group then uses to produce the Wild Species – The General Status of Species in Canada reports required under s.128 of SARA. ECCC is co-chair and coordinator of the NGSWG, and the other co-chair in 2017 was the Government of Northwest Territories.

The NGSWG was established by the Canadian Wildlife Directors Committee (CWDC) in order to meet the commitment of monitoring, assessing, and reporting regularly on the status of all wild species, as required under the Accord for the protection of species at risk. The NGSWG is responsible to the CWDC and ultimately to the CESCC. Activity in 2017 included the finalization of the Wild Species 2015 report which was tabled in Parliament in June 2017. Work was also initiated in preparation of the Wild Species 2020 report.

Reporting on species in Canada to prevent the loss of biodiversity

In June 2017, the Wild Species 2015 report was completed and tabled in Parliament. This report was prepared by the National General Status Working Group, which is composed of representatives from each of the Canadian provinces and territories and of the three federal agencies whose mandate includes wildlife (Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada). This was a major accomplishment, as the first step in preventing the loss of species is to know which species are in Canada, where they occur and what their status is. Canada is a large country and home to thousands of species.

The aim of the Wild Species reports is to provide an overview of the number and variety of species present in Canada in order to assess their conservation status. In this report, the conservation status of 29 848 species was assessed in Canada among 34 different taxonomic groups: selected macrofungi, macrolichens, bryophytes, vascular plants, sponges, corals, freshwater bivalves, terrestrial and freshwater snails and slugs, spiders, mayflies, dragonflies and damselflies, stoneflies, grasshoppers and relatives, lacewings, beetles, ants, bees, yellowjacket wasps, caddisflies, moths and butterflies, scorpionflies, black flies, mosquitoes, horse flies, bee flies, flower flies, decapods, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. In fact, among species that are critically imperiled, imperiled, vulnerable, apparently secure or secure, 80% of species have a national rank of apparently secure or secure.

However, 1659 species were identified as “may be at risk” in Canada. Of these, 1032 species have only a small part of their range in Canada (10% or less) and 498 are intermediary (from 11% to 74%) of their range in Canada. However, 129 species have 75% or more of their range in Canada, of which 99 species are thought to be endemic to Canada. Reports from the Wild Species series are the main product of an ongoing national program. One of the priorities for the next Wild Species report will be to continue to increase the number and variety of species included for conservation status assessments.

There are still many species remaining to be assessed in Canada, and it is essential to determine what their conservation status is to prevent them from becoming extinct. Another priority will be to continue to reassess the species that were included in the previous Wild Species reports, to detect eventual changes in the conservation statuses of the species. In the future, the Wild Species series will continue to consolidate our knowledge of species in Canada. If you would like to learn more about these reports, please visit the Wild Species page.

8.4 Species at risk registry

The online species at risk public registry fulfills the requirement under SARA for the Minister of the Environment to establish a public registry to facilitate access to SARA-related documents. The registry is an important tool for engaging and informing Canadians on species at risk issues. In addition to providing access to documents and information related to SARA, it provides a forum for Canadians to submit comments on SARA-related documents being developed by the Government of Canada.

Section 123 of SARA identifies documents that must be published on the registry, including:

  • regulations and orders made under the act
  • agreements entered into under section 10 of the act
  • COSEWIC’s criteria for the classification of wildlife species
  • status reports on wildlife species that COSEWIC has prepared or has received with an application
  • the List of wildlife species at risk
  • codes of practice, national standards or guidelines established under the act
  • agreements and reports filed under section 111 or subsection 113(2) of the act, or notices that these have been filed in court and are available to the public; and
  • all reports made under sections 126 and 128 of the act

Other documents prepared in response to the requirements of SARA include recovery strategies, action plans, management plans and reports on the progress of recovery strategy implementation.

In 2017, 575 documents were published on the registry. These documents include SARA and COSEWIC annual reports, consultation documents, COSEWIC status reports and status appraisal summaries, ministerial response statements, permit explanations and recovery documents. In addition, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, and the Honourable Mary Polak, Minister of Environment for British Columbia, released a final report from a jointly-conducted study on the protection of Southern Mountain Caribou and their habitat.

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