Barrens Willow (Salix jejuna Fernald) recovery strategy: chapter 5






This addendum is appended to the original unaltered Provincial Recovery Strategy to assist in meeting SARA requirements


This recovery strategy has been prepared in cooperation with the jurisdictions responsible for the barrens willow. Environment Canada has reviewed and accepts this document as its recovery strategy for the barrens willow, as required under the Species at Risk Act. This recovery strategy also constitutes advice to other jurisdictions and organizations that may be involved in recovering the species.

The goals, objectives and recovery approaches identified in the strategy are based on the best existing knowledge and are subject to modifications resulting from new findings and revised objectives.

This recovery strategy will be the basis for one or more action plans that will provide details on specific recovery measures to be taken to support conservation and recovery of the species. The Minister of the Environment will report on progress within five years.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Environment Canada or any other jurisdiction alone. In the spirit of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Minister of the Environment invites all responsible jurisdictions and Canadians to join Environment Canada in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the barrens willow and Canadian society as a whole.


A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts on non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the strategy itself, but are also summarized below.

This recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the Barrens Willow. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered. The SEA concluded that this strategywill clearly benefit the environment and will not entail any significant adverse effects.


SARA defines residence as: a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating [Subsection 2(1)].

Residence descriptions, or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted on the SARA public registry:


To address the habitat issue in its Endangered Species Act (ESA), Newfoundland and Labrador uses two concepts: “critical habitat” and “recovery habitat”, critical habitat being defined as “habitat that is critical to the survival of a species” and recovery habitat as “habitat that is necessary for the recovery of a species”. Under SARA, critical habitat is defined as the habitat necessary for the survival or recovery of the species, and is meant to represent the habitat needed by the species to meet the stated recovery goal. 

As this strategy was prepared by Newfoundland and Labrador to meet their requirements under the ESA, there is a need to assess if the critical habitat it identifies meets SARA requirements.

1.1           Recovery objectives

The species was assessed in 2001 and listed in 2003 with data indicating four populations totalling less than 50 known individuals. Surveys undertaken as priority recovery activities are showing that the population could be over 10,000 individuals in numerous locations throughout its historic range. More recent data indicate even higher numbers. These preliminary findings suggest that the recovery goal (“to secure the long term persistence of the natural population throughout its range”) is certainly within reach but will need to be specified in the early implementation phase in terms of population and distribution objectives as an outcome of a schedule of studies to be undertaken (see below).

The first benefit of a more specific and quantitative recovery goal will be to support completion of critical habitat identification. It would also allow us to determine if we can aim for a situation that would result in down listing Barrens Willow status to Special Concern.

1.2          Critical habitat identification

The strategy developed by Newfoundland and Labrador has identified critical habitat for Barrens Willow as “all natural areas of occurrences”. The species occupies exposed coastal limestone barren habitat where vegetation cover is sparse. It is found in dry to periodically wet conditions. The substrate is generally silt and/or sand accumulated in depressions and openings between rocks, or open silt, sand and gravel, sometimes sorted by frost. It is found in a narrow band of coastal limestone barrens characterized primarily by arctic-like climatic conditions from Eddies Cove South to Cape Norman (see Figure 1).

The identification of these sites constitutes a first step in critical habitat identification under SARA.

The specification of the recovery goal and the development of a coastal barrens limestone multi-species recovery effort providing guidelines for management of that ecosystem will inform the extent to which additional habitat is needed to complete the critical habitat identification so population abundance and distribution goals are met.

The strategy does not identify recovery habitat under ESA. Instead, it classifies surveyed sites with suitable substrates and with no plants as "Sensitive Wildlife Areas" (SWA). For another limestone barrens endemic, the Fernald’s Braya, unoccupied suitable habitat is considered recovery habitat.

If, after all surveys are done, the critical habitat identified in this strategy is not enough for achieving the recovery goal, the sites identified as SWA could be considered recovery habitat in order to allow colonization or reintroduction, and ultimately reaching the goal. This would constitute a second step in the SARA critical habitat identification. Studies could then be needed to determine if the SWA have all proper characteristics to support Barrens Willow populations.

1.3          Schedule of studies

The strategy already outlines the research to be done on the species ecology and conservation. The specific studies to be undertaken in order to complete critical habitat identification under SARA are detailed in Table A.

Table A. Schedule of studies needed for critical habitat identification and protection under SARA.
Issue / Gap Action / Studies to be undertaken Timeline
Quantitative population and distribution objectives

·      Finalize surveys of potential habitat

·      Study population dynamics in order to be able to propose population and distribution objectives that help support and quantify the overall recovery goal

Habitat selection and use

·      Determine biophysical factors explaining presence of the species

·      Understand habitat quality and value

·      Determine factors favoring or harming colonization or introduction

Effective protection of critical habitat ·      Determine Barrens Willow’s sensitivity to land use on critical habitat (what can and can not occur on critical habitat) 2007

1.4          Habitat protection

As per section 58(5) of SARA, within 180 days after posting the final version of this recovery strategy, the Minister of the Environment will make an order to protect the federal portion of the proposed critical habitat: Cape Norman.

For critical habitat on provincial crown land and on private land, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has created an Ecological Reserve at Watt’s Point and has a number of activities underway to protect the species, including the development of protection plans for all locations of occurrence and referral of all development proposal for areas of occurrence to the Wildlife Division. The recovery strategy for Long’s and Fernald’s Braya will provide the necessary information to put in place a management framework that will ensure long-term conservation of critical habitat for limestone barrens’ plants.

To fulfill SARA statutory requirement for critical habitat protection (sections 57-63), the federal Minister of the Environment will cooperate with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to ensure that adequate protection measures are in place.

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