Western chorus frog: protection assessment
1.1 Scope of analysis
In accordance with the current SARA listing, and for the purposes of this assessment, the term WCF used hereafter refers to chorus frog individuals belonging to the population unit identified as the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence and Canadian Shield (GLSLCS) population that are found within the GLSLCS faunal provinces in southern Ontario and Quebec. Provincial and federal laws were examined to determine the extent to which they prevent the killing, harming, harassing, capture or taking of WCF individuals; damage or destruction of residences of individual WCF; and destruction of WCF habitat. Analyses examined: statutory definitions, nature of prohibitions, offences and penalties, enforcement, limitations or exceptions, exemptions, discretion, permitting and history of the legal instrument’s applicationFootnote1. Provisions related to individuals, residences and habitat were examined separately, and how each instrument applies in areas where the species is known to occur in Quebec and Ontario was considered. Non-legally binding measures were also considered in the analysis when available.
Laws examined in these analyses were identified by Quebec and Ontario provincial governments as well as the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada. Preliminary analyses related to non-federal lands were shared with the governments of Quebec and Ontario to ensure that provincial laws were accurately interpreted. In addition, the result of the preliminary analysis related to federal land was shared with relevant federal departments to ensure that federal laws were accurately considered and interpreted. Comments received in response from provinces and federal departments were limited and factual in nature. Where provinces requested or suggested additional analysis or reconsideration, this was undertaken.
In Quebec, provincial statutes and regulations having the potential to provide protection to WCF individuals, residences and habitat were identified and analyzed. These included: Loi sur les espèces menacées et vulnérables (LEMV), Loi sur la conservation et la mise en valeur de la faune (LCMVF), Loi sur la qualité de l'environnement (LQE), Loi sur l'aménagement et l'urbanisme (LAU), Loi sur les compétences municipales (LCM) and Loi sur la conservation du patrimoine naturelle (LCPN).
Requests for information on current or planned protection measures for WCF and its habitat were sent to all Quebec municipalities within which the WCF is known to occur. All available information was used to inform the protection analyses. However, information provided by municipalities was sparse resulting in limited details pertaining to zones where habitats might benefit from varying degrees of protection (urban parks, conservation areas). Furthermore, municipal regulations and geospatial information for these zones were not provided by a large number of municipalities.
In Ontario, the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) is the primary piece of provincial legislation for the protection of species at risk outside of federal lands. Currently, the WCF is not listed on the Species at Risk in Ontario list under the ESA. As a result, a suite of other instruments (laws, policies, and plans) including those identified by the province were examined for their potential to achieve protection for WCF on non-federal lands. Requests for information, including information on conservation and stewardship measures, were sent to over 100 Ontario municipalities in the range of WCF; however, of the few responses were received, none identified additional instruments to be examined. Given the wide range of the species in Ontario and the number of municipalities implicated, further follow-up with municipalities was not conducted and this analysis focused on provincial instruments.
WCF is listed as vulnerable under the LEMV. Wildlife species designated under the LEMV as threatened or vulnerable and their habitats are governed by the LCMVF, subject to the provisions of the LEMV. Both statutes apply to individuals on non-federal land. Under the LCMVF, eggs are protected from damage, destruction or harm. The LCMVF also prohibits the capture and possession of WCF, whereas prohibitions related to the killing, harming or harassing of other life stages of the individual apply in the context of hunting (as defined by the LCMVF). Outside of this context, it is uncertain whether prohibitions related to killing, harming or harassing of individuals (other than the eggs) apply. In addition, permits may lift restrictions when issued for scientific, educational, management and conservation purposes. Traditionally, this Act has been enforced for cases related to hunting.
With respect to the LQE, no information was received from the Province of Quebec regarding its application. The LQE can potentially provide protection to WCF individuals located on non-federal land by including enforceable conditions in authorization certificates issued within the context of development projects. Projects which require such authorization certificates are defined in an associated regulation. Enforceable conditions may include temporal restrictions and have in some instances prohibited work during the WCF breeding period. All development projects do not, however, require certificates of authorization including small-scale projects in terrestrial habitats.. Despite the inclusion of avoidance, mitigation and compensation measures to varying degrees in authorization certificates, projects have been carried out in WCF habitat and have resulted in the killing, harming or harassing of WCF individuals.. Although the LQE allows for discretion, it was impossible to assess the frequency and circumstances surrounding the application of this discretionary power due to an absence of information. The Minister responsible for the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte aux changements climatiques (MDDELCC) (the Minister responsible for the LQE) may revoke or suspend an authorization certificate. The extent to which this power has been invoked is also not known.
Lands owned by municipalities represent approximately 6% of WCF residual suitable habitat in Quebec (Table 2). On municipally-owned lands, the Loi sur l'aménagement et l'urbanisme (LAU) and the Loi sur les compétences municipales (LCM) allow municipalities to designate zones such as municipal parks and conservation areas (“zones de conservation intégrale”). While these zones are largely created to retain green spaces for public use (i.e., recreation and associated infrastructures), municipalities can prohibit activities that could kill, harm or harass WCF individuals in these zones. For example, in some parks established under the LAU and LCM, municipalities have specifically prohibited the killing and collecting of animals and removal of vegetation, activities which could harm or kill WCF eggs and individuals. In other zones (e.g., “zones de conservation intégrale”), broader prohibitions may be enacted, which can include activities that could result in the killing, harming or harassing of WCF individuals. However, although zoning provisions under the LAU and LCM could be used to prevent the killing, harming and harassing of WCF individuals, the extent of areas zoned as municipal parks and conservation areas is small. Any specific provisions that apply in such zones (i.e., offences, penalties, enforcement, limitations, constraints, discretion and permitting) may vary from one zone to another, and are mostly unknown at this time due to the limited amount of information provided by municipalities. Available information suggests that specific provisions to protect species at risk do not currently exist in regards to any such zones in which WCF residual habitat is identified, and that any applicable or related penalties are small in comparison to those of SARA. No information is available on how these measures are applied or enforced by municipal governments.
The Loi sur la conservation du patrimoine naturelle (LCPN) allows for protection of WCF individuals on private and municipal lands through the creation of private natural reserves containing habitat protection measures. Agreements for these reserves can include temporal restrictions. Although reserves created under the LCPN have the potential to prohibit activities likely to kill, harm or harass WCF individuals within the reserve through measures and conditions in habitat conservation agreements, reserves comprise a small proportion of the total area of private and municipal lands in Quebec. As 79% of WCF residual suitable habitat is located on private and municipal lands and considering that other kinds of protected areas can only be put in place on provincial Crown land, the LCPN has the capability to prohibit activities likely to kill, harm or harass WCF individuals through measures and conditions in habitat conservation agreements.
Laws which relate to the killing, harming, harassing, capture or taking of an individual of the WCF on non-federal land in Ontario are:
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA)
The FWCA applies on all non-federal lands in Ontario. Under this Act, WCF is not listed under Schedule 10 as a Specially Protected Amphibian. However, in accordance with s. 6 (1) (h) of the FWCA, hunting and trapping of WCF are prohibited in Ontario on provincial, private, and municipal lands except under the authority of a license. HuntingFootnote2 includes capturing or harassing wildlife. Harming or taking of the WCF are not explicitly prohibited under this Act, but are restricted in circumstances described in the definition of hunting.
Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006 (PPCRA)
Within provincial parks and conservation reserves, protection for WCF individuals exists through regulations made under the PPCRA (O. Reg. 319/07 s. 2. (2) and O. Reg. 347/07 s. 2. (2)). These regulations prohibit killing, harming, harassing, disturbing, and removing of any animal within a provincial park or conservation reserve, except in accordance with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA), or unless written authorization is provided by the superintendent (in the case of a provincial park) or conservation manager (in the case of a conservation reserve)Footnote3. Under the FWCA, huntingFootnote4 of WCF may occur within a conservation reserve under the authority of a license. Hunting is prohibited within provincial parks.
Two types of residence exist for WCF: breeding sites and hibernating sites. Only the submerged plant, dead grass stem or twig on which eggs are deposited is considered a breeding site and only the place used for hibernation within terrestrial habitats (e.g., lowlands such as pastures, clearings, meadows, fallow lands, shrublands) is considered a hibernating site. These sites are in soft soil substrates, under rocks, dead trees/branches, leaves/litter or in existing burrows. However, the remainder of the wetland or aquatic feature within which a breeding site is found and the entirety of the terrestrial habitat located within 300 m of the occupied wetland or aquatic feature are required to maintain the essential characteristics and function of the breeding and hibernating sites respectively. As such, activities that may damage or destroy a WCF breeding and/or hibernating site include those which directly affect the breeding or hibernating site as well as those which affect the function of the wetlands or aquatic features or the terrestrial habitat within which breeding or hibernating sites are found. Activities that can affect the functionality of the wetlands or aquatic features, or the terrestrial habitat can occur at any time throughout the year.
A description of the species’ residence is provided in the Annex.
The LCMVF provides protection to the WCF nests on non-federal land. It is unclear whether provisions of the LCMVF would prevent the damage and destruction of the species’ residence or the functionality of the habitat within which WCF residences are found. Permits may lift prohibitions when issued for scientific, educational or management and conservation purposes. It is not known whether terms and conditions of permits have traditionally been enforced. Past application and enforcement of this Act as it relates to the protection of nests is unknown
The LQE has the potential to provide protection for residences of WCF individuals located on non-federal land through the use of enforceable conditions when authorization certificates are issued in the context of development projects. Projects are defined in the associated regulation. Enforceable conditions may include avoidance and mitigation measures, including temporal restrictions, in relation to the species’ residences consisting of both breeding and hibernation sites. With respect to limitations, not all development projects require certificates of authorization including small-scale projects in terrestrial habitats which could affect the functionality of the habitats within which WCF residences are found. Despite the inclusion of avoidance, mitigation and compensation measures to varying degrees in authorization certificates, projects have been carried out in WCF habitat and have resulted in damage or destruction of the species’ residence. The MDDELCC Minister (responsible for the LQE) may revoke or suspend an authorization certificate. The extent to which this power has been invoked is also not known.
As described above (section 1.2.1), on municipally-owned lands, the LAU and LCM allow municipalities to designate zones, such as municipal parks and conservation areas, in which the municipalities may apply prohibitions against certain activities. Municipally-owned lands represent approximately 6% of the total area occupied by the WCF in Quebec. While these laws could be used to prevent activities likely to damage or destroy WCF residences on municipally-owned lands, the extent of areas zoned as municipal parks and conservation areas is small. Any specific offences, penalties, enforcement, limitations, constraints, discretion and permitting provisions that apply in such zones may vary from one zone to another, and are mostly unknown at this time. Available information suggests that specific provisions to protect species at risk do not currently exist in regards to any such zones in which WCF residual habitat is identified, and that any applicable penalties are small in comparison to those of SARA. No information is available on how these measures are applied or enforced by municipal governments.
The LCPN allows for protection of WCF residences on private and municipal land through the creation of private natural reserves, containing habitat protection measures. Agreements for these reserves may include prohibitions and provisions that prevent the damage or destruction of WCF’s residence. Although reserves created under the LCPN have the potential to protect WCF residences within the reserve, reserves comprise a small proportion of the total area of private and municipal lands in Quebec. Understanding that other kinds of protected areas can only be put in place on provincial land and that 79% of WCF residual suitable habitat is found on private and municipal lands in Quebec, the LCPN has the capacity to facilitate protection for the majority of WCF residences in the province.
Outside of federal lands, no instruments explicitly prohibit the damage and/or destruction of WCF residences. However, protection of residences may nonetheless be achieved through instruments that protect the habitat of the species. In accordance with the draft residence description (see Annex), WCF residences consist of breeding sites (within temporary and permanent aquatic features) and hibernation sites (in terrestrial habitats adjacent to breeding sites). Accordingly, some protection for WCF residences would exist under instruments that protect the wetland and/or adjacent terrestrial habitats, as described in section 2.4 below.
The federal recovery strategy (Environment Canada 2015) identifies activities likely to result in destruction of habitat of WCF as:
- Construction and maintenance of linear infrastructures (e.g., roads, trails, pipelines, energy corridors);
- Construction of housing units and other urban infrastructures (e.g., commercial and industrial buildings, playgrounds);
- Reshaping (levelling and/or filling), drainage or channelization of wetlands (temporary and permanent);
- Intensification of agricultural practices.
In Quebec, WCF habitat is primarily located on private and municipal lands (79%) and to a lesser extent, federal (10%) and provincial Crown (11%) lands (Table 2). While in Ontario, over 96% of the habitat around documented WCF occurrences is located on non-federal land (Table 1).
|Tenure Category||Estimated Area of refined habitat units falling within tenure category (ha)||% of area of refined habitat units falling within tenure category|
|Federal Crown Footnotec||1,380.0||2.8|
|First Nation reserves||245.0||0.5|
Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves
Other provincial Crown lands
|Private – Conservation organization||2,795.0||5.6|
|Other (includes private, municipal, unknown)||34,820.1||69.3|
1.4.1 On federal lands:
On federal lands, the assessment considered provisions in and measures under existing federal laws. The assessment did not consider laws that apply only on “Indian Act” lands.Footnote5 On Parks Canada Agency (PCA) lands, PCA is responsible for habitat protection. Western Chorus Frog habitat overlaps with PCA lands in national parks and national historic canals in Ontario. The Canada National Parks Act, in conjunction with its associated regulations prevent the destruction of habitat in national parks. The Department of Transport Act and the Historic Canals Regulations include provisions against the destruction of habitat in national historic canals, but measures available are not equivalent to those required under SARA. For all other federal lands, the assessment first identified 8 laws that were applicable on federal lands in geographic areas and ecosystem types relevant to the WCF, andthat related tothe regulation of activities likely to result to the destruction of habitat for the WCF. The assessment then considered whether these 8 laws included mandatory, enforceable prohibitions against the destruction of the species’ habitat. Of the 8 laws assessed, none were found to include mandatory, enforceable prohibitions against the destruction of the species' habitat on federal lands.
Two of these laws that applied to this species’ habitat – the National Capital Act and the National Energy Board Act – did not include relevant prohibitions that were supported by offences, penalties and enforcement provisions.
The remaining six Acts of Parliament included prohibitions that could be used to prevent at least some activities likely to destroy the species habitat on at least some federal lands, but were found not to be mandatory in their application. These statutes are described in detail, below.
The Wildlife Area Regulations (WAR) (s.3) under the Canada Wildlife Act (CWA) includes prohibitions relevant to the protection of WCF habitat within national wildlife areas. These prohibitions are supported by penalties and enforcement provisions in the CWA, and the Regulations provide constraints on permitting discretion. However, the Regulations (ss.3(2)) provide Ministerial discretion to suspend the application of these prohibitions by publishing a notice in a local newspaper or at the entrance or boundary of any wildlife area, permitting specified prohibited activities (so long as they are carried out in compliance with the notice). The regulation does not require the Minister to consider any issues related to habitat destruction in publishing or posting the notice.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA) (s.6 and 7) includes prohibitions, backed by offences and enforcement provisions that could prevent destruction of WCF habitat on federal lands in the context of projects designated for environmental assessments. The Act provides for lower maximum fines than under SARA. Moreover, under SARA, implicated officers, directors, employees, agents or mandataries of convicted corporations may be found liable as individuals, which is not the case under CEAA. Notwithstanding limitations with respect to the designation of projects for a federal environmental assessment under CEAA, CEAA also incorporates several points of discretion such that it is not mandatory in its application. Specifically, the Agency can decide, based on a screening, that no environmental assessment of a designated project is required (s.10); and, in response to an environmental assessment, the responsible authority must decide if the designated project is likely or not to cause significant adverse environment effects (s.52(1) and 52). Neither of these decisions requires decision-makers to ensure that habitat will not be destroyed, or that survival and recovery of the species not be jeopardized as a result of proposed projects.
The Forestry Act, Timber Regulations, 1993, provide prohibitions, backed by offences and enforcement provisions that have the potential to prevent some aspects of habitat destruction within Forest experimental areas. Penalties under the Forestry Act are low in comparison to those of SARA ) and may not be adequate to deter activities that could result in habitat destruction. The Forestry Act provides for fines of up to $500 and prison sentences of up to 6 months; SARA provides for maximum fines of between $50,000 and $1,000,000, and for prison terms up to 5 years for individuals (which can include officers, directors, employees, agents or mandataries of convicted corporations. Habitat for the WCF does not appear to have been identified within forest experimental areas, though it occurs in the same geographic area as some experimental areas (i.e., Petawawa). Regardless, permits and agreements are provided and are not constrained so as to prevent habitat destruction.
The International Boundary Waters Treaty Act (IBWTA) addresses issues related to flow and levels on international boundary waters. The IBWTA is relatively unlikely to address the activities likely to destroy habitat for this species, though – insofar as the species’ habitat may be destroyed by obstructions, diversions, damming, or removal of boundary waters – the IBWTA provides for prohibitions, backed by offences and enforcement provisions, that could prevent destruction of the species’ habitat. The Act provides for penalties for contraventions of the prohibitions (maximum penalties and prison terms are equal to or higher than under SARA); however, violations of permit conditions do not appear to be an offence subject to penalties. Moreover, the IBWTA allows that permits may be issued subject to any terms or conditions the Minister considers appropriate, including for activities that could result in habitat destruction.
Similarly, the International Rivers Improvement Act (IRIA) addresses issues of alterations of natural water flow (i.e., loss of water from Canadian ecosystems) in international rivers. Insofar as the species’ habitat may be destroyed by such alterations, the IRIA provides for prohibitions, backed by offences, penalties (maximum penalties and prison terms are equal to or higher than under SARA) and enforcement provisions that could prevent destruction of the species’ habitat. It does, however, include relatively broad exceptions to the application of the prohibition (i.e., works constructed under authority of an Act of Parliament), such that it would not necessarily prevent activities that could result in habitat destruction.
The Pest Control Products Act (PCPA) prohibits the handling, use, or disposal of pest control products in a way that endangers the environment. Agricultural uses of pesticides and fertilizers are noted as activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat in the final recovery strategy, if they cause “reduced water quality and prey availability (aquatic and terrestrial) owing to increased runoff of pesticides and fertilizers into adjacent habitats.” . The prohibition in the PCPA is backed by offences and enforcement provisions and provides for similar penalties as under SARA. The PCPA includes discretion that could allow the use of pest control products, though this discretion is constrained to uses that do not pose “unacceptable health or environmental risks.” Moreover, the Pest Control Products Regulations under this Act exempt many products and classes of products from the prohibition. The PCPA and its regulations could potentially prohibit the use of pesticide products harmful to WCF and likely to destroy the quality of the species’ habitat. Detailed analyses has not been completed to determine whether the PCPA and its regulations prohibit the use of specific pesticides whose use is known or suspected to result in the destruction of critical habitat.
1.4.2 In Quebec on non-federal lands:
The Règlement sur les habitats fauniques under the LCMVF has the potential to protect some WCF habitat through the identification of wildlife habitat on provincial Crown lands. Provincial Crown lands represent 11% the species’ habitat in the Province of Quebec (Table 2) and although some proposed habitats fauniques are in the consultation phase, none have yet been designated. Once designated under the LCMVF, habitat and boundaries of the habitat faunique are described and additional prohibitions can be identified in associated regulations. Permits can only be issued for scientific, educational or management and conservation purposes. To date habitats fauniques have been designated for two species at risk other than the WCF and a variety of other wildlife species elsewhere in Quebec. Prohibitions related to destruction of the biophysical attributes of the species’ habitat come into force automatically on designation of the habitat faunique. It is not known at this time whether prohibitions applying to these areas have been enforced.
Under the LQE, authorization certificates are required for projects that meet certain criteria such as works that impact wetlands (section 22), installation of waterworks and sewers (section 32) and projects not specifically exempt in an associated regulation (Règlement relatif à l'application de la Loi sur la Qualité de l'environnement). Requests are sent to the MDDELCC for analysis. The MDDELCC then carries out an environmental assessment of the request during which experts are consulted for scientific advice, including wildlife biologists at the Ministère de la Forêt, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP), and sometimes at federal departments. MDDELCC determines the appropriate mitigation measures (avoidance, minimization and compensation) required for the project to be environmentally acceptable. Negotiation can occur with the proponent in order to determine reasonable measures. Negotiation may take into account certain factors such as the cost and the uncertainty of these measures and the uncertainty of the impacts of the project. Major projects can require public hearings. Once an authorization certificate is issued, the minister (under section 115.10 of the LQE) may suspend or revoke an authorization if the proponent does not respect its conditions, does not comply with the LQE or does not carry out the authorized work within a year. Authorization certificate requests may also be made directly by proponents (in cases of industrial projects) or private land owners in some cases.
In cases where development projects occur on municipal land, municipalities will apply for the authorization certificate (if an authorization certificate is required by the LQE). Previously and/or in parallel, municipalities will ensure that the proper zoning of the area is in place through their urban and space planning, under the LAU. Zoning determines where construction is permitted and what type of construction is permitted. Urban and space planning can take into account information about species at risk or sensitive habitat, but it’s not an obligation. The environmental department of the municipalities will however try to take into account such information. Once the initial works carried out under authorization certificates are complete, construction permits for other stages of the projects (e.g. construction of houses) are issued to developers/contractors by the municipality. Construction permits can include enforceable conditions, but it is not known whether these conditions would relate to environment issues. Although municipal lands are sometime sold to developers/contractors at this point, municipalities may still have obligations under the authorization certificate (e.g. environmental monitoring, compensation).
The LQE applies throughout the Province of Quebec on non-federal land and can provide protection for WCF habitat by placing enforceable conditions on authorization certificates issued in the context of development projects. Enforceable conditions may include avoidance and mitigation measures in relation to the species’ habitat. Under the LQE, conditions placed on the developer in order to proceed with the development project in La Prairie included mitigation measures for the WCF La Prairie Metapopulation. Mitigation measures included the establishment of a conservation park, creation of four artificial breeding ponds, the installation of fences along developed areas, restrictions on the timing of work to avoid the breeding period and conducting work in phases to allow for the displacement of WCF. Additional mitigation measures to further address requirements set out in the authorization certificate include the installation of wildlife corridors as well as control of beaver and invasive plants.
Additional information requested from the MDDELCC by EC to better understand circumstances surrounding the environmental assessment of the project under the LQE has not yet become available. Picard (2015) notes that the municipality of La Prairie committed to preserving 50% of the La Prairie metapopulation within its Parc de conservation du marais, however the source of this information is unclear. Before the start of the Symbiocité project in 2014, surveys indicated that 41 active breeding ponds were found within the Parc de conservation du marais (Picard 2015). This represents less than a third of the 128 active breeding ponds surveyed in the La Prairie metapopulation that year. Although mitigation measures such as artificial ponds were created in the Parc de conservation du marais to compensate for habitat destruction associated with the Symbiocité residential project, effectiveness of these ponds and other mitigation measures have yet to be determined. Field observations suggest that two ponds created in 2014 do not appear to possess the necessary biophysical attributes of WCF habitat. Other measures have not effectively addressed threats to the WCF individuals or their residences, and do not effectively address the loss or degradation of habitat in the La Prairie metapopulation.
In the past, avoidance, mitigation and compensation measures have been included to varying degrees in authorization certificates, but overall, projects have been carried out in WCF habitat resulting in destruction of the species’ habitat. Not all development projects require certificates of authorization, including small scale projects in terrestrial habitats, which can affect the species’ habitat through modifications to surface hydrology, for example. The LQE allows for discretion with respect to permitting, however an absence of information prevented analysis of the frequency and nature of the use of this discretionary power. The MDDELCC Minister responsible for the LQE may revoke or suspend an authorization certificate. The extent to which this power has also been invoked is not known.
As described above (sections 1.2.1 and 1.3.1), on municipally-owned lands, the LAU and LCM allow municipalities to designate zones, such as municipal parks and conservation areas, in which they may apply prohibitions against certain activities. Municipally-owned lands represent approximately 6% of the total area occupied by the WCF in Quebec. While these laws could be used to prevent activities likely to destroy WCF habitat on municipally-owned lands, the extent of areas zoned as municipal parks and conservation areas is small. Any specific offences, penalties, enforcement, limitations, constraints, discretion or permitting provisions that apply in such zones may vary from one zone to another, and are mostly unknown at this time. Available information suggests that specific provisions to protect species at risk do not currently exist in regards to any such zones in which WCF habitat is identified, and that any applicable penalties are small in comparison to those of SARA. No information is available on how these measures are applied or enforced by municipal governments.
|Population||Area (ha)||Land tenure proportion (%)
|Land tenure proportion (%)
|Land tenure proportion (%)
|Land tenure proportion (%)
|Montérégie region||5788 ha||5%||20%||12%||62%|
|Boisé du Tremblay||580||0||0||41||59|
|Bois de Brossard Nord||286||0||0||10||90|
|Secteur Ligne Hertel/Lac Fontarabie/Rivière Saint-Jacques||342||0||22||0||78|
|Bois de Brossard Sud||318||0||5||0||95|
|Boisé de l'Amélanchier||43||0||0||14||86|
|Boisé St-Bruno - Carignan||188||0||4||2||94|
|Outaouais region||5332 ha||15%||1%||0%||84%|
Sources : registre du domaine de l’État shape files, directory of Federal Real Property shape files, specific municipalities shape files when available.
The LCPN allows for protection of WCF habitat on private and municipal lands through the creation of private natural reserves containing habitat protection measures. Agreements for these reserves can include restrictions on activities in order to prevent the destruction of WCF habitat. Although reserves created under the LCPN have the potential to protect WCF individuals within the reserve, reserves comprise a small proportion of the total area of private and municipal lands in Quebec and not all of those reserves contain suitable WCF habitat.
1.4.3 In Ontario on non-federal lands:
Off of federal lands, the following list of provincial laws, policies, and plans have the potential to provide some protection for WCF habitat through prohibitions or restrictions on activities (e.g., development) that are likely to cause its destruction. None of the instruments assessed had prohibitions that directly address the intensification of agricultural practices.
Crown Provincial Lands
Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006 (PPCRA)
Within provincial parks and conservation reserves, the PPCRA requires that a work permit be obtained for activities such as construction, land clearing, and dredging or filling of shorelands (s. 22). In accordance with O. Reg 345/07, a work permit may not be issued if the work is likely to create a threat to the environment, public safety or to a natural resource, including lands, waters and watercourses, forests, flora, wildlife and fisheries. In addition, there are regulations (O. Reg. 319/07 s. 2. (2) and O. Reg. 347/07 s. 2. (2)) that prohibit disturbance, cutting, killing, removing or harming any plant, tree or natural object in a provincial park, and the making of an excavation for any purpose in a provincial park; however these actions may occur with written authorization from the superintendent (in the case of a provincial park) or conservation manager (in the case of a conservation reserve).
The Public Lands Act (PLA) and the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994 (CFSA)
Provincial instruments that deal with and regulate land use planning on provincial Crown land in Ontario outside of provincial parks and conservation reserves, including the PLA and the CFSA, have the potential to partially prevent the destruction of WCF habitat on Crown land. The PLA provides the authority for Crown land planning and the designation of a primary land use for an area, which may restrict activities likely to destroy habitat of the WCF. Under the PLA, the O. Reg. 239/13 prohibits construction (including construction of linear features such as trails, water crossings or roads), the dredging and filling of shore lands, and the removal of invasive and native aquatic vegetation on Crown lands, except in accordance with a work permit. Work permits may not be issued if an officer is of the opinion that the work is likely to create a threat to waters and watercourses, flora and wildlifeFootnote6. In addition, the CFSA has the potential to confer some limited protection on Crown lands selected for timber harvest operations in the northern portion of the species’ range in Ontario, if and where the WCF habitat falls within an identified Area of ConcernFootnote7 in a forest management plan prepared under s. 8 of the Act. Areas of Concern are afforded special consideration during the forest management planning process and operations (including construction of roads), and may therefore prevent activities that could destroy WCF habitat.
Environmental Assessment Act (EAA)
The EAA may provide an additional means to prevent the destruction of WCF habitat when an undertaking (which may include an enterprise, activity, proposal, plan or program) is proposed on provincial Crown lands, as well as off of Crown lands under situations where the Act applies (as per s. 3Footnote8). There are many designations and exemptions as to projects requiring an environmental assessment (or class environmental assessment). Under section 6.1(2)(c) of the Act, there is a requirement to consider the environmental effects and necessary actions to prevent, change, mitigate or remedy the environmental effects for a specific undertaking. The term “environment” in this Act specifically includes land, water and plant and animal life, and is therefore inclusive of WCF habitat. In approving an undertaking, the Minister may specify conditions that require actions to prevent, mitigate or remedy effects of the undertaking on the environment.
NON-FEDERAL LANDS OTHER THAN PROVINCIAL CROWN LAND
Planning Act and Provincial Policy Statement (PPS)
Under the Planning Act, s. 3(5) and s. 3(6) require that decisions, comments, and advice made by planning authorities (such as the council of a municipality, a planning board, a minister of the Crown, etc.) in relation to a [land use] planning matter be consistent with the PPS. Section 2.1 of the PPS contains policies preventing or restrictingFootnote9 developmentFootnote10 and site alterationFootnote11 in and adjacent to natural heritage features and areas, such as Provincially Significant Wetlands and Provincially Significant Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSIs) (where identified by the province), as well as significant wildlife habitat (where identified by municipalities). Significant wildlife habitat may include habitat for the WCF. The policies do not limit the ability of agricultural uses to continue.
The degree of protection afforded to WCF through such provincial policy direction regarding natural heritage features and areas cannot be fully assessed without an evaluation of municipal official plans and by-laws across the range of WCF, but is likely to vary by municipality. Such an evaluation was not possible in the time available given the number of municipalities (over 100) with WCF habitat.
Based on available data layers, roughly 12% of known habitat for WCF falls within Provincially Significant Wetlands or Provincially Significant ANSIs (2% within areas covered by a provincial plan, and 10% located outside areas covered by a provincial planFootnote12). It is likely that some municipalities in the WCF range will protect other/locally significant wildlife habitat through natural heritage, greenspace, or official plans, but as above, the percentage of known habitat that might be protected by these instruments is not known.
Provincial Plans under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001, the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, and the Greenbelt Act, 2005Footnoted
Provincial plans applying to specific geographical areas, including the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001), the Niagara Escarpment Plan (under the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act) and the Greenbelt Plan (under the Greenbelt Act, 2005) may offer means to prevent the destruction of WCF habitat by prohibiting certain development in wetland habitats and their associated vegetation protection zone within the geographical boundaries to which the plans apply. However, there are often exceptionsFootnote13 that lessen the protection afforded, and in general there appears to be less protection from agricultural development and/or intensification. Nonetheless, it is likely that some habitat for the species receives protection through these instruments.
|Tenure Category||% of habitat in areas to which provincial plans apply
Greenbelt and Niagara EscarpmentFootnotee
|% of habitat in areas to which provincial plans apply
Greenbelt and Oak Ridges MoraineFootnotef
|% of habitat in areas to which provincial plans apply
Greenbelt (outside of NE and ORM)Footnoteg
|% of habitat outside of provincial plan areas|
|Private - Conservation organization||9.91||4.32||18.21||67.56|
|Other (includes private, municipal, unknown)||1.55||2.66||6.25||89.54|
Conservation Authorities ActFootnoted
The Conservation Authorities Act has the potential to provide limited protection to wetland habitats and adjacent terrestrial habitats within areas under the jurisdiction of a conservation authority (which are established on a watershed basis). O. Reg. 97/04 (s. 5) requires that regulations made by individual conservation authorities prohibit development in certain areas (e.g., wetlands, river/ stream valleys), and prohibit straightening, changing, diverting or interfering in any way with the existing channel of a river, creek, stream or watercourse, or for changing or interfering in any way with a wetland. All 36 conservation authorities in Ontario have regulations in place to prevent development in wetland habitats. Although these regulations do not address WCF habitat specifically, protection is extended to WCF habitat when it occurs on lands under the jurisdiction of a conservation authority. Permission to develop or alter a wetland may also be granted by the respective authority subject to an application process.
Additional considerations and other legal/ regulatory measures and conservation measures to support habitat protection and management
As noted above, the ESA does not currently afford direct protection to the WCF as it is not listed under the Act. However, some habitat may be protected where it co-occurs with an ESA-listed species that receives general habitat protection or protection through habitat regulation, in cases where habitat needs are similar (e.g., threatened or endangered herpetofauna that use ephemeral and/or other wetlands). Most notably, a coarse scale (1 km grid) analysis within the Great Lakes/ St. Lawrence faunal province shows that WCF (which occurs in over 3,000 grid squares) may co-occur with Blanding’s Turtle (105 grid squares), and Jefferson Salamander (18 grid squares), both of which use habitats that include ephemeral wetlands and adjacent terrestrial habitats.
In addition to the protections to WCF habitat that may be afforded under the above legal instruments, it should be noted that a lowered risk of destruction of habitat could be expected where the species occurs on private lands that are owned or managed by an organization with a conservation mandate, such as properties owned by Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, a Conservation Authority or a local land trust or naturalists’ club or owned or managed by private citizens either formally (e.g., through a conservation easement with one of these groups) or informally by stewardship-minded individuals. Based on available data layers, at least 5%Footnote14 of habitat around known occurrences falls under this conservation organization land tenure type (Table 1). Additionally, wetland management, restoration, and other stewardship activities are being undertaken (e.g., through the provincial Species at Risk Stewardship Fund (SARSF) in areas where provincially-listed species at risk occur, through FrogWatch and Wetland Guardian Programmes (Toronto Zoo), and by conservation authorities and municipalities) that have potential to support the survival or recovery of WCF. The National Conservation Plan’s investments in the Habitat Stewardship Program and National Wetlands Conservation Fund also contribute to these stewardship-based conservation actions by private citizens and non-governmental organizations.
Description of Residence for the Western Chorus Frog – Great Lakes, St. Lawrence- Canadian Shield Population (Pseudacris triseriata) in Canada
The following is a description of residence for the Western Chorus Frog, Great Lakes, St. Lawrence – Canadian Shield population (Pseudacris triseriata, hereafter Western Chorus Frog), created for the purpose of implementing section 33 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) which relates to the damage or destruction of residences. Such damage or destruction can result from any alteration to the topography, geology, soil conditions, vegetation, chemical composition of air/water, surface or groundwater hydrology, micro-climate, or sound environment which either temporarily or permanently impairs the function(s) of the residence of one or more individuals.
Western Chorus Frogs have two types of residences – breeding site and hibernating site.
1) Breeding site
Physical Appearance and Context
Western Chorus Frogs breed in temporary wetlands or shallow portions, which become dry in the summer, of permanent aquatic features (e.g., ponds, basins/potholes, marshes, swamps, drainage ditches; COSEWIC 2008). Egg masses are attached to vegetation or twigs (although they may simply sink below the surface of the water) (Pack 1920; Whitaker 1971; Hecnar and Hecnar 1999; Desroches and Rodrigue 2004). The submerged plant, dead grass stem or twig on which the eggs are deposited is considered a breeding site.
Period and Frequency of Occupancy
Depending on weather conditions, Western Chorus Frog will start breeding as soon as the end of March (Francis 1978; Bishop et al. 1997; Lepage et al. 1997; Desroches and Rodrigue 2004). Once the eggs are layed (end of March to mid-May), it takes 3 to 27 days for them to hatch into tadpoles depending on temperature (Whitaker 1971; Desroches and Rodrigue 2004). Accordingly, a breeding site can be occupied (i.e. eggs are present) starting March 20th until June 11th.
Although breeding sites occupy very limited areas, they can be distributed throughout the wetlands within which they occur. These wetlands have been shown to range from 0.001 to 6 ha in Quebec (Picard and Desroches 2004; St-Hilaire 2005). The same wetlands or aquatic features are generally used from year to year to house Western Chorus Frog breeding sites. Accordingly, any wetland or aquatic feature occupied or known to have been occupied by Western Chorus Frog during any life stages is considered as containing at least one occupied residence. Thus, it is not necessary to confirm the presence or exact location of a breeding site; this is not advisable since confirming the presence of breeding sites is also very likely to damage or destroy them. Only when the habitat no longer exists or the absence of Western Chorus Frog from a specific wetland or aquatic feature has been demonstrated is the area considered to no longer contain a Western Chorus Frog nest site.
Damage and Destruction of the Residence
Although the remainder of the wetland or aquatic feature within which the breeding site is found is not considered part of the residence, it is needed to maintain the essential characteristics and function of the breeding site. Temporary wetlands or shallow portions, which become dry in the summer, of permanent aquatic features (e.g., ponds, basins/potholes, marshes, swamps, drainage ditches) provide the conditions (e.g., range of temperatures, hydroperiod - presence of water in the habitat, residual vegetation) required for the eggs to develop into tadpoles.
To ensure that breeding sites are available from one year to the next and to maintain the functionality of the breeding site, the ecological integrity of wetlands and aquatic features containing breeding site must be maintained. As such, activities which may damage or destroy the breeding site include those which directly affect the breeding site as well as those which affect the wetlands or aquatic features and therefore the functionality of the breeding site. These latter activities can occur at any time during the year.
2) Hibernating site
Physical Appearance and Context
Western Chorus Frog hibernation takes place in terrestrial habitats (e.g., lowlands such as pastures, clearings, meadows, fallow lands, shrublands, wooded areas) in soft soil substrates, under rocks, dead trees/branches, leaves/litter or in existing burrows (Froom 1982). Accordingly, any one of these sites used by hibernating Western Chorus Frogs is considered a hibernating site.
Period and Frequency of Occupancy
In Canada, the Western Chorus Frog generally hibernates from October to March (COSEWIC 2008) depending on weather conditions. Accordingly, a hibernating site can be occupied October 1st to March 20th. Most observations tend to confirm that hibernating sites are relatively close to the wetlands where Western Chorus Frogs breed. Cochran (1989) observed individuals at the edge of a dried temporary pond and others as far as 75-100 m from the nearest wetland. In a study of individuals tagged with Co60, a radioactive isotope, most were found to remain within 100 m of their breeding site; the greatest straight line distance travelled being 213 m (Kramer 1973). In another study (Whitaker 1971), all individuals captured in the summer were located within approximately 200 m of potential breeding sites. In Quebec, individuals were caught with drift fences as far as 200 m from the breeding sites (Whiting 2004).
As a precautionary measure, hibernating sites are considered to occur within a 300 m terrestrial zone around breeding wetlands or aquatic features, a zone which must be maintained for the completion of the species’ annual life cycle (Semlitsch and Bodie 2003, Ouellet and Leheurteux 2007). Although hibernating sites occupy very limited areas, they can be distributed throughout the terrestrial habitat surrounding breeding wetlands or aquatic features. This terrestrial habitat is generally used from year to year to house Western Chorus Frog hibernating sites. Accordingly, the terrestrial habitat within 300 m of any wetland or aquatic feature occupied or known to have been occupied by Western Chorus Frog during any life stages is considered to contain at least one occupied residence. Thus, it is not necessary to confirm the presence or exact location of a hibernating site; this is not advisable since confirming the presence of hibernating sites is also very likely to damage or destroy them. Only when the habitat no longer exists or the absence of Western Chorus Frog from a specific wetland or aquatic feature has been demonstrated is the area considered to no longer contain a Western Chorus Frog hibernating site.
Damage and Destruction of the Residence
Although the entirety of the terrestrial habitat within 300 m of the occupied wetland or aquatic feature is not considered as being the residence, it is needed to maintain the essential characteristics and function of the hibernating site. Even though Western Chorus Frogsare freeze-tolerant at subzero temperatures during hibernation (Storey 1990, Storey and Storey 1986, 1987), the hibernating site further protects individuals from freezing. As ectotherms, individuals have limited capacity to respond to disturbance during hibernation, and hibernating sites may be selected to reduce vulnerability to weather events.
Other physiological needs associated with hibernation in Western Chorus Frogs are not very well known, as there is no study published to date focusing on the hibernation physiology of the species, namely because it is excessively difficult to locate hibernating individuals.
To ensure that hibernating sites are available from one year to the next and to maintain the functionality of the hibernating site, the ecological integrity of the terrestrial habitat containing residences must be maintained. As such, activities which may damage or destroy the hibernating site include those which directly affect the hibernating site as well as those which affect the terrestrial habitat within 300 m of an occupied wetland or aquatic feature and therefore the functionality of the hibernating site. These latter activities can occur at any time during the year.
For more information on the Western Chorus Frog, go to:
For more information on SARA, go to: Registre public des espèces en péril
Please cite this document as:
Government of Canada. Species at Risk Act Public Registry. Residence Descriptions. Description of residence for Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata) in Canada. Date and link to TBD. (Access date).
Bishop, C.A., K.E. Pettit, M.E. Gartshore, and D.A. MacLeod. 1997. Extensive monitoring of anuran populations using call counts and road transects in Ontario (1992 to 1993), in D.M. Green (éd.). Amphibians in decline: Canadian studies of a global Problem. Herpetological Conservation1: 149-160.
Cochran, P.A. 1989. Notes on the phenology of the Chorus Frog, Pseudacris triseriata, in Dupage County, Illinois. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society24(5): 89-90.
COSEWIC. 2008. COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Western Chorus Frog Pseudacris triseriata Carolinian population and Great Lakes/St. Lawrence – Canadian Shield population in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vii + 47 p. (Status Reports).
Desroches, J.-F., and D. Rodrigue. 2004. Amphibiens et reptiles du Québec et des Maritimes, Éditions Michel Quintin. Waterloo (Québec). 288 p.
Hecnar, S.J., and D.R. Hecnar. 1999. Pseudacris triseriata (Western Chorus Frog), Reproduction. Herpetological Review30(1): 38.
Francis, G.R. 1978. Road transects to record the occurrence of frogs and toads in Wilmot Township, Waterloo region, Southern Ontario. The Ontario Field Biologist 32(1): 1-12.
Froom, B. 1982. Amphibians of Canada. McClelland and StewartLimited. 120 p.
Kramer, D.C. 1973. Movements of Western Chorus Frogs Pseudacris triseriata triseriata tagged with Co60. Journal of Herpetology7(3): 231-235.
Lepage, M., R. Courtois, C. Daigle and S. Matte. 1997. Surveying calling anurans in Québec using volunteers, in D.M. Green (éd.). Amphibians in decline: Canadian studies of a global problem. Herpetological Conservation1: 128-140.
Ouellet, M. and C. Leheurteux. 2007. Principes de conservation et d’aménagement des habitats de la rainette faux-grillon de l’Ouest (Pseudacris triseriata) : revue de littérature et recommandations. Amphibia-Nature and Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune, Direction du développement de la faune, Québec. 52p.
Pack, H.J. 1920. Eggs of the Swamp Tree Frog. Copeia1920: 7.
Semlitsch, R.D. and J.R. Bodie. 2003. Biological criteria for buffer zones around wetlands and riparian habitats for amphibians and reptiles. Conservation Biology 17(5): 1219-1228.
St. Hilaire, D. 2005. Caractéristiques écologiques des sites de reproduction de la rainette faux-grillon de l’Ouest en Outaouais. Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune, Direction de l’aménagement de la faune. Gatineau (Québec). 29 p.
Storey, K.B. 1990. Life in a frozen state: adaptative strategies for natural freeze tolerance in amphibians and reptiles. American Journal of Physiology 258: R559- R568.
Storey, K.B., and J.M. Storey. 1986. Freeze tolerance and intolerance as strategies of winter survival in terrestrially-hibernating amphibians. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 83A(4): 613-617.
Storey, K.B., and J.M. Storey. 1987. Persistence of freeze tolerance in terrestrially hibernating frogs after emergence. Copeia 1987: 720-726.
Whitaker, J. O., Jr. 1971. A study of the western chorus frog Pseudacris triseriata, in Vigo County. Indiana Journal of Herpetology 15(3–4): 127–150.
Whiting, A. 2004. Population ecology of the Western Chorus Frog, Pseudacris triseriata. Master’s Thesis, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. 106 p.
General prohibitions under section 33 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA)
Section 33 of SARA prohibits damaging or destroying the residence of a listed threatened, endangered, or extirpated species. 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” [s.2(1)].
The prohibition comes into effect in different ways depending on the jurisdiction with overall management responsibility for the species and on the location of the residence.
Because the Western Chorus Frog (Great Lakes, St. Lawrence – Canadian Shield population) is not protected under pre-existing federal jurisdiction, such as the Migratory Birds Convention Act (1994) or the Fisheries Act, the prohibition only automatically applies to residences located on federal lands upon addition of the species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk under SARA (Schedule 1). SARA also contains a provision to prohibit the destruction of residences on non-federal lands (provincial, territorial, and private lands) by way of an Order by the Governor in Council (GIC), if the Minister of the Environment recommends it necessary to do so [s.34(2), 35(2)]. Unless such an Order is made, responsibility for protecting residences on non-federal lands remains with the provinces and territories in which the residence is located.
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