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Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada (Proposed)

Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada (Proposed)
RE: Identification of Critical Habitat

Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies

March 16, 2007

Piping Plover. © Judie Shore.

Introduction

This is an addendum to the final recovery strategy for the circumcinctus subspecies of Piping Plover, (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus), which was posted on the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Public Registry on November 6, 2006 (hereinafter referred to as the “2006 Piping Plover Recovery Strategy”). Section 41(1)(c) of SARA requires that recovery strategies include an identification of a species' critical habitat, to the extent possible, and examples of activities that are likely to result in its destruction. SARA also states that recovery strategies may be amended at any time, and that copies of the amendments must be included in the SARA Public Registry.

Research and analysis of information gathered regarding critical habitat for Piping Plover circumcinctus have advanced since the posting of the final 2006 Piping Plover Recovery Strategy. This addendum identifies critical habitat for Piping Plover circumcinctus to the extent possible at this time, and is provided as an amendment to the previously published recovery strategy. This addendum includes a list of wetland and/or riverbed basins across the range of the circumcinctussubspecies (i.e. Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) that are likely to contain critical habitat. Where possible, the exact location of critical habitat within these basins has been specified at the quarter section level (see footnote 1, Table 2).

Quarter sections were selected as the typical basis for critical habitat identification because rural land in western Canada is generally owned and managed at the quarter section level, and land ownership can easily be tracked at that level. Tracking ownership of land identified as critical habitat in recovery strategies (or in addenda such as this) is important for the purpose of consulting with landowners and other persons whom the competent minister considers to be directly affected, as required under section 39(3) of SARA.

Consultations are important with regard to the identification of critical habitat in order to make all affected parties, including landowners, aware of the potential legal implications associated with critical habitat under SARA. Sections 58 and 61 of SARA contain prohibitions against the destruction of critical habitat in various circumstances defined in the Act. These consultations are also important as they serve to engage all affected parties in a cooperative approach to critical habitat management and protection under SARA.

Critical habitat has been identified in 65 quarter sections in 20 basins at this time. Within these quarter sections, critical habitat is defined as the area of the shore between the ordinary high-water mark and the water's edge, as Piping Plovers are terrestrial shorebirds that use the shore area between the water's edge and terrestrial vegetation. The identification and protection of the critical habitat identified in this addendum will contribute significantly to meeting the recovery goal of 1626 plovers documented over three international population censuses, set for Piping Plover circumcinctus in the 2006 Piping Plover Recovery Strategy (Environment Canada, 2006).

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Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada (Proposed)
RE: Identification of Critical Habitat

1.0: Two sets of criteria are used to identify 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 for the species.”

Two sets of criteria must be applied in order to identify critical habitat for Piping Plover circumcinctus. The first, more general “Basin Criteria” (listed in section 1.1 below) were applied to determine which basins within the range of Piping Plover circumcinctus were likely to contain critical habitat for this subspecies.

Although a basin may contain many critical habitat sites, it may also consist of some areas unsuitable for use by Piping Plover circumcinctus. A second criterion or set of criteria must therefore be applied within basins likely to contain critical habitat to determine precisely which portion(s) of each basin's shore constitute(s) critical habitat. The “Quarter Section Criterion” (provided in section 1.2 below) was used as the second criterion to identify critical habitat in the 20 basins in which critical habitat has been identified at this time. The portions of the shore that constitute critical habitat are identified at the quarter section level.

1.1: Basin Criteria

Application of the Basin Criteria allows a broad identification of basins that are likely to contain critical habitat for Piping Plover circumcinctus. As outlined in the 2006 Piping Plover Recovery Strategy (Environment Canada 2006), the following criteria were applied in order to determine which basins throughout the range of Piping Plover circumcinctus (i.e. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario) were likely to contain critical habitat:

  1. Average number of plovers over all surveys of ≥ 4 adults in Alberta and Saskatchewan, ≥ 2 adults in Manitoba and Ontario, or 5% of the province's recovery goal in any one year during the window.
  2. A minimum of three surveys per site during the breeding season, each carried out on a separate year.
  3. A floating window of at least 15 years (starting in 1991) to determine site (wetland, lake, riverbed) status. The 15-year window is based on three international censuses, occurring every five years.

In other words, in order for a basin to be considered likely to contain critical habitat, the average number of adult plovers recorded in all surveys carried out at that basin over the last 15 years must be greater than or equal to four (Alberta and Saskatchewan) or two (Manitoba and Ontario). For each basin, the surveys averaged must include at least three completed during the breeding season, and may include any surveys completed at a particular basin in addition to the surveys undertaken as part of the International Piping Plover Breeding Census. A basin is also considered likely to contain critical habitat if, in any single year over the last 15 years, the number of adult plovers counted in a survey of that basin is greater than or equal to 5% of the provincial recovery goal for the province in which the basin occurs. The provincial recovery goals set for Piping Plover circumcinctus in the 2006 Piping Plover Recovery Strategy are as follows: Alberta 300; Saskatchewan 1200; Manitoba 120; and Ontario (Lake of the Woods) 6 (Environment Canada, 2006).

The criteria of ≥ 4 adults over all surveys in Alberta and Saskatchewan and ≥ 2 adults over all surveys in Ontario and Manitoba were selected as lower limits for the occurrence of plovers in basins by consensus of members of the Prairie Piping Plover Recovery Team based on historical knowledge of population size and habitat use. The recovery team includes members with expertise in biology, conservation, population dynamics, and management of Piping Plover circumcinctus. A more inclusive lower limit was used in Manitoba and Ontario as Manitoba's population is small and Ontario has only a remnant population. The more stringent criteria for Alberta and Saskatchewan acknowledge that the populations in these provinces are larger, and higher numbers of plovers are therefore likely to be observed in surveys of the basins in these provinces.

The requirement for a minimum of three surveys serves to stabilize site identification by helping to ensure that one-time fluctuations in population numbers or basin use will not necessarily result in a basin being excluded. The use of a floating window of 15 years ensures that, at a minimum, the information from three International Piping Plover Breeding Censuses, which occur at 5-year intervals, can be considered in selecting basins that are likely to contain critical habitat.

The International Piping Plover Census is a comprehensive census of Piping Plovers, carried out in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and St. Pierre et Miquelon (France). The goal of the Census is to monitor progress toward recovery goals and to determine and monitor changes in species distribution (Haig et al. 2005). The Census methodology was designed by the U.S. Great Lakes/Northern Great Plains Piping Plover Recovery Team, and consists of two major components: a wintering ground census, and a breeding ground census. Only data from the breeding census is considered in the identification of critical habitat for the Canadian population of Piping Plover circumcinctus, as there are no wintering grounds for this subspecies in Canada. The first two weeks of June are the survey period for each Breeding Census.

1.2: Quarter Section Criterion

As discussed above, the Basin Criteria were applied first to determine which basins are likely to contain critical habitat. A second criterion (“Quarter Section Criterion”) was then applied to more precisely determine which quarter sections or comparable units of the shore contain critical habitat for Piping Plover circumcinctus:

  • Quarter sections (or comparable units) with critical habitat are those where use has been documented by ≥ 2 Piping Plover pairs (or ≥ 2 nests, or ≥ 4 adults) in ≥ 2 breeding seasons over a floating 15-year window.

In other words, in order for critical habitat to be identified within a given quarter section (or comparable unit) at least two surveys conducted during the breeding season over the last 15 years must show any of the following within that quarter section: two or more pairs; two or more nests; or four or more adult plovers. This methodology will result in the identification of critical habitat known to have been used over a reasonable time frame, and is similar to that used by the Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Team (Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Team, 2006).

Within the quarter sections identified by applying the Quarter Section Criterion, critical habitat is defined as the area of the shore between the ordinary high-water mark and the water's edge. The upper extent of habitat is defined by the ordinary high-water mark, as outlined in the 2006 Piping Plover Recovery Strategy (Environment Canada, 2006).

Critical habitat excludes human-made structures (e.g. piers, buildings, marinas, irrigation equipment, etc.).

As mentioned in section 1.1 above, the Piping Plover circumcinctus populations in Ontario and Manitoba are smaller than the Alberta and Saskatchewan populations. As a result, the Basin Criteria set a more inclusive lower limit for the number of adult plovers observed at basins in Ontario and Manitoba, in order to identify those basins likely to contain critical habitat. More inclusive requirements at the quarter section (or comparable) level may also be required in order to identify sufficient critical habitat to meet the provincial recovery goals set for Piping Plover circumcinctus in Ontario and Manitoba in the 2006 Piping Plover Recovery Strategy (Environment Canada, 2006). Accordingly, both the Basin Criteria and the Quarter Section Criterion may be reviewed, refined and updated as appropriate.

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Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada (Proposed)
RE: Identification of Critical Habitat

2.0: Results of the Application of the Basin Criteria and Quarter Section Criterion

Applying the Basin Criteria within the range of the Canadian population of Piping Plover circumcinctus identified 59 basins that are likely to contain critical habitat for this population (Table 1). Application of these criteria necessarily excluded some basins used by Piping Plover circumcinctus if plovers were observed there infrequently or in low numbers. However, the 59 basins in Table 1 were nonetheless found to contain 91% of the surveyed Canadian circumcinctus population based on data from the 2006 International Piping Plover Breeding Census. These basins also contain sufficient habitat to support additional plovers, and to achieve the recovery goal for the Canadian population of Piping Plover circumcinctus, which was set at 1626 individuals over three international censuses in the 2006 Piping Plover Recovery Strategy (Environment Canada, 2006).

At this time, the Quarter Section Criterion has been applied in 20 of the 59 basins in Table 1, and has resulted in the identification of 65 quarter sections that contain critical habitat for Piping Plover circumcinctus. These 20 basins include seven basins within or adjacent to federal or federally-administered lands in Saskatchewan (Table 2), as well as 13 basins on non-federal lands in Alberta (Table 3). For the 13 basins in Alberta, the precise locations of quarter sections that contain critical habitat are not specified. This critical habitat in Alberta was identified based on the Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Plan (Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Team 2006), which uses letters to identify particular quarter-sections rather than providing specific locations of quarter sections. The province of Alberta used this approach to critical habitat identification in order to minimize disturbance to plovers and maintain anonymity of adjacent landowners. The precise locations of these quarter sections are not known by the federal government at this time.

The critical habitat in Alberta and Saskatchewan identified in this addendum was identified in cooperation with provincial authorities, and consultations with landowners and other interested parties have been completed to the extent possible. Additional sites across the range of the Canadian circumcinctus Piping Plover population that meet the Basin Criteria and the Quarter Section Criterion will be added to the list of critical habitat as additional information is gathered.

In order to apply the Quarter Section Criterion in the remaining 39 basins, the following work must be completed: survey and/or census information must be collated at the quarter section (or equivalent) level, information from international censuses and other surveys and studies must be compiled from various sources (i.e. other departments, agencies and groups), map data and survey information must be digitized from hard-copy form, and map data must be overlaid and integrated in order to determine the precise locations (i.e. quarter-sections or comparable areas) that correspond to survey information. This work is ongoing. Completion of this work for basins in Ontario and Manitoba is necessary in order to determine if modifications to the Quarter Section Criterion are necessary in order to identify sufficient critical habitat at the quarter-section or comparable level in these provinces.

While the identification and protection of critical habitat is an important step to support the recovery goal for Piping Plover circumcinctus, it is only one component of the efforts being undertaken for the protection and recovery of this subspecies in Canada. Research and monitoring efforts, as well as habitat stewardship initiatives are also important for the conservation, protection, and recovery of Piping Plover circumcinctus in Canada.

The federal Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP), administered by Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service, has provided funding to stewardship and guardianship programs for Piping Plover circumcinctus in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. These programs have increased public awareness of this subspecies and the challenges it faces, and have contributed to hands-on management, installation of predator exclosures, and monitoring of nests. HSP has also provided funding to support fencing of shorelines and providing off-site watering to cattle, in order to prevent cattle from trampling plover nests on beaches.

Important research and monitoring activities for Piping Plover circumcinctus are also ongoing across its Canadian range. These include enhanced monitoring at selected sites in the prairies, and research by Environment Canada officials in Saskatchewan that aims to clarify information on productivity and survival for this species in order to enable more accurate population dynamics modeling to support future conservation efforts.

These stewardship and protection efforts are longstanding in many cases, and have already contributed to positive outcomes for the Canadian population of Piping Plover circumcinctus.  The 2006 International Piping Plover Breeding Census showed an overall 77% increase in the surveyed Canadian circumcinctus population compared to the 2001 Census.  While ongoing survey work will be required to confirm that this population increase is sustained over time, the 2006 census numbers provide a positive preliminary indication that important progress in being made towards achieving the recovery goal for this species.

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Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada (Proposed)
RE: Identification of Critical Habitat

3.0: Examples of Activities that are Likely to Result in the Destruction of Critical Habitat

As critical habitat for Piping Plover circumcinctus is being identified in this addendum, examples of activities likely to result in the destruction of that habitat are also included below.

Activities that are likely to result in destruction of critical habitat include: agricultural activities (e.g. tillage, excessive cattle activity on shorelines), resource extraction (mining, oil and gas development), infrastructure development and construction (roads, pipelines, bridges or marinas), radical or lasting alterations to normal hydrological regimes (e.g. wetland drainage, construction of dams, lasting increases of water level), pollution of water or shorelines, and excessive recreational use (e.g. all-terrain vehicles, vehicular traffic).

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Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada (Proposed)
RE: Identification of Critical Habitat

Tables

Table 1. Basins in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta that are likely to contain critical habitat for Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus)
Official site nameUnofficial site nameLatitude
(N)
Longitude
(W)
Alberta
Akasu Lake 53° 30' N111° 50' W
Baxter Lakes 52° 53' N110° 43' W
Birch Lake 53° 19' N111° 35' W
Chain LakesLake #451° 83' N112° 15' W
Dowling Lake 51° 47' N112° 11' W
Handhills Lake 51° 30' N112° 07' W
Killarney Lake 52° 35' N110° 06' W
Little Fish Lake 51° 22' N112° 14' W
Muriel Lake 54° 09' N110° 40' W
Red Deer Lake 52° 43' N113° 02' W
Reflex LakesWest Reflex Lake52° 40' N110° 00' W
Rockeling Bay 52° 33' N112° 48' N
Sunken Lake 52° 23' N110° 39' W
UnnamedPiper Lake52° 33' N110° 62' W
UnnamedRider Lake52° 32' N112° 46' N
Saskatchewan
Alkali Lake 49° 00' N104° 18' W
Aroma Lake 52° 18' N108° 33' W
Big Muddy Lake 49° 09' N104° 51' W
Big Quill Lake 51° 55' N104° 22' W
Bliss Lake 49° 47' N105° 30' W
Buffer Lake 52° 23' N106° 00' W
Burn Lake 49° 43' N105° 28' W
Channel Lake 49° 31' N105° 16' W
Chaplin Lake 50° 22' N106° 36' W
Coal Mine Lake 49° 22' N105° 02' W
Dryboro Lake 49° 43' N105° 30' W
East Coteau Lake 49° 02' N104° 26' W
East Poplar RiverCookson Reservoir49° 03 N105° 27 W
Elkona Lake 52° 36' N105° 12' W
Fife Lake 49° 14' N105° 53' W
Frederick Lake 50° 02' N105° 47' W
Freefight Lake 50° 24' N109° 07' W
Freshwater Lake 52° 37' N109° 59' W
Lake Diefenbaker 50° 43' N107° 30' W
Lake of the Rivers 49° 49' N105° 44' W
Last Mountain Lake 51° 05' N105° 14' W
Lenore Lake 52° 30' N104° 59' W
Little Manitou Lake 51° 44' N105° 30' W
Little Quill Lake 51° 55' N104° 05' W
Manitou Lake 52° 43' N109° 43' W
Midtskogan LakeChaplin Lake, Midtskogan Bay50° 24' N106° 39' W
Old Wives LakeLake Johnston50° 06' N106° 00' W
Redberry Lake 52° 42' N107° 10' W
Reed Lake 50° 24' N107° 05' W
Reflex LakesWest Reflex Lake52° 67' N110° 00' W
Sandoff Lake 49° 05' N104° 09' W
Shoe Lake 49° 44' N105° 21' W
South Saskatchewan RiverGardiner Dam to Saskatoon51° N106° W
Unnamed Wetland 540 279 49° 49' N105° 38' W
Unnamed Wetland 705 056 49° 42' N104° 24' W
Unnamed Wetland 840 020 49° 39' N105° 13' W
Unnamed Wetland 842 027 49° 39' N105° 13' W
Unnamed Wetland 846 992 49° 39' N105° 13' W
Unnamed Wetland 870 825Horizon Lake49° 03' N105° 11' W
West Coteau Lake 49° 02' N104° 32' W
Willow Bunch Lake 49° 27' N105 ° 27' W
Manitoba
Lake Manitoba 51° 00' N98° 45' W
Lake Winnipeg 52° 00' N97° 00' W
West Shoal Lake 50° 20' N97° 41' W
Ontario
Lake of the Woods 49° 15' N94° 45' W

 

Table 2. Quarter sections containing shore that is critical habitat for Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Saskatchewan
BasinDescriptionQSECID1SectionTownshipRangeMeridian
Burn LakeExcel PFRA pastureNE0409262
Dryboro LakeExcel PFRA pastureSE1709262
Dryboro LakeExcel PFRA pastureNW0809262
Dryboro LakeExcel PFRA pastureNE0809262
Dryboro LakeExcel PFRA pastureSW0909262
Dryboro LakeExcel PFRA pastureNW0909262
Dryboro LakeExcel PFRA pastureSE0909262
Dryboro LakeExcel PFRA pastureNE0909262
Last Mountain LakeNational Wildlife Area2SW1427242
Last Mountain LakeNational Wildlife AreaNW1427242
Shoe LakeExcel PFRA pastureSW2009252
Shoe LakeExcel PFRA pastureSE2009252
Shoe LakeExcel PFRA pastureNW1709252
Shoe LakeExcel PFRA pastureNE1709252
Shoe LakeExcel PFRA pastureSW2109252
Unnamed lake 842 027Keywest PFRA3 PastureNW2908242
Unnamed lake 842 027Keywest PFRA PastureNE2908242
Unnamed lake 842 027/
Unnamed lake 840 020
Keywest PFRA PastureSE2908242
Unnamed lake 840 020Keywest PFRA PastureSW2908242
Unnamed lake 846 992Keywest PFRA PastureNE1708242
Unnamed lake 846 992Keywest PFRA PastureSW1608242
Unnamed lake 846 992Keywest PFRA PastureNW1608242

1 QSECID = Quarter section identification. Quarter section descriptions are based on the Dominion Land Survey System, whereby most of western Canada is legally divided into townships based on longitudinal meridians and latitudinal base lines. Each township is given a township number and range number. Townships are approximately 9.7 km x 9.7 km (6 miles x 6 miles) and are further divided into thirty-six sections, each about 1.6 km x 1.6 km (1 mile x 1 mile). In turn, each section is divided into four quarter sections: southeast, southwest, northwest and northeast, which are 0.8 km x 0.8 km (0.5 mile x 0.5 mile). For example, the full legal description of quarter section NW-36-002-06-E is the Northwest Quarter of Section 36, Township 002, Range 06, east of the First Meridian (see McKercher and Wolf 1986 for more information).
2 Migratory Bird Sanctuary occurs within National Wildlife Area.
3 PFRA = Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (under Agriculture and Agri-food Canada).

Table 3. Critical habitat within basins for Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Alberta.
BasinSegment1
Akasu LakeA
Baxter LakeA
Birch LakeA, B, C
Chain Lakes (#4)A, B
Dowling LakeA, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J
Handhills LakeA, B, C, D, E
Killarney LakeA, B, C, D, E
Little Fish LakeA, B, C, D
Muriel LakeA, B, C
Red Deer LakeA, B
Reflex Lakes (“West Reflex Lake”)A, B, C, D
Sunken LakeA
Unnamed lake (“Piper Lake”)A, B

1 Segment = quarter section

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Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada (Proposed)
RE: Identification of Critical Habitat

Literature Cited

Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Team. 2006. Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Plan, 2005-2010. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Fish and Wildlife Division, Alberta Species at Risk Recovery Plan No. 10. Edmonton, Alberta. 27 pp.

Environment Canada. 2006. Recovery strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. 30 pp.

Haig, S.M., C.L. Ferland, F.J. Cuthbert, J. Dingledine, J.P. Goossen, A. Hecht, N. McPhillips. 2005. A complete species census and evidence for regional declines in Piping Plovers. Journal of Wildlife Management 69(1):160-173.

McKercher, Robert B., Bertram Wolf (1986). Understanding Western Canada's Dominion Land Survey System. Saskatoon: Division of Extension and Community Relations, University of Saskatchewan.

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