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Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species - January 2015

The Species at Risk Act Listing Process and Consultation

The addition of a wildlife species at risk to Schedule 1 of SARA strengthens and enhances the federal government's capacity to provide for its protection and conservation. To be effective, the listing process must be transparent and open. The species listing process under SARA is summarized in Figure 1.

Figure 1 : The species listing process under SARA
The species listing process under SARA
Long description for Figure 1

This figure explains the various steps of the listing process under the Species at Risk Act. It is a flowchart. Its content is the following:

  1. The Minister of the Environment receives species assessments from COSEWIC at least once a year.
  2. The competent departments undertake internal review to determine the extent of public consultation and socio-economic analysis necessary to inform the listing decision.
  3. Within 90 days of receipt of the species assessments prepared by COSEWIC, the Minister of the Environment publishes a response statement on the SARA Public Registry that indicates how he or she intends to respond to the assessment and, to the extent possible, provides timelines for action.
  4. Where appropriate, the competent departments undertake consultations and any other relevant analysis needed to prepare the advice for the Minister of the Environment.
  5. The Minister of the Environment forwards the assessment to the Governor in Council for receipt. This generally occurs within three months of posting the response statement, unless further consultation is necessary
  6. Within nine months of receiving the assessment, the Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, may decide whether or not to list the species under Schedule 1 of SARA or refer the assessment back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration.
  7. Once a species is added to Schedule 1, it benefits from the applicable provisions of SARA.

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The purpose of consultations on amendments to the List

When COSEWIC assesses a wildlife species, it does so solely on the basis of the best available information relevant to the biological status of the species. COSEWIC then submits the assessment to the Minister of the Environment, who considers it when making the listing recommendation to the Governor in Council. These consultations are to provide the Minister with a better understanding of the potential social and economic impacts of the proposed change to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, and of the potential consequences of not adding a species to the List.

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Legislative context of the consultations: the Minister's recommendation to the Governor in Council

The comments collected during the consultations inform the Governor in Council's consideration of the Minister's recommendations for listing species at risk. The Minister must recommend one of three courses of action. These are for the Governor in Council to accept the species assessment and modify Schedule 1 accordingly, not to add the species to Schedule 1, or to refer the species assessment back to COSEWIC for its further consideration (Figure 1).

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The Minister of the Environment's response to the COSEWIC assessment: the response statement

After COSEWIC has completed its assessment of a species, it provides it to the Minister of the Environment. The Minister of the Environment then has 90 days to post a response on the Species at Risk Public Registry, providing information on the scope of any consultations and the timelines for action, to the extent possible. This is known as the response statement. It identifies how long the consultations will be (whether they are "normal" or "extended") by stating when the Minister will forward the assessment to the Governor in Council. Consultations for a group of species are launched with the posting of their response statements.

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Normal and extended consultation periods

Normal consultations meet the consultation needs for the listing of most species at risk. They usually take two to three months to complete, while extended consultations may take one year or more.

The extent of consultations needs to be proportional to the expected impact of a listing decision and the time that may be required to consult appropriately. Under some circumstances, whether or not a species will be included on Schedule 1 could have significant and widespread impacts on the activities of some groups of people. It is essential that such stakeholders be informed of the pending decision and, to the extent possible, its potential consequences. They also need to have the opportunity to provide information on the potential consequences of the decision and to share ideas on how best to approach threats to the species. A longer period may also be required to consult appropriately with some groups. For example, consultations can take longer for groups that meet infrequently but that must be engaged on several occasions. For such reasons, extended consultations may be undertaken.

For both normal and extended consultations, once they are complete, the Minister of the Environment forwards the species assessments to the Governor in Council for the government's formal receipt of the assessment. The Governor in Council then has nine months to come to a listing decision. Thus, listing decisions for species in normal consultations are usually made about one year after the publication of their response statements. Listing decisions for species in extended consultations are usually made about two years after the response statements are published.

The consultation paths (normal or extended) for the terrestrial species listed in Table 1 will be announced when the Minister publishes the response statements. These will be posted by , on the Species at Risk Public Registry website.

No consultations will be undertaken for those species already on Schedule 1 and for which no change in status is being proposed (Table 3).

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Who is consulted and how

It is most important to consult with those who would be most affected by the proposed changes. There is protection that is immediately in place when a species that is Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened is added to Schedule 1. It prohibits killing or harming the species or destroying a residence. For terrestrial species, this applies to migratory birds protected by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (which already provides similar protection for the migratory birds and their nests). The immediate protection also applies to other terrestrial species where they are on federal land (for more details, see "Protection for listed Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species"). This immediate protection does not apply to species of Special Concern. Therefore, Environment Canada considers the type of species, its conservation status, and where the species is found. Those who may be affected by the impacts of the automatic protections are contacted directly; others are encouraged to contribute through a variety of approaches.

Aboriginal peoples known to have species at risk on their lands, for which changes to Schedule 1 are being considered, will be contacted. Their engagement is of particular significance, acknowledging their role in the management of the extensive traditional territories and the reserve and settlement lands.

A Wildlife Management Board is a group that has been established under a land claims agreement and is authorized by the agreement to perform functions in respect of wildlife species. Some eligible species at risk are found on lands where existing land claims agreements apply that give specific authority to a Wildlife Management Board. In such cases, the Minister of the Environment will consult with the relevant board.

To encourage others to contribute and make the necessary information readily available, this document is distributed to known stakeholders and posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry. More extensive consultations may also be done through regional or community meetings or through a more targeted approach.

Environment Canada also sends notice of this consultation to identified concerned groups and individuals who have made their interests known. These include, but are not limited to, industries, resource users, landowners and environmental non-governmental organizations.

In most cases, it is difficult for Environment Canada to fully examine the potential impacts of recovery actions when species are being considered for listing. Recovery actions for terrestrial species usually have not yet been comprehensively defined at the time of listing, so their impact cannot be fully understood. Once they are defined, efforts are made to minimize adverse social and economic impacts of listing and to maximize the benefits. SARA requires that recovery measures be prepared in consultation with those considered to be directly affected by them.

In addition to the public, Environment Canada consults on listing with the governments of the provinces and territories responsible for the conservation and management of these wildlife species. Environment Canada also consults with other federal departments and agencies.

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Role and impact of public consultations in the listing process

The results of the public consultations are of great significance to the process of listing species at risk. Environment Canada carefully reviews the comments it receives to gain a better understanding of the benefits and costs of changing the List.

The comments are then used to inform the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS). The RIAS is a report that summarizes the impact of a proposed regulatory change. It includes a description of the proposed change and an analysis of its expected impact, which incorporates the results from the public consultations. In developing the RIAS, the Government of Canada recognizes that Canada's natural heritage is an integral part of our national identity and history and that wildlife in all its forms has value in and of itself. The Government of Canada also recognizes that the absence of full scientific certainty is not a reason to postpone decisions to protect the environment.

A draft Order (see Glossary) is then prepared, providing notice that a decision is being taken by the Governor in Council. The draft Order proposing to list all or some of the species under consideration is then published, along with the RIAS, in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for a comment period of 30 days.

The Minister of the Environment will take into consideration comments and any additional information received following publication of the draft Order and the RIAS in the Canada Gazette, Part I. The Minister then makes a listing recommendation for each species to the Governor in Council. The Governor in Council next decides either to accept the species assessment and amend Schedule 1 accordingly; or not to add the species to Schedule 1; or to refer the species assessment back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration. The final decision is published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, and on the Species at Risk Public Registry. If the Governor in Council decides to list a species, it is at this point that it becomes legally included on Schedule 1.

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