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

Significance of the Addition of a Species to Schedule 1

The protection that comes into effect following the addition of a species to Schedule 1 depends upon a number of factors. These include the species' status under SARA, the type of species and where it occurs.

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Protection for listed Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species

Responsibility for the conservation of wildlife is shared among the governments of Canada. SARA establishes legal protection of individuals and their residences as soon as a species is listed as Threatened, Endangered or Extirpated, if they are considered federal species or if they are found on federal land.

Federal species include migratory birds, as defined by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and aquatic species covered by the Fisheries Act. Federal land means land that belongs to the federal government, and the internal waters and territorial sea of Canada. It also means land set apart for the use and benefit of a band under the Indian Act (such as reserves). In the territories, the protection for species at risk on federal lands applies only where they are on lands under the authority of the Minister of the Environment or the Parks Canada Agency.

Migratory birds are protected by the Migratory Birds Regulations, under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, which strictly prohibits the harming of migratory birds and the disturbance or destruction of their nests and eggs.

Protection under SARA makes it an offence to kill, harm, harass, capture or take an individual of a species listed as Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened. It is also an offence to damage or destroy the residence of one or more individuals of an Endangered or Threatened species or an Extirpated species whose reintroduction has been recommended by a recovery strategy. The Act also makes it an offence to possess, collect, buy, sell or trade an individual of a species that is Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened.

Species at risk that are neither aquatic nor protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, nor on federal lands, do not receive immediate protection upon listing under SARA. Instead, in most cases, the protection of terrestrial species on non-federal lands is the responsibility of the provinces and territories where they are found. The application of protections under SARA to a species at risk on non-federal lands requires that the Governor in Council make an order defining those lands. This can only occur when the Minister is of the opinion that the laws of the province or territory do not effectively protect the species. To put such an order in place, the Minister would then need to recommend the order be made to the Governor in Council. If the Governor in Council agrees to make the order, the prohibitions of SARA would then apply to the provincial or territorial lands specified by the order. The federal government would consult before making such an order.

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Permits and agreements

For terrestrial species listed on SARA Schedule 1 as Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened, the Minister of the Environment may authorize exceptions to the Act's prohibitions, when and where they apply. The Minister can enter into agreements or issue permits only for one of three reasons: for research, for conservation activities, or if the effects to the species are incidental to the activity. Research must relate to the conservation of a species and be conducted by qualified scientists. Conservation activities must benefit a listed species or be required to enhance its chances of survival. All activities, including those that incidentally affect a listed species, must also meet certain conditions. First, it must be established that all reasonable alternatives have been considered and the best solution has been adopted. It must also be established that all feasible measures will be taken to minimize the impact of the activity, and finally that the survival or recovery of the species will not be jeopardized. Having issued a permit or agreement, the Minister must then include an explanation on the Species at Risk Public Registry of why the permit or agreement was issued.

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Recovery strategies and action plans for Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species

Recovery planning results in the development of recovery strategies and action plans for Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened species. It involves the different levels of government responsible for the management of the species, depending on what type of species it is and where it occurs. These include federal, provincial and territorial governments as well as Wildlife Management Boards. Recovery strategies and action plans are also prepared in cooperation with directly affected Aboriginal organizations. Landowners and other stakeholders directly affected by the recovery strategy are consulted to the extent possible.

Recovery strategies must be prepared for all Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species. They include measures to mitigate the known threats to the species and its habitat and set the population and distribution objectives. Other objectives can be included, such as stewardship (to establish protection for an existing population) or education (to increase public awareness). Recovery strategies must include a statement of the time frame for the development of one or more action plans. To the extent possible, recovery strategies must also identify the critical habitat of the species. If there is not enough information available to identify critical habitat, the recovery strategy includes a schedule of studies required for its identification. This schedule outlines what must be done to obtain the necessary information and by when it needs to be done. In such cases critical habitat can be identified in a subsequent action plan.

Proposed recovery strategies for newly listed species are posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry to provide for public review and comment. For Endangered species, proposed recovery strategies are posted within one year of their addition to Schedule 1, and for Threatened or Extirpated species within two years.

Action plans state the measures necessary to implement the recovery strategy. These include measures to address threats and achieve the population and distribution objectives. Action plans also complete the identification of the critical habitat where necessary, and to the extent possible state measures that are proposed to protect it.

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Protection for listed species of Special Concern

While immediate protection under SARA for species listed as Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened do not apply to species listed as Special Concern, any existing protections and prohibitions, such as those provided by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 or the Canada National Parks Act, continue to be in force.

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Management plans for species of Special Concern

For species of Special Concern, management plans are to be prepared and made available on the Species at Risk Public Registry within three years of species' addition to Schedule 1, allowing for public review and comment. Management plans include appropriate conservation measures for the species and for its habitat. They are prepared in cooperation with the jurisdictions responsible for the management of the species, including directly affected Wildlife Management Boards and Aboriginal organizations. Landowners, lessees and others directly affected by a management plan will also be consulted to the extent possible.

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