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Recovery Strategy for Multi-Species at Risk in Garry Oak Woodlands in Canada (Proposed)

Executive Summary

This national multi-species strategy addresses the recovery of five species at risk in Garry oak (Quercus garryana) woodlands: deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea), white-top aster (Sericocarpus rigidus), small-flowered tonella (Tonella tenella), Howell's triteleia (Triteleia howellii), and yellow montane violet (Viola praemorsa ssp. praemorsa). The Recovery Strategy comprises one component of the recovery program for Garry oak and associated ecosystems as outlined in the Recovery Strategy for Garry Oak and Associated Ecosystems and their Associated Species at Risk in Canada: 2001-2006.

The range of all species in this strategy is primarily in the United States, with only a small percentage extending north into Canada along southeastern Vancouver Island and through the adjacent Gulf Islands. The climate in this area is sub-Mediterranean, with cool, moist winters followed by warm summers with a prolonged drought. The woodland habitats range from open parkland with few scattered oaks to woodlands with a closed canopy and a patchy mix of shrubs and meadows. Very little of these woodlands remain and these remnants are fragmented by urbanization and at risk from a number of threats.

Stewardship Approach

For successful implementation in protecting species at risk there will be a strong need to engage in stewardship on a variety of land tenures, and in particular on private land and on Indian Reserves. Stewardship involves the voluntary cooperation of landowners to protect Species at Risk and the ecosystems they rely on. It is recognized in the Preamble to the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) that "stewardship activities contributing to the conservation of wildlife species and their habitat should be supported" and that "all Canadians have a role to play in the conservation of wildlife in this country, including the prevention of wildlife species from becoming extirpated or extinct." It is recognized in the Bilateral Agreement on Species at Risk, between British Columbia and Canada that:

"Stewardship by land and water owners and users is fundamental to preventing species from becoming at risk and in protecting and recovering species that are at risk" and that "Cooperative, voluntary measures are the first approach to securing the protection and recovery of species at risk."

Very little Garry oak woodland remains (less than 5%), mostly due to land development. The remaining habitat is highly fragmented, and threatened by further urban development and recreational pressures. The invasion of exotic grasses and shrubs is a pervasive threat to all habitats and species in this strategy. Fire suppression is changing Garry oak stand structure and associated plant community composition, resulting in increased shading, thatch accumulation, and encroachment of shrubs and trees. Herbivory by exotic species and by livestock or deer may also be a potential threat.

Information that is pertinent to the ultimate identification of critical habitat is provided for single occurrences, occurrences of the species on federal land, and occurrences under imminent threat. Critical habitat for deltoid balsamroot, white-top aster, small-flowered tonella, yellow montane violet, and Howell's triteleia will be proposed in the Recovery Action Plan, after a schedule of studies has been completed.

Occupied habitat is discussed in this strategy. Potential habitat remains to be identified and prioritized. Potential habitat should have an open tree canopy, well-drained or seasonally dry soils, and a relatively low amount of invasive species.

Recovery actions will improve the probability of long-term persistence in the wild for all species in this strategy. Further studies are required to determine any insurmountable barriers to restoration or reestablishment.

Long-term recovery goals for all species in this strategy are to: maintain existing populations at current levels of abundance or greater; restore species to their approximate historical area of occupancy and extent occurrence through reintroductions or translocations; and ensure long-term population viability.

The short-term objectives toward meeting these goals are:

  1. Establish protection1 for existing populations through stewardship and other mechanisms.

  2. Involve landowners in habitation protection and species recovery.

  3. Monitor populations and habitat to determine population trends and demography, and assess threats and habitat conditions.

  4. Identify and define habitat attributes of populations including: soil depth and texture, slope and aspect, and associated plant communities.

  5. Conduct biological and ecological research to better understand species at risk biology and ecological requirements and effects of exotic species and fire suppression.

  6. Establish site-specific, adaptive management plans for habitat restoration.

  7. Identify and rank recovery (translocation) sites for each species.

  8. Augment population numbers where required as per recovery goals.

  9. Establish new populations or subpopulations of each species as per recovery goals.

Four broad strategies have been designed to address threats and meet recovery objectives:

  • Habitat protection and stewardship
  • Site Management
  • Information collection: inventory, monitoring and research
  • Population Augmentation and Establishment

By taking a multi-species, habitat-based approach to recovery, this strategy recognizes the importance of maintaining Garry oak ecosystems. It is expected that the recommended approaches will benefit not only the individual species at risk but the wider ecological community as well. A program of research to identify specific impacts on associated species at risk will be provided in the Recovery Action Plan.

Social and economic considerations

Recovery of species at risk and restoration of imperiled habitats associated with Garry oak ecosystems will contribute to biodiversity, health and functioning of the environment and enhance opportunities for appreciation of such special places and species thereby contributing to overall social value in southwestern British Columbia. The natural beauty of Garry oak ecosystems in the lower mainland, Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island are an important resource for British Columbians that provide for a robust tourism and recreation industry. Protecting these natural spaces, biodiversity and recreation values has enormous value to the local economy.

Recovery actions could potentially affect the following socioeconomic sectors: recreational activities, private land development, parks operations and maintenance. The expected magnitude of these affects is expected to be low in almost all cases.

There are a number of knowledge gaps that need to be addressed, regarding individual species as well as habitats. Information gaps include: species distribution and population status, species demography, effects of fire suppression, exotic species and restoration activities on species and habitats.

Recovery of the species in this strategy is likely to have minimal socio-economic impact, however, some land use options may be incompatible with recovery goals outlined in this recovery strategy.

The draft Recovery Action Plan for Garry oak woodland species at risk will be completed by March 2010.

1 This may involve protection in any form including stewardship agreements and conservation covenants on private lands, land use designations on crown lands, and protection in federal, provincial and local government protected areas.