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Executive summary

In June 2003 the western silvery minnow (Hybognathus argyritis) was officially listed on Schedule 1 of the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) as “Threatened¹”, requiring the completion of a recovery strategy within four years.  Similarly, the Province of Alberta will also require a recovery plan for this species within two years after listing it as ”Threatened under Alberta’s Wildlife Act.  In March 2004, the Milk River Fish Species at Risk Recovery Team was assembled to develop a joint federal/provincial recovery strategy for the western silvery minnow addressing the requirements of both the federal and provincial processes. This team was comprised of representatives from the federal (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) and provincial (Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and Alberta Environment) agencies responsible for fisheries and natural resource management, as well as four members representing the Milk River Watershed Council of Canada (MRWCC), the Southern Alberta Environmental Group, the Milk River Ranchers’ Association and lastly, the  Counties of Cardston, Forty Mile and Warner, the Villages of Coutts and Warner, and the Town of Milk River.  The team members were selected to represent the broad range of interests for both the conservation of the species and potential implications to the local community imposed by the recovery plan.

While the Canadian distribution and abundance of the western silvery minnow have remained relatively stable since the species was first identified in the Milk River, the species continues to be at risk due to its extremely limited range in Canada.  Consequently, the goal and objectives of the recovery strategy are directed towards the protection and maintenance of the existing population in its current range rather than population recovery and habitat restoration.

The recovery strategy describes the species and its needs, incorporates a threats assessment, and outlines a broad recovery approach for the western silvery minnow based on the available information. Its goal is “To protect and maintain a self-sustaining population of western silvery minnow within its current range in the Milk River”.  Key objectives of the strategy are to:

  1. quantify and maintain current population levels;
  2. identify and protect critical habitat; and
  3. to identify potential threats from human activities and ecological processes and develop plans to avoid, eliminate or mitigate these threats.

To help achieve this goal and meet the objectives, four general approaches are proposed:  research, monitoring, management and regulatory actions, and education and outreach. Within each of these, a number of individual strategies are outlined that capture the range of tools available to protect and manage the species and to reduce or eliminate threats to its survival

The Western silvery minnow Recovery Strategy will be subject to an annual review by the Recovery Team.  The strategy has a designated life span of five years, after which it will be reviewed and revised as needed by the Recovery Team.