Action Plan for the Milk River and St. Mary River Drainage Basins in Canada

Table of contents

List of figures

  • Figure 1. Rocky Mountain Sculpin
  • Figure 2. Location of the Milk and St. Mary river drainage basins in Alberta
  • Figure 3. Western Silvery Minnow

List of tables

  • Table 1. Measures to be undertaken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Table 2. Measures to be undertaken collaboratively between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and its partners
  • Table 3. Measures that represent opportunities for other jurisdictions, organizations or individuals to lead

Proposed

2017

Milk River

Milk River

St. Mary River

St. Mary River

Recommended citation:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 17. Action Plan for the Milk River and St. Mary River Drainage Basins in in Canada [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Action Plan Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. iii + 22 pp.

For copies of the Action Plan, or for additional information on species at risk, including Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) Status Reports, residence descriptions, recovery strategies, and other related recovery documents, please visit the SAR Public Registry.

Cover illustration: Milk River and St. Mary River photographs – Doug Watkinson

Également disponible en français sous le titre
« Plan d’action pour les bassins versants des rivières Milk et St. Mary au Canada [proposition]»

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, 2017. All rights reserved.
ISBN ISBN to come
Catalogue no. Catalogue no. to come

Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.

Preface

The federal, provincial, and territorial government signatories under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk (1996) agreed to establish complementary legislation and programs that provide for effective protection of species at risk throughout Canada. Under the Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) (SARA), the federal competent ministers are responsible for the preparation of action plans for species listed as extirpated, endangered, or threatened for which recovery has been deemed feasible. They are also required to report on progress five years after the publication of the final document on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is the competent minister under SARA for the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and the Western Silvery Minnow and has prepared this Action Plan to implement the Recovery Strategies of the species, as per Section 47 of SARA. In preparing this Action Plan, the competent minister has considered, as per Section 38 of SARA, the commitment of the Government of Canada to conserving biological diversity and to the principle that, if there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to the listed species, cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for a lack of full scientific certainty. To the extent possible, this Action Plan has been prepared in cooperation with Alberta Environment and Parks and the Milk River Fish Species at Risk Recovery Team as per section 48(1) of SARA.

As stated in the preamble to SARA, success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions and actions set out in this Action Plan and will not be achieved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada or any other jurisdiction alone. The cost of conserving species at risk is shared amongst different constituencies. All Canadians are invited to join in supporting and implementing this Action Plan for the benefit of the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and the Western Silvery Minnow and Canadian society as a whole.

Under SARA, an action plan provides the detailed recovery planning that supports the strategic direction set out in the recovery strategy for the species. The plan outlines recovery measures to be taken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and other jurisdictions and/or organizations to help achieve the population and distribution objectives identified in the recovery strategy. Implementation of this action plan is subject to appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.

Acknowledgements

Material used in the preparation of this Action Plan has drawn on previous work from a number of authors. In particular, the Milk River Fish Species at Risk Recovery Team (MRFSRT) are thanked for their work in preparing the action plan. Thank you to Terry Clayton who co-chaired the recovery team before retiring from Alberta Environment and Parks. Terry provided invaluable information and knowledge during the development of the action plan. Alberta Environment and Parks are also thanked for contributing historical information on the status of the Western Silvery Minnow in Alberta.

Executive summary

This action plan addresses two species found in the Milk River and St. Mary River drainage basins, Alberta, and follows a multi-species approach to protect and maintain self-sustaining populations of both species.Both the St. Mary and Milk River drainage basins originate in Montana along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains and flow north and north east, respectively, into Alberta. This action plan builds on the recovery strategies of the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and the Western Silvery Minnow. In Alberta, the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) is found in the St. Mary River drainage and the Milk River drainage and the Western Silvery Minnow (Hybognathus argyritis) is found in the Milk River drainage. Both species are listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act.

The long-term recovery goal for both species is to protect and maintain self-sustaining populations within their current range in the Milk River system (for the Western Silvery Minnow and Rocky Mountain Sculpin) and in the St. Mary River system (for the Rocky Mountain Sculpin). This action plan addresses all the objectives in the recovery strategies for the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and the Western Silvery Minnow. Key objectives of both recovery strategies are to: 1) quantify and maintain current population levels of Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow within their current range in the St. Mary and Milk river watersheds (within the population’s range of natural variation) as determined from standardized surveys, 2) increase knowledge of the taxonomy, life history, basic biology, and habitat requirements of the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow, and, 3) increase our understanding of how human activities affect Rocky Mountain Sculpin and Western Silvery Minnow survival, so that potential threats to the species can be avoided, eliminated, or mitigated.

For the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope population) and the Western Silvery Minnow, critical habitat was identified to the extent possible, using the best available information, in the species’ recovery strategies. It is anticipated that the protection of the species’ critical habitat from destruction will be accomplished through a SARA Critical Habitat Order made under Subsections 58(4) and (5), which will invoke the prohibition in Subsection 58(1) against the destruction of the identified critical habitat (Section 2.3).

Recovery measures that have been outlined in this document to implement the recovery strategies fall under four categories: Research, Monitoring, Management and Regulatory Actions, and Education and Outreach. An implementation schedule has been developed that prioritizes these recovery actions and identifies activities that can be led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and those that can be undertaken by other agencies, organizations or individuals.

An evaluation of the socio-economic costs of the Action Plan and the benefits to be derived from its implementation is provided in Section 3.

1. Recovery actions

1.1 Context and scope of the action plan

This action plan addresses two species found in the Milk River and St. Mary River drainage basins, Alberta, and follows a multi-species approach to protect and maintain self-sustaining populations of both species. In Alberta, the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) (Cottus sp.) is found in the St. Mary River drainage and the Milk River drainage and the Western Silvery Minnow (Hybognathus argyritis) is found in the Milk River. Both species face similar threats and share the same overall recovery goal. In time, the scope of the action plan may be updated to include other species within the two drainage basins, if they become listed as ‘at risk’ under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Throughout this document the use of drainage basins and river system is used to describe the whole system in which the species’ can be found.

As part of the recovery process, draft action plans were created for the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and the Western Silvery Minnow. Those draft plans have been combined to create this action plan to address recovery as part of a multi-species approach. Both species share similar threats; the most significant threat is a change to the flow regime due to excessive water removal that would result in habitat loss or impairment. Additional threats include pollution, habitat changes exacerbated by climate change and threats posed by exotic or invasive species. Approaches to recovery advocated within this action plan are grouped into four categories: 1) Research, 2) Monitoring, 3) Management and Regulatory Actions, and 4) Education and Outreach.

Under Section 47 of the SARA, the competent minister must prepare one or more action plans based on the recovery strategy. Therefore, action planning for species at risk recovery is an iterative process. The Implementation Schedule in this Action Plan may be modified in the future depending on the progression towards recovery.

1.1.1 Description of the species

Rocky Mountain Sculpin

The Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) in Alberta has previously been referred to as either the Eastslope Sculpin or the St. Mary Sculpin (COSEWIC 2005). It was listed as Threatened under SARA in 2006. This Action Plan is part of a series of documents regarding the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations), including the  COSEWIC Status Report (COSEWIC 2005), the Science Advisory Report from the Recovery Potential Assessment (RPA) (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2013a) (PDF 354.27 KB) and the Recovery Strategy (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2012) (PDF 1.16 MB) that should be taken into consideration together. The recovery strategy provides background information on the species and its threats and critical habitat information.

The Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) is a small, bottom dwelling freshwater fish belonging to the predominantly marine sculpin family (Cottidae) and is characterized by a large head and heavy body that tapers towards the tail (Figure 1). These fish are endemic to North America and Canadian populations are generally restricted to reaches of British Columbia’s Flathead River and its tributaries, which is part of the Columbia River system (Westslope populations), as well as to the St. Mary River system upstream of the St. Mary Reservoir and the North Milk and Milk rivers in southern Alberta (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2012) (Figure 2).   Its taxonomic relationship to other sculpin species is uncertain (Young et al. 2013).

Description

Figure 1 is captioned “Rocky Mountain Sculpin.” The figure is a photograph of a Rocky Mountain Sculpin (photo credit D. Watkinson, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Winnipeg).

Figure 1: Rocky Mountain Sculpin (photo credit D. Watkinson, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Winnipeg)

Rocky Mountain Sculpin

Although Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) are locally abundant in cool, clear reaches of the upper St. Mary and Milk River drainage, they are considered “Threatened” under the Species at Risk Act and Alberta’s Wildlife Act. The limited distribution of this fish in Canada makes all populations vulnerable to many threats. Large-scale threats can include alterations to flow regimes, particularly where riverine conditions have been replaced by lake conditions, due to the creation of dams and impoundments. There is no overall population estimate for the species and whether or not it is declining or increasing in abundance is unknown.

Description

Figure 2 is captioned "Location of the Milk and St. Mary river drainage basins in Alberta (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2012).” It is a map of the Milk and St. Mary river drainage basins in southern Alberta and northern Montana. An inset at the top left of the map shows the geographical location of this map on a larger scale map The drainage basins are outlined in purple and are coloured blue for the St. Mary River basin, and yellow for the Milk River Basin. Both basins extend southward into the U.S. (Montana). The Milk River Basin also extends east into Saskatchewan. A legend and scale is provided. Major watercourses, cities and First Nation lands are shown on the map.

Technical details for the map are as follows: Base Data provided by Spatial Data Warehouse Ltd. Montana data provided by Montana Department of Transportation; Montana DEM provided byt U.S. Geological Survey; Produced by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Prairies Area, Resource Information Unit, Lethbridge, January 2008. The Minister and the Crown provides this information without warranty or representation as to any matter including but not limited to whether the data/information is correct, accurate or free from error, defect, danger, or hazard and whether it is otherwise useful or suitable for any use the use may make of it. © Government of Alberta. The bottom right hand corner of the map bears the logo of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

Figure 2: Location of the Milk and St. Mary river drainage basins in Alberta (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2012)

distribution map

Western Silvery Minnow

The Western Silvery Minnow (Hybognathus argyritis) was listed as Threatened under SARA in 2003. This Action Plan is part of a series of documents regarding Western Silvery Minnow, including the COSEWIC Status Report (COSEWIC 2008), the Science Advisory Report from the Recovery Potential Assessment (RPA) (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2013b) (PDF 356.56 KB) and the Recovery Strategy (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2016); these documents should be taken into consideration together. The recovery strategy provides background information on the species and its threats and critical habitat information.

The Western Silvery Minnowis a small cyprinid species native to Great Plains streams in North America. It has a head characterized by a blunt snout with a subterminal mouth and relatively large eyes (Scott and Crossman 1973) (Figure 3). The presence of the Western Silvery Minnow in Canada was first documented in 1961, in the lower Milk River, Alberta (Figure 2); it has not been verified in any other Canadian river systems since (ASRD 2003). Specimens in Alberta tend to be brownish-yellow on the back with silvery sides (Nelson and Paetz 1992).

Description

Figure 3 is captioned “Western Silvery Minnow.” It is a photograph of a Western Silvery Minnow (Photo Credit: Karen Scott, Fisheries and Oceans Canada).

Figure 3: Western Silvery Minnow (Photo Credit: Karen Scott, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Western Silvery Minnow

There is very little historical information on the Western Silvery Minnow in the Milk River, but this fish may have persisted without significant changes in abundance or range since it was first observed in Alberta (ASRD 2003). Natural rarity in terms of both distribution and abundance in Canada makes the minnow vulnerable to extirpation and therefore it requires protection (MRFSRT 2008). Key threats to Western Silvery Minnow populations are habitat loss and degradation due to water management regimes (COSEWIC 2008). Little information exists on population size or trends although it is abundant in recent surveys (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2016).

1.1.2 Multi-species approach to action planning

The goals and objectives of the recovery strategies prepared for the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow are focused on the conservation and maintenance of the existing Alberta populations and their habitat. The respective recovery strategies describe the species and their needs, incorporate a threat based assessment, and outline a broad recovery approach based on the available information. Both species share the same overall recovery strategy goal:

To protect and maintain self-sustaining populations of each species within their current range in the St. Mary and/or Milk river drainage basins in Canada.

Key objectives from the species’ recovery strategies have been paraphrased, and include the following:

  1. Quantify and maintain current population levels of Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow in the St. Mary and Milk river drainage (within the population’s range of natural variation) as determined from standardized surveys;
  2. Refine knowledge of the essential functions, features and attributes of critical habitat for various life stages of the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow, and;
  3. Increase our understanding of how human activities affect Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow survival, so that potential threats to the species can be avoided, mitigated or eliminated.

1.2 Measures to be taken and implementation schedule

Success in the recovery of these species is dependent on the actions of many different jurisdictions; it requires the commitment and cooperation of the constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions and measures set out in this Action Plan.

This Action Plan provides a description of the measures that provide the best chance of achieving the population and distribution objectives for the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow, including measures to be taken to address threats to the species and monitor the recovery, to guide not only activities to be undertaken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, but those for which other jurisdictions, organizations and individuals have a role to play. As new information becomes available, these measures and the priority of these measures may change. Fisheries and Oceans Canada strongly encourages all Canadians to participate in the conservation of the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow through undertaking measures outlined in this action plan. Fisheries and Oceans Canada recognizes the important role of the Milk River Fish Species at Risk recovery team and its member organizations and agencies in the implementation of measures for these species.

Table 1 identifies the measures to be undertaken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to support the recovery of the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow.

Table 2 identifies the measures to be undertaken collaboratively between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and its partners, other agencies, organizations or individuals. Implementation of these measures will be dependent on a collaborative approach, in which Fisheries and Oceans Canada is a partner in recovery efforts, but cannot implement the measures alone. As all Canadians are invited to join in supporting and implementing this Action Plan, Table 3 identifies the remaining measures that represent opportunities for other jurisdictions, organizations or individuals to lead for the recovery of the species. If your organization is interested in participating in one of these measures, please email the Species at Risk Central and Arctic Region office or telephone at 1-866-532-1609.

Implementation of this action plan is subject to appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.

Description

Table 1 is captioned “Measures to be undertaken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. ” This table identifies the measures to be undertaken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to support the recovery of the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow.

There are five columns and twelve rows. The first row is column headings. Reading from left to right the columns are: Number (#); Recovery Measures; Priority; Threats or Objective Addressed; and, Timeline. Priority is ranked High, Medium, Low, and is defined in a footnote as reflecting …” the degree to which the measure contributes directly to the recovery of the species or is an essential precursor to a measure that contributes to the recovery of the species:

  • "High" priority measures are considered likely to have an immediate and/or direct influence on the recovery of the species.
  • "Medium" priority measures are important but considered to have an indirect or less immediate influence on the recovery of the species.
  • "Low" priority measures are considered important contributions to the knowledge base about the species and mitigation of threats.

The table has been organized into three Broad Strategies (1 Monitoring; 2 - Research; 3 - Education and Outreach). For each Broad Strategy, Approaches are listed, under which the numbered Recovery Measures are presented. Row 1 in the following description is the row immediately following the captions. The table is read by row. Reading the rows across, left to right:

Row 1 is Broad Strategy 1: Monitoring. This row extends the width of the table. One Approach (Population and Habitat Monitoring) is listed under this Broad Strategy. Row 2 is Approach: Population and Habitat Monitoring. This row extends the width of the table. The next two rows (Row 3 and Row 4) present the recovery measures for this Approach. Row 3 is #, 1; Recovery Measures, Conduct regular surveys to track availability, location and persistence of key spawning, rearing and overwintering habitat locations for each species, during the appropriate season; Priority, High; Threats or Objective addressed, Objective 1 - Quantify and maintain current population levels with the populations’ range of natural variation, as measured by relative abundance determined from a standardized survey program. Threats - Habitat loss/degradation, exotic or invasive species, pollution; Timeline, 2017-2021. Row 4 is #, 2; Recovery Measures, Monitor relative abundance (catch rate and percent species composition) and presence/absence at selected index sites on a regular basis using similar methodologies during each sampling period. For Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations), this work should be conducted in the fall post-augmentation when fish are visible and water levels permit sampling. Incorporate water quality and quantity monitoring into the program. The remaining columns for this Recovery Measure are the same as for Recovery Measure #1 (Row 3) and read as follows: Priority, High; Threats or Objective addressed, Objective 1 - Quantify and maintain current population levels with the populations’ range of natural variation, as measured by relative abundance determined from a standardized survey program. Threats - Habitat loss/degradation, exotic or invasive species, pollution; Timeline, 2017-2021. Row 5 is Broad Strategy 2: Research. This row extends the width of the table. One Approach (Clarify life history and habitat requirements) is listed under this Broad Strategy. Row 6 is Approach: Clarify life history and habitat requirements. This row extends the width of the table. The next two rows (Row 7 and Row 8) present the recovery measures for this Approach. Row 7 is #, 3; Recovery Measures, Conduct studies to refine what is known about habitat use by life stage of the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow. Studies should focus on the reproductive strategy of adults, specific habitat needs for early life-stages and overwintering requirements; Priority, High; Threats or Objective addressed, Objective 2 - Refine knowledge of the essential functions, features and attributes of critical habitat for various life stages of the species; Timeline, 2017-2021. Row 8 is #, 4; Recovery Measures, Conduct studies to determine the extent of seasonal movement for both species, with a focus on spawning and overwintering; Priority, Medium; Threats or Objective addressed, Objective 2 - Refine knowledge of the essential functions, features and attributes of critical habitat for various life stages of the species; Timeline, 2018-2020. Row 9 is Broad Strategy 3: Education and Outreach. This row extends the width of the table. One Approach (Improve awareness of the species) is listed under this Broad Strategy. Row 10 is Approach: Improve awareness of the species. This row extends the width of the table. The next row (Row 11) presents the recovery measures for this Approach. Row 11 is #, 5; Recovery Measures, Develop public information pamphlets/ riverbank signage for both species and promote public involvement in stewardship; Priority, Medium; Threats or Objective addressed, Threats - Habitat loss/degradation; Timeline, 2017-2021.

Table 1. Measures to be undertaken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
#Recovery MeasuresPriority1Threats or objectives addressedTimeline
Broad Strategy 1: Monitoring
Approach: Population and Habitat Monitoring
1Conduct regular surveys to track availability, location and persistence of key spawning, rearing and overwintering habitat locations for each species, during the appropriate season.HighObjective 1: Quantify and maintain current population levels with the populations’ range of natural variation, as measured by relative abundance determined from a standardized survey program.

Threats: Habitat loss/degradation, exotic or invasive species, pollution            
2017-2021
2Monitor relative abundance (catch rate and percent species composition) and presence/absence at selected index sites on a regular basis using similar methodologies during each sampling period. For Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations), this work should be conducted in the fall post-augmentation when fish are visible and water levels permit sampling. Incorporate water quality and quantity monitoring into the program.
Broad Strategy 2: Research
Approach: Clarify life history and habitat requirements
3Conduct studies to refine what is known about habitat use by life stage of the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow. Studies should focus on the reproductive strategy of adults, specific habitat needs for early life-stages and overwintering requirements.  HighObjective 2: Refine knowledge of the essential functions, features and attributes of critical habitat for various life stages of the species.2017-2021
4Conduct studies to determine the extent of seasonal movement for both species, with a focus on spawning and overwintering.MediumObjective 2: Refine knowledge of the essential functions, features and attributes of critical habitat for various life stages of the species.2018-2020
Broad Strategy 3: Education and Outreach
Approach: Improve awareness of the species
5Develop public information pamphlets/ riverbank signage for both species and promote public involvement in stewardship.MediumThreats: Habitat loss/degradation2017-2021
Description

Table 2 is captioned “Measures to be undertaken collaboratively between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and its partners.” This table identifies the measures to be undertaken collaboratively between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and its partners, other agencies, organizations and individuals.

There are six columns and seventeen rows. The first row is column headings. Reading from left to right the columns are: Number (#); Recovery Measures; Priority; Threats or Objective Addressed; Timeline (short, medium, or long-term); and Partner(s). Priority is ranked High, Medium, Low.

The table has been organized into two Broad Strategies (1 – Management and Regulatory Actions; and, 3 - Education and Outreach). For each Broad Strategy, Approaches are listed, under which the numbered Recovery Measures are presented. Row 1 in the following description is the row immediately following the captions. The table is read by row. Reading the rows across, left to right: Row 1 is Broad Strategy 1: Management and Regulatory Actions. This row extends the width of the table. Five Approaches are listed under this Broad Strategy (Develop Impact Mitigation; Stocking Program Rationalization and Discourage Species Introductions; Water Management and Conservation; International Cooperation; and, Data Conservation). Row 2 is Approach: Develop Impact Mitigation. This row extends the width of the table. The next row (Row 3) presents the recovery measures for this Approach. Row 3 is #, 1; Recovery Measures, Ensure that all proposals for instream activities in the St. Mary and Milk River drainage basins (in particular canal maintenance and changes in canal capacity) consider potential effects on the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow and their habitat and focus on the elimination or mitigation of adverse impacts on the species; Priority, High; Threats or Objective addressed, Threats- Habitat loss/ degradation, exotic or invasive species; Timeline, Long term; Partner(s), Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP), Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Row 4 is Approach: Stocking Program Rationalization and Discourage Species Introductions. This row extends the width of the table. The next row (Row 5) presents the recovery measures for this Approach. Row 5 is #, 2; Recovery Measures, Ensure that stocking programs consider potential impacts to Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow from introduced predators and competitors; Priority, High; Threats or Objective addressed, Threats - Habitat loss/ degradation, species introductions; Timeline, Long term; Partner(s), AEP, DFO. Row 6 is Approach: Water Management and Conservation. This row extends the width of the table. The next row (Row 7) presents the recovery measures for this Approach. Row 7 is #, 3; Recovery Measures, Ensure that a rationalization be provided for temporary diversion licenses during non-augmentation period; Priority, High; Threats or Objective addressed, Threats - Habitat loss/ degradation; Timeline, Long term; Partner(s), AEP, DFO. Row 8 is Approach: International Cooperation. This row extends the width of the table. The next row (Row 9) presents the recovery measures for this Approach. Row 9 is #, 4; Recovery Measures, Work with United States agencies to avoid unscheduled flow interruptions in the North Milk and Milk rivers during flow augmentation; Priority, Medium; Threats or Objective addressed, Threats - Habitat loss/ degradation; Timeline, Long term; Partner(s), United States, DFO, Environment Canada (EC), AEP. Row 10 is Approach: Data Conservation. This row extends the width of the table. The next row (Row 11) presents the recovery measures for this Approach. Row 11 is #, 5; Recovery Measures, Ensure that all samples and information are appropriately preserved and archived within known repositories for future studies; Priority, Medium; Threats or Objective addressed, Objective 2 - Refine knowledge of the essential functions, features and attributes of critical habitat for various life stages of the species; Timeline, Long term; Partner(s), AEP, DFO and Universities. Row 12 is Broad Strategy 3: Education and Outreach. This row extends the width of the table. Two Approaches are listed under this Broad Strategy (Encourage Stakeholder Participation; and, Improve Awareness of the Species). Row 13 is Approach: Encourage Stakeholder Participation. This row extends the width of the table. The next row (Row 14) presents the recovery measures for this Approach. Row 14 is #, 6; Recovery Measures, Encourage the active exclusion of livestock from the watercourse to reduce erosion, nutrient and sediment inputs; Priority, Medium; Threats or Objective addressed, Threat - Habitat loss or degradation, pollution; Timeline, Long term; Partner(s), The Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society (Cows and Fish), AEP. Row 15 is Approach: Improve Awareness of the Species. This row extends the width of the table. The next row (Row 16) presents the recovery measures for this Approach. Row 16 is #, 7; Recovery Measures, Increase knowledge of the species’ and their critical habitat and the stewardship options and financial assistance available to participate in activities; Priority, Medium; Threats or Objective addressed, Objective 3 - To increase our understanding of how human activities affect Rocky Mountain Sculpin and Western Silvery Minnow survival, so that the potential threats to the species can be avoided, eliminated or mitigated; Timeline, Long term; Partner(s), AEP, DFO, conservation and stewardship groups and municipalities.

Table 2. Measures to be undertaken collaboratively between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and its partners
#Recovery MeasuresPriorityThreats or objectives addressedTimeline (short, medium or long term)Partner(s)
Broad Strategy 1: Management and Regulatory Actions
Approach: Develop Impact Mitigation
1Ensure that all proposals for instream activities in the St. Mary and Milk River drainage basins (in particular canal maintenance and changes in canal capacity) consider potential effects on the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow and their habitat and focus on the elimination or mitigation of adverse impacts on the species.HighThreats: Habitat loss/ degradation, exotic or invasive speciesLong termAlberta Environment and Parks (AEP), Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)
Approach: Stocking Program Rationalization and Discourage Species Introductions
2Ensure that stocking programs consider potential impacts to Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow from introduced predators and competitors.HighThreats: Habitat loss/ degradation, species introductionsLong termAEP, DFO
Approach: Water Management and Conservation
3Ensure that a rationalization be provided for temporary diversion licenses during non-augmentation periods.HighThreats: Habitat loss/ degradationLong termAEP, DFO
Approach: International Cooperation
4Work with United States agencies to avoid unscheduled flow interruptions in the North Milk and Milk rivers during flow augmentation.MediumThreats: Habitat loss/degradationLong termUnited States, DFO, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), AEP
Approach: Data Conservation
5Ensure that all samples and information are appropriately preserved and archived within known repositories for future studies.MediumObjective 2: Refine knowledge of the essential functions, features and attributes of critical habitat for various life stages of the speciesLong termAEP, DFO and Universities
Broad Strategy 3: Education and Outreach
Approach: Encourage Stakeholder Participation
6Encourage the active exclusion of livestock from the watercourse to reduce erosion, nutrient and sediment inputs.MediumThreat: Habitat loss/ degradation, pollutionLong termThe Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society (Cows and Fish), AEP
Approach: Improve Awareness of the Species
7Increase knowledge of the species and their critical habitat and the stewardship options and financial assistance available to participate in activities.MediumObjective 3: To increase our understanding of how human activities affect Rocky Mountain Sculpin and Western Silvery Minnow survival, so that the potential threats to the species can be avoided, eliminated or mitigated.Long termAEP, DFO, conservation and stewardship groups and municipalities
Description

Table 3 is captioned “Measures that represent opportunities for other jurisdictions, organizations or individuals to lead.” This table identifies the remaining measures that represent opportunities for other jurisdictions, groups or individuals interested to lead for the recovery of the species.

There are five columns and twenty-one rows. The first row is column headings. Reading from left to right the columns are: Number (#); Recovery Measures; Priority; Threats or Objective Addressed; Suggested Other Jurisdictions or Organizations.

The table has been organized into four Broad Strategies (1 – Monitoring; 2 – Research; 3 - Education and Outreach; and, 4 – Management and Regulatory Actions). For each Broad Strategy, Approaches are listed, under which the numbered Recovery Measures are presented. Row 1 in the following description is the row immediately following the captions. The table is read by row. Reading the rows across, left to right:

Row 1 is Broad Strategy 1: Monitoring. This row extends the width of the table. One Approach (Habitat Monitoring) is listed under this Broad Strategy. Row 2 is Approach: Habitat Monitoring. This row extends the width of the table. The next four rows (Row 3 to Row 6) present the recovery measures for this Approach. Row 3 is #, 1; Recovery Measures, Continue monthly long term water quality monitoring on the Milk River. Discrete samples are taken year round to track conditions in the Milk River (e.g. temperature, salinity, nutrient loading, total suspended solids, and dissolved oxygen in winter months); Priority, High; Threats or Objective addressed, Threats - Habitat loss/ degradation, climate change, anoxia; Suggested Other Jurisdictions or Organizations, Alberta Environment and Parks. Row 4 is #, 2; Recovery Measures, Continue long term water quality monitoring at various locations along the Milk River and tributaries. Samples are taken from April to October and will be used to establish a baseline and track trends (e.g. nutrient loading, salinity and sediment); Priority, High; Threats or Objective addressed, Threats - Habitat loss/ degradation, climate change, anoxia; Suggested Other Jurisdictions or Organizations, Milk River Watershed Council of Canada (MRWCC). Row 5 is #, 3; Recovery Measures, Continue long term water quality monitoring on the Milk River near the Canada – United States border (two sites) and on the North Milk River near the Canada – United States border. Samples are taken monthly on an annual basis and analyzed for: total suspended solids, turbidity, carbon, ammonia, nitrate, nitrogen dioxide, total dissolved nitrogen, total phosphorus and soluble reactive phosphorus, particulate organic carbon and nitrogen, cations (calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, silicon), anions (chlorine, fluorine, sulfate), secretion-associated ras-related (SAR1), alkalinity, pH, conductivity, metals (total recoverable and dissolved); Priority, High; Threats or Objective addressed, Threats - Habitat loss/ degradation, climate change, anoxia; Suggested Other Jurisdictions or Organizations, Environment Canada. Row 6 is #, 4; Recovery Measures, Track availability, location and permanency of key habitat and encourage stewardship activities in these areas; Priority, High; Threats or Objective addressed, Threats - Habitat loss/ degradation; Suggested Other Jurisdictions or Organizations, Seeking partners. Row 7 is Broad Strategy 2: Research. This row extends the width of the table. Two Approaches (Clarify Habitat Requirements; and, Identify limiting factors) are listed under this Broad Strategy. Row 8 is Approach: Clarify Habitat Requirements. This row extends the width of the table. The next three rows (Row 9 to Row 11) present the recovery measures for this Approach. Row 9 is #, 5; Recovery Measures, Evaluate winter survival rates and likelihood and probable effect of fall stranding; Priority, High; Threats or Objective addressed, Threats - Habitat loss/ degradation, climate change, anoxia; Suggested Other Jurisdictions or Organizations, MRWCC. Row 10 is #, 6; Recovery Measures, Evaluate interspecific interactions including predation and competition; Priority, Low; Threats or Objective addressed, Threats - Species introductions, Objective 3 - To increase our understanding of how human activities affect Rocky Mountain Sculpin and Western Silvery Minnow survival, so that the potential threats to the species can be avoided, eliminated or mitigated; Suggested Other Jurisdictions or Organizations, Seeking partners. Row 11 is #, 7; Recovery Measures, Evaluate the effects of changes in turbidity on the species; Priority, Low; Threats or Objective addressed, Threats - Habitat loss/degradation, Objective 3 - To increase our understanding of how human activities affect Rocky Mountain Sculpin and Western Silvery Minnow survival, so that the potential threats to the species can be avoided, eliminated or mitigated; Suggested Other Jurisdictions or Organizations, Seeking partners. Row 12 is Approach: Identify Limiting Factors. This row extends the width of the table. The next row (Row 13) presents the recovery measures for this Approach.

Read the remainder of the table by row.

Table 3. Measures that represent opportunities for other jurisdictions, organizations or individuals to lead
#Recovery measuresPriorityThreats or objectives addressedSuggested other jurisdictions or organizations
Broad Strategy 1: Monitoring
Approach: Habitat Monitoring 
1Continue monthly long term water quality monitoring on the Milk River. Discrete samples are taken year round to track conditions in the Milk River (e.g. temperature, salinity, nutrient loading, total suspended solids, and dissolved oxygen in winter months). HighThreats: Habitat loss/ degradation, climate change, anoxiaAlberta Environment and Parks 
2Continue long term water quality monitoring at various locations along the Milk River and tributaries. Samples are taken from April to October and will be used to establish a baseline and track trends (e.g. nutrient loading, salinity and sediment).HighThreats: Habitat loss/ degradation, climate change, anoxiaMilk River Watershed Council of Canada (MRWCC)
3Continue long term water quality monitoring on the Milk River near the Canada – United States border (two sites) and on the North Milk River near the Canada – United States border. Samples are taken monthly on an annual basis and analyzed for: total suspended solids, turbidity, carbon, ammonia, nitrate, nitrogen dioxide, total dissolved nitrogen, total phosphorus and soluble reactive phosphorus, particulate organic carbon and nitrogen, cations (calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, silicon), anions (chlorine, fluorine, sulfate), secretion-associated ras-related(SAR1), alkalinity, pH, conductivity, metals (total recoverable and dissolved).HighThreats: Habitat loss/ degradation, climate change, anoxiaECCC
4Track availability, location and permanency of key habitat and encourage stewardship activities in these areas.HighThreats: Habitat loss/degradationSeeking partners
Broad Strategy 2: Research
Approach: Clarify Habitat Requirements
5Evaluate winter survival rates and likelihood and probable effect of fall stranding.HighThreats: Habitat loss/ degradation, climate change, anoxiaMRWCC
6Evaluate interspecific interactions including predation and competition.LowThreats: Species introductions

Objective 3: To increase our understanding of how human activities affect Rocky Mountain Sculpin and Western Silvery Minnow survival, so that the potential threats to the species can be avoided, eliminated or mitigated.
Seeking partners
7Evaluate the effects of changes in turbidity on the species.LowThreats: Habitat loss/degradation

Objective 3: To increase our understanding of how human activities affect Rocky Mountain Sculpin and Western Silvery Minnow survival, so that the potential threats to the species can be avoided, eliminated or mitigated.
Seeking partners
Approach: Identify limiting factors
8Study changes in river morphology associated with changes in flow.LowThreats: Habitat loss/degradation (changes in flow)

Objective 3: To increase our understanding of how human activities affect Rocky Mountain Sculpin and Western Silvery Minnow survival, so that the potential threats to the species can be avoided, eliminated or mitigated.
Seeking partners
Broad Strategy 3: Education and Outreach
Approach: Encourage Stakeholder Participation
9Collaborate with various conservation and stewardship groups.HighThreats: Habitat loss/degradation, pollution, climate change, anoxia, exotic or invasive species

All objectives
Seeking partners
10Increase awareness of the potential impacts of transporting/releasing exotic species as well as the importance of identifying and reporting them.MediumThreats: Habitat loss/degradation, species introductionsSeeking partners
Broad Strategy 4: Management and Regulatory Actions
Approach: Water management and conservation
11Promote development of water conservation plans.MediumObjective 2: Refine knowledge of the essential functions, features and attributes of critical habitat for various life stages of the species.Seeking partners

2. Critical habitat

2.1 Identification of the species’ critical habitat

2.1.1 General description of the species’ critical habitat

Critical habitat is defined in SARA 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 a recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species.” [s. 2(1)]

Also, SARA defines habitat for aquatic species as “… spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply, migration and any other areas on which aquatic species depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes, or areas where aquatic species formerly occurred and have the potential to be reintroduced.” [s. 2(1)]

Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations)

Critical habitat for Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) was identified to the extent possible in section 7.1 of the Recovery Strategy (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2012). The critical habitat was deemed sufficient to meet population and distribution objectives that were identified in section 5 of the recovery strategy (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2012). The Recovery Strategy also contains details about the identified critical habitat including geographic location and biophysical functions, features and attributes.

Western Silvery Minnow

Critical habitat for Western Silvery Minnow was identified to the extent possible in section 7.1 of the Recovery Strategy (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2016). The critical habitat was deemed sufficient to meet population and distribution objectives that were identified in section 5 of the recovery strategy (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2016). The Recovery Strategy also contains details about the identified critical habitat including geographic location and biophysical functions, features and attributes.

2.2 Activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat

Within the Canadian watersheds of the St. Mary and Milk rivers, a number of activities have been identified as likely to result in destruction of critical habitat for both Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow.

Activities that are likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat and its attributes include those which cause significant or lasting alterations to flow regimes, a reduction in food sources or fragmentation of identified critical habitats. Examples of activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat for the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope population) and Western Silvery Minnow include, but are not limited to:

  • Activities that result in excessive water withdrawal, such as for irrigation purposes, or remove access to or reduce the quality of habitats to the point where they are not able to provide their critical functions.
  • Activities that result in the point source release of contaminants, such as through the improper use or over application of herbicides or pesticides, could be responsible for periods of anoxia, although non-point pollution may also cause temporary avoidance or unavailability of critical habitats.
  • Activities that result in the trampling or removal of riparian vegetation or contribute to the erosion of stream banks, such as uncontrolled access to shoreline and riparian areas by livestock, destroy critical habitats through infilling. Increased siltation of adult and juvenile habitat.
  • Activities that change flow rates or reduce currents, such as excessive removal of water, canal maintenance or construction of dams/barriers, result in anoxia or fragmentation of habitats, lending to destruction of critical habitat since a continuum of habitats is required for successive life stages of these species.

Examples of activities likely to result in destruction of critical habitat are found in the Recovery Strategy for the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) in Canada (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2012) and the Recovery Strategy for the Western Silvery Minnow in Canada (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2016).

2.3 Proposed measures to protect critical habitat

Under SARA, critical habitat must be legally protected from destruction within 180 days of being identified in a recovery strategy or action plan. For the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) and Western Silvery Minnow critical habitat, it is anticipated that this will be accomplished through a SARA Critical Habitat Order made under subsections 58(4) and (5), which will invoke the prohibition in subsection 58(1) against the destruction of the identified critical habitat.

3. Evaluation of socio-economic costs and of benefits

The Species At Risk Act requires that an action plan include an evaluation of the socio-economic costs of the action plan and the benefits to be derived from its implementation (SARA 49(1)(e), 2003). This evaluation addresses only the incremental socio-economic costs of implementing this action plan from a national perspective as well as the social and environmental benefits that would occur if the action plan were implemented in its entirety, recognizing that not all aspects of its implementation are under the jurisdiction of the federal government. It does not address cumulative costs of species recovery in general nor does it attempt a cost-benefit analysis. Its intent is to inform the public and to guide decision making on implementation of the action plan by partners.

The protection and recovery of species at risk can result in both benefits and costs. The Act recognizes that “wildlife, in all its forms, has value in and of itself and is valued by Canadians for aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, recreational, educational, historical, economic, medical, ecological and scientific reasons” (SARA 2003). Self-sustaining and healthy ecosystems with their various elements in place, including species at risk, contribute positively to the livelihoods and the quality of life of all Canadians. A review of the literature confirms that Canadians value the preservation and conservation of species in and of themselves. Actions taken to preserve a species, such as habitat protection and restoration, are also valued. In addition, the more an action contributes to the recovery of a species, the higher the value the public places on such actions (Loomis and White, 1996; Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2008). Furthermore, the conservation of species at risk is an important component of the Government of Canada’s commitment to conserving biological diversity under the International Convention on Biological Diversity. The Government of Canada has also made a commitment to protect and recover species at risk through the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. The specific costs and benefits associated with this action plan are described below.

This evaluation does not address the socio-economic impacts of protecting critical habitat for the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) or the Western Silvery Minnow. Under the Species at Risk Act, DFO must ensure that critical habitat identified in a recovery strategy or action plan is legally protected within 180 days of the final posting of the recovery strategy or action plan. Where an Order will be used for critical habitat protection, the development of the SARA Critical Habitat Order will follow a regulatory process in compliance with the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management, including an analysis of any potential incremental impacts of the Critical Habitat Order that will be included in the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement. As a consequence, no additional analysis of the critical habitat protection has been undertaken for the assessment of costs and benefits of the Action Plan.

3.1 Policy baseline

The policy baseline consists of the protection under the Species at Risk Act for these species, along with protection under the federal Fisheries Act2and Alberta’s Wildlife Act3. Alberta also has Codes of Practice under the provincial Water Act which set out standards and conditions to be met to ensure an activity minimizes the disturbance and impact on the environment when undertaking or conducting the activities governed by the Codes. These Codes include mitigation for preventing impacts to fish in general.

The policy baseline also includes recovery measures that were implemented prior to and after the species were listed.These recovery measures include projects and research undertaken by various groups such as the Milk River Watershed Council Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Cardston County, County of Warner, County of Forty Mile, Alberta Environment, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development - Water Resources Branch, and the Poesch Lab, among others. Examples of some research projects include a State of the Watershed Report, a study of erosion and sedimentation on the Milk River, a groundwater study, a water quality monitoring program, a private irrigators pilot project, a project focused on identifying movement potential and habitat suitability for the threatened Western Silvery Minnow, and a project on assessing the impacts of hydrologic alteration on Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) (MRWCC 2013; PoeschLab 2013).

3.2 Socio-economic profile and baseline

The St. Mary and Milk river watersheds are shared between Canada and the United States and are subject to provisions in the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 (the Treaty) between Canada and the United States. The Treaty is administered by the International Joint Commission and the Treaty itself provides the principles and mechanisms to resolve disputes concerning shared waters. Both the Milk and St. Mary river watersheds were historically, and are currently intensively managed for agricultural purposes (largely irrigation of crops).

In 1921 an order was made by the International Joint Commission defining the apportionment of the waters in the St. Mary and Milk river watersheds. This order potentially restricts the types and scale of activities that could occur within the watersheds of the St. Mary and Milk rivers.

The waters in the Milk and St. Mary rivers are intensively managed for irrigation use both in Canada and the United States. Both the St. Mary and Milk river watersheds include lowlands that are viable for agriculture, particularly when irrigated. Land use practices that may impair fish habitat do not appear significant in the St. Mary River drainage in either Montana or Alberta. The Milk River flows within the confines of a defined valley with limited road access. The surrounding land is semi-arid, short grass prairie that is used primarily for cattle grazing. The Town of Milk River is one of the few communities in the Milk River watershed. The Milk River has been severely impacted by changes in its seasonal flow regimes and under severe drought conditions the lower Milk River can be reduced to a series of isolated pools until spring.

3.3 Socio-economic costs of implementing this Action Plan

A multi-species Action Plan that addresses more than one species is a more cost-effective approach than multiple, single-species implementation approaches. A multi-species or watershed approach also addresses issues of scale, recognizing that threats often originate across the landscape in upstream areas of the watershed, and prescribes appropriate and more strategic solutions than could be accomplished with a single-species focus.

The recovery measures are grouped under four broad approaches: research, monitoring, management and regulatory actions, and education and outreach. Some measures are ongoing, whereas others occur once or twice.

Costs would be incurred by the federal government to implement the measures listed in the Action Plan. Costs would also be incurred by partners who choose to participate in the recovery measures. Costs include both financial contributions and/or in-kind costs such as time, expertise and/or equipment. Some measures could be funded from existing federal government resources or annual funding programs such as the Habitat Stewardship Program. Such programs typically require direct or in-kind support costs from applicants as matching funds4.

The most costly recovery measures, studies to identify and characterize habitat use by life stage and studies to determine the extent of seasonal movement, are estimated to cost approximately $70K per year for two years. Annual monitoring costs could be approximately $30K. Other recovery measures are estimated to cost less, ranging from time contributions to financial contributions of up to $30K. The total costs (direct and in-kind) associated with the recovery measures outlined in this action plan are estimated to be low5 over the next five years.  Expenditures beyond five years cannot be determined in great detail as it is expected these activities would be funded through existing annually funded government programs (e.g. Habitat Stewardship Program) where support is determined on a priority basis and based on availability of resources. However, it is expected that long-term costs will continue to be low. Implementation of the recovery measures is subject to appropriations, priorities and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.

3.4 Benefits of implementing this Action Plan

The identified recovery measures contribute to protecting and maintaining self-sustaining populations of Western Silvery Minnow and Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) within their respective current ranges. The benefits of these measures are not quantifiable but would occur over the long-term. In addition to the non-market benefits to Canadians that result from the preservation and conservation of species, the recovery measures may provide broader long-term benefits.

Research activities that contribute to the knowledge of the species and the quality of the habitat would assist in protecting and recovering the target species and would also contribute to the body of knowledge on all species in the ecosystem. Increased knowledge of the species and its habitat, particularly studies that refine critical habitat identification, would contribute to protecting and maintaining the species, and to protecting habitat for other species in the ecosystem.

Public education and outreach would develop interest in species at risk and may lead to increased public participation in recovery measures. Promoting the development and implementation of water conservation plans, encouraging the provision of rationalizations for temporary diversion licenses during non-augmentation periods, and working with the United States agencies to avoid unscheduled flow interruptions in the North Milk and Milk rivers during flow augmentation may lead to improved management of water resources and maintenance of water flow and levels that would benefit the ecosystem and the resident species. Ensuring that stocking programs consider potential impacts to species at risk would benefit both the species and the habitat. Encouraging the active exclusion of livestock from the watercourse may also have positive impacts on the habitat.

3.5 Distributional impacts

The federal and provincial governments will incur the majority of costs of implementing the Action Plan6. Partners who choose to participate in recovery measures will also incur costs.

The Canadian public will benefit from the implementation of the Action Plan through the protection and maintenance of Western Silvery Minnow and Rocky Mountain Sculpin populations, through the protection of the ecosystem, through the maintenance of biodiversity in Canada and through increased scientific knowledge.

4. Measuring progress

The performance indicators presented in the associated recovery strategies provide a way to define and measure progress toward achieving the population and distribution objectives.

Reporting on implementation of the action plan (under s. 55 of SARA) will be done by assessing progress towards implementing the broad strategies.

Reporting on the ecological and socio-economic impacts of the action plan (under s. 55 of SARA) will be done by assessing the results of monitoring the recovery of the species and its long term viability, and by assessing the implementation of the action plan.

5. References

  • Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. 1996. Species at Risk Registry: Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.
  • AEP 2011. Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens). Alberta Environment and Parks-Lake Sturgeon (en anglais seulement). Accessed September 13, 2013.
  • Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD). 2003. Status of the western silvery minnow (Hybognathus argyritis) in Alberta. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Fish and Wildlife Division, and Alberta Conservation Association, Wildlife Status Report No. 47. Edmonton, AB. 24 pp.
  • Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD). 2004. Status of the St. Mary shorthead sculpin (provisionally called Cottus bairdi punctulatus) in Alberta. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Fish and Wildlife Division, and Alberta Conservation Association, Wildlife Status Report No. 51, Edmonton, AB. 24 pp.
  • COSEWIC 2005. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the "eastslope" sculpin (St. Mary and Milk River population) Cottus sp. in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vi + 30 pp.
  • COSEWIC. 2008. COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the western silvery minnow Hybognathus argyritis in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vii + 38 pp.
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada. 2009. Species At Risk Act Policies (Draft) (PDF 644.27 KB). Overarching policy framework [DRAFT]. Species at Risk Act Policy and Guidelines Series. Environment and Climate Canada, Ottawa. ii + 38 pp.
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 2008.  Estimation of the Economic Benefits of Marine Mammal Recovery in the St. Lawrence Estuary.  Policy and Economics Regional Branch, Quebec 2008.
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2012. Recovery strategy for the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.), Eastslope populations, in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. x + 57 pp.
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2013a. Recovery Potential Assessment of Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.), Eastslope Populations, in Alberta. DFO Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat Science Advisory Report 2013/046. 18 pp.
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2013b. Recovery Potential Assessment of Western Silvery Minnow (Hybognathus argyritis) in Canada. DFO Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat Science Advisory Report 2013/063. 15 pp.
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2016. Amended recovery strategy for the Western Silvery Minnow (Hybognathus argyritis) in Canada [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. viii + 45 pp.
  • Loomis, J.B. & White, D.S (1996). Economic Benefits of Rare and Endangered Species: Summary and Meta-analysis. Ecological Economics, 18: 197-206.
  • Milk River Fish Species at Risk Recovery Team (MRFSRT). 2008. Recovery strategy for the western silvery minnow (Hybognathus argyritis) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. viii + 42 pp.
  • Nelson, J.S. and M.J. Paetz. 1992. The fishes of Alberta. Second Edition. The University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 437 p.
  • Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater fishes of Canada. Fish. Res. Board Can. Bull. 184: xi + 966 p.
  • Young, M.K., McKelvey, K.S.,  Pilgrim, K.L., Schwartz, M.K. 2013. DNA barcoding at riverscape scales: assessing biodiversity among fishes of the genus Cottus (Teleostei) in northern Rocky Mountain streams. Molecular Ecology Resources 13: 583-595.

Appendix A: Effects on the environment and other species

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (2010), SARA recovery planning documents incorporate strategic environmental assessment (SEA) considerations throughout the document. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making and to evaluate whether the outcomes of a recovery planning document could affect any component of the environment or achievement of any of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy’s goals and targets.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts upon non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the Action Plan itself, but are also summarized below in this statement.

The potential for this action plan to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on the environment and other species was considered. Given that the recommended activities in this plan are primarily limited to non-intrusive activities such as population surveys and monitoring or are concerned with maintaining water quality and flow, it may be concluded that this action plan will have no significant negative direct effects on existing populations of native plants or vertebrates and may actually help other species that might be considered at risk within the St. Mary and Milk River drainages.

Appendix B: Record of cooperation and consultation

Action plans are to be prepared in cooperation and consultation with other jurisdictions, organizations, affected parties and others as outlined in SARA section 48. DFO utilized a recovery team to seek input to the development of this Action Plan. Information on participation is included below.

Milk River Species at Risk Recovery Team
Member / AttendeeAffiliation
Roy AudetMilk River Ranchers’ Association
Mike BryskiAlberta Environment and Parks
Warren CunninghamCounty of Warner and Milk River Watershed Council of Canada
Lori GoaterSouthern Alberta Environmental Group
Ken MillerMilk River Watershed Council of Canada
Shane Petry (co-chair)Alberta Environment and Parks
Ashley Gillespie (co-chair)Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Richard QuinlanAlberta Environment and Parks
Doug WatkinsonFisheries and Oceans Canada

Additional stakeholder, Aboriginal, and public input will be sought through the publication of the proposed document on the Species at Risk Public Registry for a 60-day public comment period. Comments received will inform the final document.


1 “Priority” reflects the degree to which the measure contributes directly to the recovery of the species or is an essential precursor to a measure that contributes to the recovery of the species:

  • "High" priority measures are considered likely to have an immediate and/or direct influence on the recovery of the species.
  • "Medium" priority measures are important but considered to have an indirect or less immediate influence on the recovery of the species.
  • "Low" priority measures are considered important contributions to the knowledge base about the species and mitigation of threats.

2 In 2012, amendments to the Fisheries Act were passed into law. Some of these amendments came into force on June 29, 2012 upon Royal Assent, while others will come into force only when Cabinet so orders. No date has been determined for this order. The impacts associated with this Action Plan could be affected by these Fisheries Act amendments at the time they come into force.

3 Protective regulations under this Act that apply to fish species are under development (AEP 2011).

4 For example, matching funds for the Habitat Stewardship Program can come from landowners and/or provincial funding programs. This helps leverage additional support for recovery actions.

5 Low costs are defined as less than $1 million annually.

6 Costs to be compliant with prohibitions and requirements resulting from listing or orders to protect critical habitat are assessed elsewhere.


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