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Recovery Strategy for the Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus urophasianus) in Canada [Proposed] 2007

Strategic Environmental Assessment Statement

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all Species at Risk Act recovery strategies, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (2004). 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.

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 their intended benefits. Environmental effects, including impacts to non-target species and the environment, were considered during recovery planning. The SEA is incorporated directly into the strategy and also summarized below. 

This Greater Sage-Grouse recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus urophasianus). Species that will benefit from protection of the shrinking sagebrush ecosystems include the endangered Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) and Burrowing Owl (Speotyto cunicularia), the threatened Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus excubitorides) and mormon metalmark (Apodemia mormo), and the Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus), listed as special concern.  This recovery strategy will also have a positive effect on native culture by promoting the recovery of the Greater Sage-Grouse, a living part of native culture.  However, three situations were identified where there is the potential for negative effects.

First, it was determined that a strategy researching the use of fire as a tool to stimulate and revitalize sagebrush communities could lead to activities involving the controlled burning of prairie habitat. This could potentially have a negative impact on other species directly or through disturbance or destruction of their habitat and/or residences. Being aware of other species at risk in the specific area and following best fire management practices would reduce or eliminate any potential negative effects on other species. Any prescribed burning within a national park would require a more detailed environmental assessment under CEAA.

Second, investigations into the impacts of human created water control structures on natural hydrology and the resulting effects on sagebrush could lead to actions involving the alteration of hydrology. Altering the hydrology of an area could have potential negative effects on other plant and animal species directly or through disturbance or destruction of their habitat and/or residences. Any alterations to hydrology should take into account effects on non-target species and may require a more detailed environmental assessment under CEAA.

Third, strategies relating to the protection or increase of silver sagebrush habitat would have a positive effect on all species that share the same habitat as the Greater Sage-Grouse, as discussed above. However, increasing available sagebrush habitat for the Greater Sage-Grouse could potentially have a negative impact on the Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) which requires short vegetation and bare ground. However, the Mountain Plover is a species listed under the SARA and therefore requires a recovery strategy that will address monitoring, research and threats, which may include impacts as a result of increasing sagebrush habitat.

The SEA concluded that this recovery strategy will have many positive effects and not cause any important negative effects, as long as the mitigation measures recommended are implemented. This includes any further assessments of actions identified as a result of research conducted in this recovery strategy, such as burning or altering hydrology within a national park.

Residence  

SARA defines residence as:  “a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating[SARA S2(1)].

Residence descriptions, or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted on the SARA public registry:  http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/plans/residence_e.cfm

Preface

This Recovery Strategy addresses the recovery of the Greater Sage-Grouse, urophasianus subspecies.  In Canada, this species can be found in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan.

This recovery strategy for the Sage-Grouse was developed by the authors for the Parks Canada Agency on behalf of the competent minister (the Minister of the Environment). It was developed in cooperation with a Sage-Grouse working group that met in February, 2006.  Members of that working group consisted of representatives from provincial government wildlife and land management agencies, land managers, conservation organizations, industry, academia, Parks Canada, Environment Canada, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Appendix A).

A Greater Sage-Grouse recovery team was established in 1997 by Alberta and Saskatchewan.  In 2001, a Canadian Greater Sage-Grouse recovery strategy was produced (Canadian Sage-Grouse Recovery Team 2001) that reviewed Greater Sage-Grouse background and status, established recovery goals and objectives, and provided strategies for population recovery.  This recovery strategy updates the one developed in 2001 by Alberta and Saskatchewan and will be the first recovery strategy for the Greater Sage-Grouse, urophasianus subspecies under the Species at Risk Act.