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Recovery Strategy and Action Plan for the Banff Springs Snail (Physella johnsoni) in Canada (Proposed)
- 2.1 Rationale for Recovery Feasibility
- 2.2 Recovery Goal
- 2.3 Recovery Objectives
- 2.4 Approaches Recommended to Meet Recovery Objectives
- 2.5 Critical Habitat
- 2.6 Existing and recommended approaches to habitat protection
- 2.7 Performance Measures
- 2.8 Effects on other species
- 2.9 Recommended Approach for Recovery Implementation
- 2.10 Socio-economic evaluation of Action Plan
- 2.11 Activities Eligible for an Exemption under Section 83(4) of the Species at Risk Act
2.1 Rationale for Recovery Feasibility
The recovery of the Banff Springs Snail is considered feasible. Although the species is geographically restricted and highly specialized, there are potentially thousands of individuals capable of reproduction annually. The snail is most likely hermaphroditic (Clarke 1973; Dillon 2000). Following natural seasonal periods of decline, it has demonstrated the ability to rebound quickly to substantial populations. Sufficient habitat is available, at least for the maintenance of seven of the ten previously recorded natural populations. Results of re-establishments into Upper Middle and Kidney Springs are encouraging and will be monitored to ensure longer-term success. Feasibility for re-establishment at the Upper Hot and Gord's Springs will continue to be assessed. Recent population viability studies estimated that the probability of extinction of the species within the next 40 years is zero (Tischendorf 2003). Although individual spring extirpation probabilities are as high as 30%, the population trend over the past 10 years (1996 through 2005) is significantly increasing if results from the two re-established populations are added to the original five extant populations (Lepitzki unpubl. data).
Significant threats to the snail are mainly related to the management of and public visitation to the thermal springs within BNP. Recovery techniques already successfully employed include: limiting public access, construction of boardwalks, increasing signage, enhancing education and increasing surveillance and enforcement (Lepitzki and Pacas 2001, 2002). Techniques for habitat enhancement have been successful and additional enhancements are included in the Action Plan. For these reasons, recovery is considered feasible.
2.2 Recovery Goal
The recovery goal is to restore and maintain self-sustaining populations of the Banff Springs Snail within the species' historic range.
Restoring refers to re-establishing snail populations and habitat within historic range, where and when possible. Restoration does not only imply habitat enhancement at currently occupied thermal springs. Currently unoccupied thermal springs that may be restored include the Upper Hot and Gord's Springs, and former habitat areas at the C&BNHS.
A self-sustaining population is one that, while undergoing its natural and annual population fluctuation, continues to persist in the absence of human intervention.
Assigning this species to a lower risk category by COSEWIC3 may not be possible due to the limited availability of thermal spring habitat and the endemic nature of the snail. Nevertheless, attaining the goal would improve the species' status and increase the probability of its long-term survival.
2.3 Recovery Objectives
The primary objectives are to:
- Protect populations and habitats by mitigating human and natural threats
- Restore self-sustaining snail populations and habitat within historic range, where and when possible, and
- Increase knowledge and understanding of snail ecology, thermal spring ecosystems and threats to them.
The objectives of this recovery strategy support the goal of restoring the snail to its historic range, to the extent possible. Objectives aim firstly to reduce the risks associated with the snail's highly restricted range, but also acknowledge its historical global rarity. No actions are directed to introduce the snail to thermal spring habitat outside its historic range as determined at the time the species was originally described in 1926. Secondly, there are still many actions that can be taken to mitigate human and natural threats at existing and restored sites. Finally, past monitoring and research has been considerable, but further monitoring and ecological research are essential to measuring success and improving recovery implementation (e.g. threat mitigation, habitat restoration).
2.4 Approaches Recommended to Meet Recovery Objectives
Broad strategies to meet recovery goals include:
- Habitat Protection
- Habitat Management, Restoration, Enhancement, and Snail Re-establishment
- Scientific Research and Monitoring
- Communication and Education
2.4.1 Recovery and Action Planning
|Priority (1,2,3)||Threats Addressed||General Steps||Actions||Outcomes and Scheduling|
|Objective 1: Protect populations and habitats by mitigating human and natural threats.|
|1||Soaking, swimming, trampling, other local disturbances, limb-dipping, and other threats (e.g., collecting)||Design and implement a revised protocol to monitor levels and amounts of human-caused habitat disturbance|
Continue to collect data on human impacts that affect snails and their habitats during regular snail surveys
Determine the level of monitoring required during visitation periods
Ongoing revisions as required
Human impact trends assessed monthly
Revised monitoring protocol by June 2006
Reduce human-caused habitat disturbance
Updated and improved signage, through standardized messages and signage at the C&BNHS, Middle, and Kidney Springs
Ensure that appropriate protection and presentation messages are incorporated into the C&BNHSManagement Planning Process
Publicize surveillance system charges and penalties
Signage updated and improved in 2006
C&BNHSManagement Plan finalized by 2006
Information updated annually following Nov. Recovery Team (RT) meetings
|1||As above||Continue to raise awareness and educate those potentially threatening the snail and its habitat|
Targeted communications to service workers, visitors to the C&BNHS and improved pre-trip information for C&BNHS tour groups
Improve visitor linkages between the Upper Hot Springs where visitors can soak and swim and the C&BNHS where visitors can see the snails
Repeat Thomlinson (2005) to see if actions have resulted in visitor behavioural changes
Communicate successes of actions to date
Pre-trip communications improved prior to summer 2007 visitor season
In 2006 improve linkages and messages between C&BNHS and Upper Hot Springs
Results of repeated study measuring effectiveness of social science research actions presented (Nov. 2008 RTmeeting)
|Update the Protection Implementation Plan|
Review and revise the Protection Implementation Plan annually
Evaluate options to prevent human-caused habitat disturbance (e.g., Olson and Olson 2003)
Human incursions into snail habitat summarized
Annual Protection and Operations report presented at Nov. RT meeting
Annual work plan produced from Nov. RTmeetings
|1||As above||Design and implement a standardized protocol to test electronic surveillance devices currently employed to protect habitat|
Test electronic devices
Update, as required, testing protocols
Establish and maintain a log of results from electronic surveillance device testing
Standardized testing protocol designed and implemented by Sept. 2006
Testing results presented at Nov.RTmeeting, and thereafter included as part of the annual review of the Protection Implementation Plan
Enforcement of regulations that protect the snail and its habitat
Increase the number of wardens certified to enforce SARA
Continue to produce occurrence reports for habitat disturbance incidents and intrusions into closed areas
Continue to document outcomes of incidents i.e. number of warden responses, warnings, tickets issued, court rulings
SARA Law Enforcement training scheduled for Fall 2006
Results shared annually at Nov.RT meeting
Fewer human intrusions and enforcement actions and increased knowledge in the judicial system (crown prosecutor, judges)
Certify five wardens to enforce SARA by Fall 2006
Complete annual staff orientation and training to: 1) increase awareness of how operations can affect snail habitat, and 2)
Annual training (BNP, C&BNHS and Upper Hot Springs) for PC staff, researchers and partners involved in interpretation, protection and facility operations. Other processes may be required for technical trade contractors at the Upper Hot Springs facility
Researchers are required to obtain PCA research and collection permits with SARA Authorizations Communicate to staff successes of measures taken to date
Staff aware of how operations can affect snail habitat and activities permitted under SARA
Integrate snail awareness training and existing legislation into annual staff orientation and training packages by June 2007
SARA compliant research and operational activities
Thermal water flow stoppages, reductions
Develop response plans for stochastic events, i.e., thermal water flow stoppage/reduction and population declines
Develop a response plan for the salvage of snail populations whose thermal spring habitats are in imminent danger of drying
Increase public understanding of threats
Monitor habitat during regular snail surveys in order to identify potential spring drying events
Develop response plans e.g., drying of thermal springs and population declines
Prepare public information packages detailing response plans surrounding flow stoppages and population declines
Monthly population trend information
Thermal water flow trends and physiochemical properties monitored
Response plan(s) and public information package finalized by Fall 2007
|2||Habitat disturbances at the C&BNHS|
Increase emphasis on providing for visitor needs and curiosity
Increase awareness of visitors and their potential impacts
Integrate visitor needs, and awareness of impacts and opportunities to touch thermal spring water around snail recovery in the C&BNHSManagement Plan Review
Integration of ecological and commemorative integrity in the C&BNHSManagement Plan
|2||As above||Extend handrail pickets to all sections of the boardwalk adjacent to thermal spring habitat||Draft an addendum to the approved EA (Environmental Assessment) for the installation of hand-rail pickets onto some sections of the C&BNHSboardwalk||Install handrail pickets by May 2007|
Thermal water flow reduction, fluctuations, redirections
|Review maintenance procedures and operational protocols that may impact snails or habitat|
Update Staff and Operational Protocols at the C&BNHS
Eliminate snow throw and delineate a no snow dumping area adjacent to the Vermilion Cool Springs
Updated protocols by June 2006
Ongoing annual review of maintenance and operating procedures and protocols at C&BNHS
Reduction of disturbance from facility operations at the C&BNHS
Establish no-snow throw, no snow-dumping area by Oct. 2006
Population lows and genetic inbreeding
Competition and predation
Develop an understanding of population thresholds below which extirpation is highly probable and actions that could reduce predation and competition pressures when snail populations are at their lowest
Increase public understanding of natural threats
|Develop policies and actions in the event of local extirpation or species extinction by factors other than imminent thermal spring drying|
Prepare an information package detailing protocols
Policies and protocols finalized by 2010
Public information package finalized by 2010
Limited or low quality habitat
Population lows and genetic inbreeding
Explore policies to address population lows and genetic inbreeding
Improve understanding of annual population cycles and the occurrence of genetic inbreeding
Increase public understanding of natural threats
Develop policies to address intervention of natural processes (e.g., population lows and genetic inbreeding)
Research questions to be addressed include supplemental feeding, modification of light regimes and genetic inbreeding and population cycles
Policies finalized by 2010
Research questions integrated into the Research Implementation Plan by 2006
|Objective 2: Restore snail populations and habitat within historic range, where and when possible.|
|2||Limited or low quality habitat|
Enhance snail habitat within outflow streams at C&BNHS
Integrate snail habitat enhancements within the C&BNHSManagement Planning Process
Examine the feasibility of reconfiguring the Cave East and West outflow streams and Upper and Lower C&B outflow streams into a series of pools and slow water-flow areas
Complete an EA to evaluate alternatives, mitigations and monitoring requirements for stream reconfiguration. The EA will also include an engineering and archaeological review, cost and socio-economic impact analyses, and impacts to other ‘rare' thermal spring inhabitants
Prepare information and communication packages to target PCA staff and managers, local residents, stakeholders and visitors detailing restoration efforts and SARA
Undertake outflow stream enhancements
Monitor snail populations in reconfigured streams to determine success of habitat enhancements
Integration of snail habitat enhancements within the C&BNHSManagement Plan
Completed stream reconfiguration project feasibility evaluation and EA by 2008
Outflow stream enhancements completed by 2008/09
Monthly snail population and habitat surveys completed and summarized following Basin outflow stream enhancement
|2||As above||Examine the feasibility of introducing or moving natural structures or objects (e.g., logs, rocks) to increase habitat|
Continue monitoring habitat and identify potential habitat enhancements
Complete EA's to evaluate alternatives, mitigations and monitoring requirements
|Complete discussion papers produced for annual Nov. RTmeetings|
Evaluate the feasibility of restoring natural flows from the Lower C&B Spring into the Basin Pool Spring, and from the Basin Pool Spring into the Basin Spring Outflow Stream
Integrate restoration opportunities within the C&BNHSManagement Planning Process
Complete an EA if the project is deemed feasible that addresses SARA preconditions, engineering, cost and socio-economic analyses
C&BNHSManagement Plan finalized by 2006.
Evaluation completed by 2009
EA completed by 2010
|3||As above||Examine the feasibility of restoring a snail population at Gord's Spring|
Monitor habitat during snail surveys to identify if snails can be restored
Revise re-establishment protocols as required and draft an addendum to the approved EA for snail re-establishment
Thermal water flow trends and physicochemical properties monitored and reported annually
Evaluation completed by 2010 or earlier
|Examine the feasibility of restoring a snail population at the Upper Hot Spring|
Continue to systematically and accurately measure and monitor thermal water flows
Complete an EA if the project is feasible that addresses SARA pre-conditions as well as engineering, cost and socio-economic analyses
Flow trend evaluation completed by 2009.
Evaluation determining re-establishment feasibility completed by 2010
|Objective 3: Increase knowledge and understanding of snail ecology, thermal spring ecosystems and threats to them.|
Analyse and summarize10-years of snail population, distribution and water physicochemistry data to assess trends and update monitoring protocols
Monitor snail populations, microdistributions, water physicochemistry and habitat disturbances
Continue dataset input, analyses and summaries
Continue snail population, water physicochemistry and habitat disturbance monitoring
Continue to engage partners to systematically and accurately measure water flow
10-year population trend completed and updated by March 2007
Assessment of future monitoring efforts completed by March 2007
Monthly data summaries from population and habitat monitoring incorporated into PC snail database
Annual progress reports on water flows
Analysis of relationships between water physicochemistry and population microdistribution trends completed by April 2007
|1||All||Continue to study the diet and ecological role of the snail||Refine knowledge of diet and snail demographic parameters in order to enhance population viability analyses||Publications of diet and snail demographics completed by 2008.|
Develop a Research Implementation Plan
Continue to identify and fill gaps in knowledge of thermal spring ecosystem components
Engage thermal spring ecosystem and species experts
Continue to combine components into models that depict and explain natural system dynamics
By Nov. 2006, draft a 5-year research implementation plan that also has a 10 to 20 year projection identifying long-term research needs
Annually review the research implementation plan at the Nov. RT meeting; update and revise as required
|1||All||Increased public understanding of snail ecology and thermal spring ecosystems||Incorporate updated knowledge of snail ecology and thermal spring ecosystems into a range of communications media||Interpret snail ecology and thermal spring ecosystems in the C&BNHS media plan by 2008|
Develop a Communications Implementation Plan
Integrate research, communications and protection and enforcement actions required to meet objectives outlined in the Action Plan
Increased stakeholder and public understanding of thermal spring ecosystems and compliance with snail protection initiatives
Key items to be updated, as required, include the PCA website and information packages designed for media and other partners
A work plan will be produced and presented at the Nov. RTmeetings
By 2007 update the PCAwebsite and information packages designed for media and other partners
Thomlinson study repeated in 2008
Undertake an annual review of Research, Communications and Protection Enforcement Implementation Plans
Update implementation plans where necessary
Evaluate success of efforts in research, communications and enforcement at RT meetings held biannually (spring and Nov.)
Annual work plans to be updated at Nov. RTmeeting
|Validate science through peer review and publication||Continue to present at national and international scientific conferences, communicate in scientific newsletters, and publish results in accredited peer-reviewed scientific journals||Three publications written by the end of 2006; at least 2 publications per year thereafter|
Identify thermal spring dependent species under COSEWIC
|Determine list of thermal spring species that could benefit from a status assessment and provide information to COSEWICSpecies Specialist Subcommittees||List of potential candidate species finalized by April 2007|
Develop a protocol for entrance into the Lower C&B cave
|Identify and address gaps in knowledge of thermal spring ecology by regaining entry to the Lower Cave and Basin Cave||Protocol for entrance to Lower C&B cave completed by December 2006|
|Incorporate thermal spring ecosystem component databases into one unified database|
Continue to expand snail master database to include results from habitat monitoring, captive-breeding, and preliminary resource reconnaissance
Share species' occurrence data with the Nature Serve Network
Begin combining databases in 2006
Data properly documented (meta-data) and archived by 2008
Complete unified database by 2008
Annually update unified database
|Forward all data to Parks Canada's RT Chair for archiving and disbursement|
Continue to determine the best format for databases
Species occurrence data are entered into the Nature Serve network through the Alberta Natural History Information Centre
Information management flow documented and archived
|Data forwarded annually; archived and distributed as necessary|
|3||All||Investigate the possibility of designing a multi-species or ecosystem recovery strategy for thermal springs||Based on COSEWIClisting of additional thermal spring dependent species and the short and long-term research direction, begin dialogue with RENEW on feasibility of multi-species or ecosystem recovery strategy and action plan||Begin dialogue with RENEW by March 2008|
2.4.2 Narrative to support recovery and action planning table
Protection and communication strategies were developed as part of the Resource Management Plan for the recovery of the Banff Springs Snail (Lepitzki et al. 2002b and Dalman et al.2002 in Lepitzki et al. 2002a). Detailed plans that address communications, protection and research will be developed to implement this Recovery Strategy and Action Plan.
Protection Implementation Plan: The Protection Strategy (Appendix 1 in Lepitzki et al. 2002a) presents information for each spring historically inhabited by the snail, identifies specific protection problems and offers potential solutions and will be revised and updated to form the Protection Implementation Plan. One specific addition will be the design and implementation of a standardized protocol to test electronic surveillance devices.
Habitat Restoration, Enhancement, and Snail Re-establishment
Assess feasibility to re-establish populations at the Upper Hot and Gord's Springs: Additional snail populations at historic locations would increase the security of the species, its probability of long-term survival, and likelihood of down listing. At this time, it is uncertain if restoring snail populations to the Upper Hot and Gord's Springs will be feasible due to recent water flow stoppages.
Habitat restoration and enhancement at C&BNHS: Springs within the C&BNHS are regulated and modified. Habitat restorations and enhancements, especially to outflow streams, could increase suitable habitat, and potentially snail populations, at these existing sites. These projects will be undertaken within the context of the C&BNHSManagement Plan review.
Finalize operational protocols and procedures: Management activities, particularly at the C&BNHS where water flow is regulated, can have an impact on snails and habitat. Many changes to maintenance protocols have been undertaken; however, finalizing operational protocols at this historic site is necessary to ensure that populations are protected.
Develop a response plan: A number of thermal springs have dried for varying lengths of time since the snail research and recovery program began in 1996. The frequency of drying events may be accelerating with global climate change. Without thermal spring water, snail populations will be extirpated. Drops in flow rate, temperature and conductivity usually foreshadow the drying of a thermal spring. It is recommended that a plan be developed to enable the preparation and maintenance of emergency habitat to be used specifically if any critical habitat areas are destroyed or are under severe threat, and to define the conditions and methods used to re-establish populations. The intent is to maintain a core group of thermal springs in the event of a catastrophic habitat loss that may affect one or more springs simultaneously. The response plan will include discussion surrounding predation/competition, supplemental feeding and light regimes.
Scientific Research and Monitoring
Monitoring: Monitoring of all extant populations and water chemistry (see Table 2) has been undertaken regularly since 1996 and is critical to understanding population trends and habitat status. A revision of the monitoring protocol is required. The frequency of continued population and habitat monitoring may be reduced as long as recovery goals can be attained. The measurement of selected parameters from thermal springs allows comparison with those documented by others in 1968/69 at Kidney and Cave Springs and those collected since 1996.
Develop a research implementation plan. A research implementation plan that identifies and fills gaps in knowledge of thermal spring ecosystem components would allow for both short term i.e., 5 year and longer-term i.e., 10 to 20 year planning. Ecosystems components already identified include: water flow, water physicochemistry, hydrogeology, age of tufa mounds, and thermal spring dependent flora and fauna e.g. microbes, invertebrates, vertebrates, vascular and non-vascular plants. While data on each of these components have been collected since 1996, there has only been a preliminary attempt to integrate the various knowledge bases. The re-establishment of snails into two thermal springs may have changed the thermal springs' biodiversity. Similarly, future restoration and/or enhancement activities could affect other thermal spring ecosystem components both positively and negatively. An annual review of the research implementation plan will ensure incorporation of new data as they are acquired.
Develop a protocol for entrance into the Lower C&B cave: Access has been regained into the cave at the Lower C&B Spring. The cave serves as a restoration benchmark for an environment free from human impacts since the cave was closed to the public in 1985. The site was accessed in 2005 to evaluate flow dynamics. Potential impacts and mitigation resulting from entry will be assessed and implemented. Knowledge gaps of thermal spring ecology within the cave will also be assessed.
Communication and Education
Communication is considered essential to the recovery of the Banff Springs Snail. All objectives of this plan will have a communications component.
Communications Implementation Plan: A Communications Strategy (Appendix II of Dalman et al. 2002 in Lepitzki et al. 2002a) has been developed to raise public awareness about the Banff Springs Snail and thermal spring ecosystems and has been the primary tool to implement recovery actions and will be revised and updated to form the Communications Implementation Plan. It targets specific audiences with the goal of reducing human disturbance to the snail. Many actions have already been implemented.
2.5 Critical Habitat
2.5.1 Identification 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…”
Specific and required habitat attributes of the Banff Springs Snail include a warm (> 29°C), steady supply of thermal spring water containing a high concentration of dissolved minerals, noticeably high levels of hydrogen sulphide (Table 2), and a complex microbial community providing food and habitat structure. Most snails at most times of the year are found in the upper reaches of the thermal springs, however smaller numbers of snails are also found living further down in outflow streams (Lepitzki et al. 2002a).
Occupied habitat includes all areas where snails have been found during population surveys from January 1996 through December 2005 at all historically occupied thermal springs. Some of the outflow streams at the C&BNHS, while currently occupied by snails, have the potential for restoration to more natural conditions that would most likely result in increased snail numbers. Currently unoccupied habitat includes those areas where the species was historically found but not currently present: the Upper Hot, Gord's and Vermilion Cool Springs. There is also the possibility of other, as of yet unknown habitats, that could be considered suitable, unoccupied habitat. They would result from the redirection of existing or surfacing of new thermal water flows within the historic range of the species. Actions have been presented which address these potential habitat restorations and snail re-establishments.
Proposed Critical Habitat (CH) for the Banff Springs Snail is defined as all occupied habitat, including the thermal spring origin pool and outflow stream (Figures 4a through 4j). The contribution of the individuals or small number of snails (i.e. the outliers) at the extremes of occupied habitat to the self-sustainability of a population is most likely small but uncertain. However, given stochastic events and the possibilities of redirection of existing or surfacing of new thermal water flows, the outliers could become important in species' recovery following such events.
This proposal for critical habitat is currently restricted to the aquatic components. The riparian and upland components of the broader thermal spring ecosystem may become part of the critical habitat definition as knowledge of thermal spring communities and linkages with the Banff Springs Snail improves. A multi-species ecosystem approach to recovery may be warranted in the future.
Figure 4a. Proposed Critical Habitat for the Banff Springs Snail at Kidney Spring in Banff National Park (Site 2 on Figure 2).
Figure 4b. Proposed Critical Habitat for the Banff Springs Snail at Upper Middle Springs and Caves in Banff National Park (Site 4 on Figure 2).
Figure 4c. Proposed Critical Habitat for the Banff Springs Snail at the Lower Middle Spring in Banff National Park (Site 5 on Figure 2).
Figure 4d. Proposed Critical Habitat for the Banff Springs Snail at the Upper Spring, Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Banff National Park (Site 9 on Figure 2).
Figure 4e. Proposed Critical Habitat for the Banff Springs Snail at the Lower Spring, Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Banff National Park (Site 8 on Figure 2).
Figure 4g. Proposed Critical Habitat for the Banff Springs Snail, Cave Spring Pool, Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Banff National Park (Site 7 on Figure 2).
Figure 4i. Proposed Critical Habitat for the Banff Springs Snail, Basin Spring Pool, Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Banff National Park (Site 6 on Figure 2).
2.5.2 Examples of activities likely to result in destruction of the critical habitat.
Activities that may lead to the destruction of critical habitat include:
- Pipes and valves plugging with bacterial growth resulting in water level fluctuations or drying or flooding of streams
- Failure of water flow control components such as valves, pipes, and pool liners may lead to flooding, drying, stranding or death of snails
- Removal, trampling, or movement, of substrates (i.e. microbial mat, rocks, sticks, etc.) may lead to disturbance and stranding of snails
- Trampling of the riparian zone could result in the removal of ground cover and erosion of soil into thermal spring habitat altering the physiochemistry and microbial community
- Disturbance or break-up of floating mats may lead to stranding of snails and fragmentation of habitat
- Alteration of water physiochemistry by siltation or chemicals from human skin leads to water turbidity and possibly death of snails
- Introduction of foreign objects (e.g., ice chunks or litter) could result in fragmentation of habitat or become inappropriate substrates for snail colonization
- Boardwalk maintenance including repair and replacement of components, removal of snow and ice results in debris within the thermal spring environment and physiochemical changes to the thermal springs
Operational and maintenance activities at the C&BNHS that may threaten critical habitat are addressed in a series of protocols and form part of the exemption addressed under Section 83 (4) of SARA (See Section 2.11).
2.5.3 Schedule of studies
The origin cave, areas underneath the boardwalk, and Billy's Pool at the Lower C&B have not been thoroughly surveyed for snails (Figure 4e). Using the precautionary principle, critical habitat for the Lower C&B has therefore been extended to include these areas as they may contain snails. Actions have been presented to re-evaluate the CH at the Lower C&B pending new information from expanded population surveys. These tasks are expected to be completed by 2010.
The Upper Hot and Gord's springs will need to be monitored for sustainable and appropriate habitat parameters and a source of snails determined prior to the re-establishment of snail populations to these springs. A flow trend evaluation will be completed by 2009 and the feasibility of re-establishing snail populations at these sites completed in 2010 (see Table 4).
2.6 Existing and recommended approaches to critical habitat protection
All habitats of Banff Springs Snail are in Banff National Park. The species and its critical habitat are protected under the Canada National Parks Act (S.C. 2000, c.32) and the Species At Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29). Parks Canada is the sole jurisdictional authority to ensure the continued survival and existence of this species. Banff Springs Snail and its habitat are also afforded protection under the Fisheries Act (R.S. 1985, c. F-14), as per the definition of "fish" under this Act. Although the Minister of the Environment under SARA is the competent minister for individual species in or on federal lands administered by PCA, the Fisheries Act still applies.
The juxtaposition of the snail's thermal spring critical habitat within Banff National Park and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site requires that recovery can only be achieved if both Commemorative and Ecological Integrity are fully integrated. The following conditions will be applied to activities involving the C&BNHS:
- Every effort will be made to consider activities and solutions that enhance both ecological and commemorative integrity objectives;
- All reasonable alternatives to the activity that would reduce the impact on the Banff Springs Snail are considered and the best solution is adopted;
- All feasible measures are taken to minimize the impact of the activity on the Banff Springs Snail; and
- The activity does not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species.
2.7 Performance Measures
Evaluation of the overall approaches to recovery set out in this strategy will be largely accomplished through routine monitoring of the status of snail populations, hydrologic regimes, and habitat trends through time. The Recovery Strategy/Action Plan will be reviewed in five years to evaluate the progress on stated objectives and actions, and to identify additional approaches and changes that may be required.
Progress in meeting stated objectives and actions will be assessed against these targets:
- Extant and re-established snail populations show ongoing persistence and sustainability over time;
- Critical Habitat is fully protected
- Monitoring is showing reduction or elimination of human disturbance;
- The effects of dominant natural threats are minimized (e.g., limited or low quality habitat, population lows, etc.);
- Snail habitat within outflow streams at the C&BNHS is enhanced and monitoring shows that snail populations are self-sustaining (2008/09);
- The evaluation for reconfiguring the Lower C&B Spring outflow pool and stream is completed by 2009;
- The feasibility assessment of re-establishing snails at the Upper Hot and Gord's springs is completed by 2009-10;
- Surveys showing an increase in staff and visitor awareness of snail ecology and associated threats to its survival (2008);
- The research implementation program has obtained results to urgent questions and is ongoing;
- C&BNHSmanagement and the Banff Springs Snail Recovery Strategy & Action plan respect Ecological and Commemorative Integrity values.
2.8 Effects on other species
Recent surveys show that thermal springs in BNP harbour high numbers of rare species among several taxa. In addition to the Banff Springs Snail, survey work found two rare damselflies, 28 rare mosses (including one new provincial record), three rare liverworts, and a high diversity of algal species. At least two vascular plant species appear to have been extirpated and one species of fish (the Banff longnose dace) have become extinct since the 1890s. The high level of species rarity, and fact that impacts have already resulted in extirpation and extinction, suggest that the thermal spring ecosystems are a sensitive habitat and many associated species would benefit from their protection.
Effects on other species were addressed in the Strategic Environmental Assessment section of the document.
2.9 Recommended Approach for Recovery Implementation
The single species approach was chosen for the recovery of the Banff Springs Snail due to its distinct habitat requirements and threats. Also, the Banff Springs Snail is the only COSEWIC-listed mollusc in this area.
The entire habitat of the Banff Springs Snail is found within BNP which is managed by the PCA under the CNPA. A key provision of this Act states that “Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks.”
While recovery is administered by one jurisdiction, the juxtaposition of the snail's thermal spring habitat within BNP and the C&BNHS requires that recovery can only be achieved if both Ecological and Commemorative Integrity are fully integrated. Accountabilities outlined in the Species at Risk Act, Canada National Parks Act and the Fisheries Act and guidance from the BNP Management Plan and the C&BNHSManagement Plan provide the overall direction for the Banff Spring Snail recovery strategy and action plan.
2.10 Socio-economic evaluation of Action Plan
The Banff Spring Snail Recovery Strategy/Action Plan proposes a wide range of actions to address strategic objectives for the protection, recovery and restoration of the endangered Banff Springs Snail. Recovery of a species at risk and protection and restoration of critical habitats associated with the thermal spring ecosystem on Sulphur Mountain in BNP will positively impact ecological integrity and enhance opportunities for appreciation of such special places and species by visitors and the general public. A key challenge in implementing this strategy and action plan will be in protecting and restoring snail populations and thermal spring habitats while maintaining commemorative integrity at the C&BNHS. The Sulphur Mountain hot springs were central to the creation of Canada's national park system. Natural and cultural features associated with the springs are preserved and presented at the C&BNHS. While public use and enjoyment of the site, which exceeds 100,000 visitors per year, creates challenges for protection of both cultural and natural resources including the Banff Springs Snail and its habitat, it also provides opportunities to interpret and present the important cultural and natural history values of the birthplace of Canada's national park system.
Proposed actions seek a balanced approach to reducing or eliminating threats to snail populations and habitats through protection and enhancement, enforcement, and education. Raising awareness through education and information is seen as the primary tool to improve both park staff and public understanding of issues surrounding snail protection and recovery and gain compliance with protection measures. Monitoring of snail populations and habitat since 1996 has shown a significant decline in human-caused disturbance in response to protection and education measures. Additional actions are proposed to enhance protection and messaging, particularly at the C&BNHS which is the primary location where visitors can observe thermal springs environments under controlled circumstances. Direct interaction with thermal spring environments is discouraged in order to protect these sensitive environments and species. Touching the warm waters is, however, an important part of the overall sensory experience for visitors, particularly in the Cave Spring. While some actions are proposed to restrict visitor access to sensitive thermal springs, e.g., additional handrail pickets on boardwalks adjacent to thermal spring habitat, other actions are proposed to provide opportunities for visitors to touch thermal water under appropriate and controlled conditions so as not to negatively impact snail populations, thermal water or sensitive cultural resources. It is proposed that the evaluation of opportunities to touch thermal water be integrated with the C&BNHS Management Plan Review in 2006 so as to effectively meet natural and cultural resource protection objectives while continuing to provide a positive visitor experience.
2.11 Activities Eligible for an Exemption under Section 83(4) of the Species at Risk Act
Subsection 83(4) of SARA allows for certain activities to be exempt from the general prohibitions of SARA, provided the activities are permitted in recovery strategies, action plans or management plans. In order for this provision to be applicable, individuals must be authorized under an Act of Parliament, such as the CNPA, to carry out such activities. Subsection 83(4) can be used as an exemption, to allow activities which have been determined to not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species.
The activities described below are permitted to take place under subsection 83(4) of SARA. They are also authorized by or under the CNPA.
2.11.1 Operational and emergency maintenance activities at the C&BNHS
This recovery strategy and action plan permits operational and emergency maintenance activities at the C&BNHS, as described below that may incidentally affect Banff Springs Snails and their critical habitat. Parks Canada employees and any other persons may engage in these activities if (1) they are trained for those purposes and (2) they are authorized to carry out those activities by the Superintendent of BNP or by the C&BNHS Site Supervisor.
The specific activities that are permitted in this recovery strategy / action plan and terms and conditions associated with them are detailed in Table 5 as follows:
|Activity Authorized||Authorized Persons||Terms and Conditions|
|Moving snails that are stranded due to a sudden change in water levels at the Cave and Basin pools|
Persons engaging in this activity will:
The Site Supervisor will maintain a log of all incidents and report them to the BNP Dispatch in a timely manner.
|Removing Foreign Objects (garbage, cameras, etc) – that are floating|
Persons engaging in this activity will:
The Site Supervisor of C&BNHS will maintain a log of all incidents and report them to the BNP Dispatch in a timely manner.
|Removing Foreign Objects (garbage, camera etc) that are sunken|
Persons engaging in this activity will:
The Site Supervisor of C&BNHS will maintain a log of all incidents and report them to the BNP Dispatch in a timely manner.
|Cleaning Billy's Pool Drain|
If the grate is determined to be blocked with debris and snails are present, persons engaging in this activity will:
The Site Supervisor of C&BNHS will maintain a log of all incidents and report them to the BNP Dispatch in a timely manner.
|Cleaning the Cave and Basin pool pipes and valves|
If the pool pipes are determined to be blocked with debris and snails are present, persons engaging in this activity will:
|Water removal for interpretation purposes|
Persons engaging in this activity will:
2.11.2 Justifications for activities carried out at the C&BNHS
Four populations of the endangered Banff Springs Snail inhabit highly controlled and built environments within the C&BNHS. This poses significant challenges for Parks Canada: managing critical habitat of an endangered species while at the same time maintaining a National Historic Site. The C&BNHS is culturally and historically significant representing the birthplace of Canada's national park system. It contains infrastructure that directs thermal spring water through a complex and intricate system of pipes, valves, drains, and artificially maintained 'pools'. Much of this infrastructure is critical habitat for the Banff Springs Snail and must be maintained for both ecological and commemorative values.
Clear procedures and protocols have been developed by Parks Canada to mitigate the effects of operational and emergency maintenance activities at the C&BNHS. They provide direction to employees and other persons adequately trained and authorized by the Superintendent of BNP or by the C&BNHS Site Supervisor on how to inspect and monitor areas of the NHS where the Banff Springs Snail occur, as well as how to respond to specific situations.
Alternatives to the various operational and emergency maintenance activities were considered during protocol and procedure development and alternatives with the least impact to snails, habitat and cultural resources were chosen.
The thermal springs and populations of Banff Springs Snail associated with the C&BNHS are integral to the ecological and commemorative values of the site. Proper infrastructure maintenance is vital to the long-term protection and sustainability of snail critical habitat as well as irreplaceable cultural resources and will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species. Although snails may inadvertently be harmed or killed as the permitted activities are implemented, it is not expected that this would jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species. Regular population and habitat monitoring since the procedures and protocols were implemented in 2000 has shown the C&BNHSpopulations and habitat to be self-sustaining. The operational and emergency maintenance procedures and protocols are designed to protect snails and habitat as well as cultural resources and therefore do not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species.
3 Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) provides advice to the Minister of the Environment on the status of species in Canada. For the Banff Springs Snail, this means changing the species status from Endangered to Threatened, Species of Special Concern or Not at Risk.
- Date Modified: