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Recovery Strategy for the Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo) Prairie Population in Canada (Proposed)

2 Recovery

2.1 Recovery Feasibility

There is little historical information on the distribution of the Prairie population of the Mormon metalmark and none that suggests that this species was ever abundant or widespread (COSEWIC 2002). The recovery of metalmark populations on the prairie is determined to be feasible. Sufficient habitat is available and individuals capable of reproduction are available to support the recovery goal. With the exception of the largely unknown effects of climate change, the immediate and significant threats can be mitigated. Recovery for the Prairie population should focus on securing all existing habitat, threat abatement, and working with Montana land management agencies to ensure that any habitat linkages with northern Montana populations are maintained. These recovery activities are feasible with existing technology and can likely be achieved with relatively minor socio-economic costs.

2.2 Recovery Goal

To maintain suitable habitat and ecological linkages within the known range of the Prairie population of the Mormon metalmark, in order to preserve the opportunity for natural processes to shape the population dynamics and the evolution of the species.


This goal is based on the following observations of the Prairie population of the Mormon metalmark butterfly:

  • the entire known Canadian habitat is within the proposed boundaries of GNP;
  • it is a small northern extension of a much larger population that occurs in northern Montana;
  • the species is naturally rare and there is no data that suggests that it was ever more widespread or numerous than it is currently;
  • habitat occurs in remote harsh badlands areas that have few competing land uses; and,
  • there is no evidence that human activity has had a significant affect on its population dynamics.

Consequently, the recovery goal and the attending recovery actions are focused on mitigating the small potential threats and ensuring that ecological linkages with northern Montana are maintained. No other active management for species recovery appears to be necessary. While explicitly referencing natural processes in a recovery goal is unconventional, we feel it is warranted given the status and recovery context of this species and that this approach is fully consistent with Parks Canada policy (Parks Canada 1994). If any of these assumptions should prove to be incorrect, the recovery goal can be changed in future action plans or iterations of the recovery strategy.

2.3 Recovery Objectives

  1. By 2009, assess and map all potential Mormon metalmark habitat in the known range of the Prairie population and determine whether it is currently occupied.
    Surveys are required to determine the presence or absence of metalmark colonies in areas of seemingly suitable habitat that have not been surveyed. There is roughly 255.8 km² and 35.1 km² of badlands in the East and West Block regions of GNP, respectively, that have not been systematically surveyed (Figure 3).

  2. Determine whether other Mormon metalmark populations exist outside of the known range by 2010.
    Large amounts of potential habitat exist immediately upstream of the West Block of GNP, along the Frenchman River Valley, that have never been surveyed for metalmarks. Additionally, systematic surveys have not been conducted in Alberta although habitat that appears to be suitable exists (G. Anweiler, University of Alberta Strickland Museum, pers. comm. 2006).

  3. Beginning in 2007, determine the adult population size of all known prairie colonies of Mormon metalmark butterflies.
    Standardized methodologies need to be developed to determine population size and trend over time.

  4. Identify and begin implementation of best management practices and stewardship agreements by 2010.
    Many of the potential threats to metalmark habitat are due to the accidental destruction of habitat by land managers that are unaware of the presence of the butterfly. Clearly communicating the location of metalmark populations and the activities that could destroy or degrade habitat would greatly reduce the threat of accidental habitat destruction.

  5. By 2012, determine the extent that Canadian Prairie populations of Mormon metalmarks are linked by dispersal to each other and to Montana populations.
    The Mormon metalmark butterfly habitat in both the West and East Blocks of Grasslands National Park is directly linked to badland habitat in adjacent areas in Northern Montana that may contain metalmarks (Figure 3). The proximity of nearest metalmark populations in Montana and the rate of gene flow among the Saskatchewan populations and between Saskatchewan and adjacent northern Montana populations are unknown. Populations linked by dispersal will have a higher probability of being re-colonised in the case of localised extirpations.

  6. Where appropriate, integrate Mormon metalmark recovery efforts into multi-species recovery and broader prairie conservation programs for prairie grassland species and prairie conservation by 2012.
    Land use issues relevant to the management of habitat for metalmarks may be common to other prairie wildlife species. Efforts to protect and possibly enhance populations of metalmarks should be coordinated with other initiatives or programs relevant to the sustainable management of the prairie ecosystem.

2.4 Approaches Recommended to Meet Recovery Objectives

2.4.1 Recovery Planning

Table 2. Recovery Planning: Summary of recovery objectives and strategies for the Mormon metalmark (MM)
ObjectivesPriorityThreat AddressedGeneral Strategies
1 and 3UrgentAll
  • Survey all potential MM habitat in the current range and integrate into a GIS MM database to be used as a basis for adult MM census. Ensure the MM database is linked to the Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre.
2 and 3BeneficialAll
  • Identify new occupied sites in unsurveyed areas in Saskatchewan and Alberta where suitable habitat is thought to exist.
3NecessaryClimate change, pollution, Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation
  • Develop a standardized monitoring protocol to monitor MM population numbers. This is to be implemented annually at first, until population stability is determined, and then intermittently as resources permit.
  • As part of a research program, correlate adult flight counts with results of population estimates (e.g. mark and recapture). Identify attributes of occupied and suitable potential habitat. In addition to contributing to the identification of critical habitat (Table 4), use this information to clarify specific habitat requirements and evaluate threats.
4NecessaryHabitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, direct mortality.
  • Develop best management practices for activities near metalmark colonies. Metalmarks have been observed on three ranches within the GNP proposed boundaries. These BMP would be helpful to the ranchers and to GNP park staff.
5NecessaryHabitat fragmentation
  • Develop genetic markers in order to calculate dispersal rates and degree of relatedness among Northern Great Plains populations.
  • Identify core habitat areas essential for maintaining ecological linkages and gene flow between MM in Canada and northern Montana and develop and implement strategies for securing them within Canada.
6BeneficialHabitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, direct mortality.
  • Opportunistically integrate MM recovery into more comprehensive prairie conservation/endangered species planning initiatives.
  • By 2008, coordinate a collaborative forum with recovery teams for other Canadian prairie grassland species at risk to explore landscape scale conservation initiatives that may be beneficial to all species concerned.

2.4.2 Narrative to Support Recovery Planning Table

The Mormon metalmark is known to occur at the northern limit of its range in the Frenchman River and Killdeer badlands of GNP in Saskatchewan (COSEWIC 2002). Only two formal surveys have ever been conducted within this range. To improve our knowledge of metalmark distribution within the current known range, all potential metalmark habitat within GNP will be surveyed and integrated into a GIS database in 2007. Metalmark surveys should also be conducted in Montana where potential rescue populations may exist. Badland habitat that may be suitable for metalmarks continues across the Montana border providing a potential corridor (COSEWIC 2002) (Figure 3).

All metalmark surveys will be conducted using a standardized monitoring protocol and habitat evaluation. To date, most monitoring has involved counting adults in flight at a particular site. Further research is required to determine how these counts correlate to actual abundance determined with mark-recapture methodology. Opportunities will be sought to collaborate with biologists developing monitoring methodology for the Lower Similkameen River Valley population (Southern Interior Invertebrates Recovery Team 2005). In addition to standardizing approaches to metalmark monitoring across the species' range, this collaboration could also foster development of genetic markers in order to better identify dispersal rates and genetic relatedness among Great Plains populations.

Three of the known populations of metalmarks occur on privately managed provincial lease land within the proposed boundaries of GNP. Land for GNP is acquired on a "willing seller-willing buyer" basis so the timing of the completion of the park is open-ended. Most private land managers neighbouring GNP are not yet familiar with the Mormon metalmark. GNP staff will work to increase awareness of metalmark colony locations with neighbouring land managers and park staff and identify potentially harmful land management practices to affected land managers. It is expected that the impact on agricultural practices will be so minimal that formal stewardship agreements will not be required.

2.5 Performance Measures

Table 3. Performance Measures to meet Recovery Objectives
Recovery ObjectivePerformance Measures
By 2009, assess and map all potential Mormon metalmark habitat in the known range of the Prairie population and determine whether it is currently occupied.Development of a GIS database that can produce maps of occupied and unoccupied habitat. Survey of all potential habitat in the current range is completed and mapped from a GIS database by 2010 and used as a basis for an adult metalmark census. Ensure the MM database is linked to the Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre.
Determine whether other Mormon metalmark populations exist outside of the known range by 2010.Systematic surveys of suitable habitat completed.
Partial or full identification of critical habitat to the extent possible for the Mormon metalmark by June 2010. Action Plan with critical habitat identified posted on the SARA Public registry in 2011.
Conduct a census to determine and monitor the adult population size of all known prairie colonies of Mormon metalmarks.Trend data generated using a standardized survey methodology. Assess the number of adults required to support a viable population.
By 2012, determine the extent that Canadian Prairie populations of Mormon metalmarks are linked by dispersal to each other and to Montana populations.Rates of dispersal calculated and important habitat corridors identified. Assess the threat of invasive plants at these sites and if appropriate implement option for control.
Where appropriate, identify and implement best management practices and stewardship agreements by 2010.All affected landowners have been informed of the presence of Mormon metalmarks on their land and have adopted best management practices.
Support ecosystem-level conservation efforts where appropriate.Recovery actions for the Mormon metalmark are considered and integrated into other recovery strategies and ecosystem conservation plans for the Northern Great Plains. Maintain regular communication with BC MM recovery team/experts.

2.6 Critical Habitat

No critical habitat, as defined under the federal Species at Risk Act, is proposed for identification at this time.

There is some knowledge regarding metalmark habitat needs, but more work must be completed before critical habitat can be reasonably designated (Table 4). Only two limited surveys have ever been conducted for the Prairie population and it is unknown whether sites that were occupied during those surveys are habitually occupied or whether there is spatial and temporal movement of metalmark populations. In fact, most of the information regarding Prairie metalmark habitat and biology has been taken from work done in the United States. In 2006, a small amount of search effort revealed two new colonies. Surveys of available habitat within and surrounding GNP have not been completed and future surveys will undoubtedly reveal more habitat in addition to specific habitat requirements. Furthermore, known occupied Mormon metalmark sites exist on federally protected land within GNP or on privately managed ranches within the proposed boundaries of GNP, thereby lessening the conservation urgency to identify critical habitat at this time. It is expected that critical habitat will be identified within the recovery action plan following: 1) Surveys of known potential habitat and at least one adult census conducted; 2) Consultation and development of effective stewardship options with potentially affected landowners or organizations; and 3) Quantification of specific habitat and area requirements for this species.

Table 4. Schedule of Studies
Develop an ecological definition of critical habitat. Specifically, conduct research to quantify habitat requirements and use. This would include quantification of dispersal distance, nectaring, egg-laying and dispersal habitats, optimal patch size and habitat connectivity requirements. Determine why apparently suitable habitat is unoccupied.2007 - 2010
Inventory and monitor species distribution, abundance, occupied habitat and potential habitat. Determine the locations of potentially new MM colonies in SK and AB. Map the areas of occupied habitat and the potential habitat that contributes to maintaining ecological linkages with habitat in northern Montana and amongst Canadian colonies.2007 - 2010
Determine land ownership of all potential new MM colonies and consult with and develop effective stewardship options with potentially affected landowners or jurisdictions.2007 to November 2009
Complete all consultation and approvals and post the action plan on the SARA public registry.Action plan by Jan 2011 that includes partial or full designation of critical habitat

2.7 Effects On Other Species

Please refer to the Strategic Environmental Assessment Statement section in this document. Potential impacts on other species or ecological processes are not known but thought to be negligible given the highly specialized and localized habitat requirements of metalmarks as well as the benign nature of the proposed actions. Permits and permitting conditions will be met before any sampling for genetic testing is conducted.

2.8 Statement on Action Plans

An action plan for the Mormon metalmark will be completed by January 2011 that will include partial or full designation of critical habitat based on occurrences. Consideration will be given to incorporating this action plan into a multi-species action plan for Grasslands National Park of Canada.