Vol. 151, No. 23 -- November 15, 2017

Registration

SOR/2017-229 November 2, 2017

SPECIES AT RISK ACT

Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act

P.C. 2017-1332 November 2, 2017

Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to subsection 27(1) of the Species at Risk Act (see footnote a), makes the annexed Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act.

Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act

Amendments

1 Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (see footnote 1) is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order under the heading “Birds”:

  • Chat virens subspecies, Yellow-breasted (Icteria virens virens)
    • Paruline polyglotte de la sous-espèce virens
  • Warbler, Cerulean (Setophaga cerulea)
    • Paruline azurée

2 Part 3 of Schedule 1 to the Act is amended by striking out the following under the heading “Birds”:

  • Warbler, Hooded (Wilsonia citrina)
    • Paruline à capuchon

3 Part 3 of Schedule 1 to the Act is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order under the heading “Birds”:

  • Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
    • Goglu des prés
  • Meadowlark, Eastern (Sturnella magna)
    • Sturnelle des prés
  • Swallow, Bank (Riparia riparia)
    • Hirondelle de rivage
  • Swallow, Barn (Hirundo rustica)
    • Hirondelle rustique
  • Thrush, Wood (Hylocichla mustelina)
    • Grive des bois

4 Part 4 of Schedule 1 to the Act is amended by striking out the following under the heading “Birds”:

  • Chat virens subspecies, Yellow-breasted (Icteria virens virens)
    • Paruline polyglotte de la sous-espèce virens
  • Warbler, Cerulean (Dendroica cerulea)
    • Paruline azurée

5 Part 4 of Schedule 1 to the Act is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order under the heading “Birds”:

  • Grebe, Western (Aechmophorus occidentalis)
    • Grèbe élégant
  • Sparrow pratensis subspecies, Grasshopper (Ammodramus savannarum pratensis)
    • Bruant sauterelle de la sous-espèce de l’Est
  • Wood-pewee, Eastern (Contopus virens)
    • Pioui de l’Est

Coming into Force

6 This Order comes into force on the day on which it is registered.

REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT

(This statement is not part of the Order.)

Issues

Biodiversity is rapidly declining worldwide as species become extinct. (see footnote 2) Today’s extinction rate is estimated to be between 1 000 and 10 000 times higher than the natural rate. (see footnote 3) Biodiversity is positively related to ecosystem productivity, health and resiliency (see footnote 4) (i.e. the ability of an ecosystem to respond to changes or disturbances). Given the interdependency of species, a loss of biodiversity can lead to decreases in ecosystem function and services (e.g. natural processes such as pest control, pollination, coastal wave attenuation, temperature regulation and carbon fixing). These services are important to the health of Canadians, and also have important ties to Canada’s economy. Small changes within an ecosystem resulting in the loss of individuals and species can therefore result in adverse, irreversible and broad-ranging effects.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), a non-government, independent body of scientific experts, has assessed the following 11 species as being at risk in Canada:

  1. Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia)
  2. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
  3. Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
  4. Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea)
  5. Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)
  6. Eastern Wood-pewee (Contopus virens)
  7. Grasshopper Sparrow pratensis subspecies (Ammodramus savannarum pratensis)
  8. Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina)
  9. Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)
  10. Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)
  11. Yellow-breasted Chat virens subspecies (Icteria virens virens)

Pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA or the Act), the Governor in Council (GIC) (see footnote 5) is making the Order Amending Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act to add eight, reclassify two and remove one species from Schedule 1 of the Act.

Background

Canada’s natural heritage is an integral part of its national identity and history. Wildlife is valued by Canadians for aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, recreational, educational, historical, subsistence, medical, ecological and scientific reasons. Canadian wildlife species and ecosystems are also part of the world’s heritage. (see footnote 6) Part of the Department of the Environment’s (“the Department”) mandate is to preserve and enhance the quality of the natural environment, including flora and fauna. Although the responsibility for the conservation of wildlife in Canada is shared among governments, the Department plays a leadership role as federal regulator in order to prevent species from becoming extinct (see footnote 7) or extirpated (see footnote 8) from Canada. The Parks Canada Agency contributes to the protection and conservation of these species within its network of protected heritage places, (see footnote 9) including national parks and national marine conservation areas.

The primary federal legislative mechanism for delivering on this responsibility is SARA. The purposes of SARA are to prevent wildlife species from becoming extirpated from Canada or extinct; to provide for recovery of wildlife species that are listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened; and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened. At the time of the proclamation in 2003, the official list of wildlife species at risk (Schedule 1 of SARA) included 233 species. Since then, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, the Governor in Council has amended the list on a number of occasions to add, remove or reclassify species. There are currently 548 species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA, which classifies those species as being extirpated, endangered, threatened, or special concern. (see footnote 10)

With the proclamation of SARA in 2003, the Act established COSEWIC as the body responsible for providing the Minister of the Environment with assessments of the status of Canadian wildlife species that are potentially at risk of disappearing from Canada. The assessments are carried out in accordance with section 15 of SARA, which, among other provisions, requires COSEWIC to determine the status of species it considers and identify existing and potential threats. COSEWIC meets twice annually to review information collected on wildlife species and assigns each wildlife species to one of seven categories: extinct, extirpated, endangered, threatened, special concern, data deficient, or not at risk. Of note, COSEWIC must review the classification of each species at risk at least once every 10 years, or at any time if it has reason to believe that the status of the species has changed significantly. (see footnote 11)

After COSEWIC provides its assessments of species at risk to the Minister of the Environment, the Minister has 90 days to post a response statement on the Species at Risk Public Registry (SAR Public Registry) indicating how the Minister intends to respond to the assessment and related anticipated timelines. These statements outline the extent of consultations on proposed changes to Schedule 1 of SARA.

Subsequent to the consultations and analysis being carried out by departmental officials, the Governor in Council formally acknowledges its receipt of the COSEWIC assessments. The formal acknowledgement then triggers a regulatory process through a proposed Order whereby the Governor in Council may, within nine months of the receipt, on the recommendation of the Minister,

  • (1) add a wildlife species to Schedule 1 of SARA according to COSEWIC’s status assessment;
  • (2) not add the wildlife species to Schedule 1; or
  • (3) refer the assessment back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration. (see footnote 12)

If the Governor in Council does not make a decision within nine months of its formal receipt of the COSEWIC assessments, SARA states that the Minister shall amend Schedule 1 according to those assessments. This timeline does not apply to reclassifications or removal of a listed species from Schedule 1 of the Act.

Reclassification allows Schedule 1 of SARA to be consistent with the assessments provided by COSEWIC, thus allowing for better decision-making regarding the species in terms of its conservation prioritization. Species can be proposed for up-listing when populations have declined since their last assessment. When species populations recover, they can be proposed for down-listing to ensure that the species are protected according to the purposes of SARA, while minimizing impacts on stakeholders and resources.

Upon listing, wildlife species benefit from various levels of protection, which vary depending on their status. All species in this Order are migratory birds protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MBCA). The MBCA and its regulations protect migratory birds, their nests and eggs against possessing, buying, selling, exchanging, giving or making it the subject of a commercial transaction, wherever they are found in Canada, regardless of land ownership, and including surrounding ocean waters. The MBCA and its regulations also prohibit depositing substances harmful to birds in waters or areas frequented by them. Additionally, the Migratory Birds Regulations prohibit hunting migratory birds (see footnote 13) as well as disturbing, destroying or taking a nest, egg, nest shelter, eider duck shelter or duck box of a migratory bird. The protections under the MBCA remain in effect when a migratory bird is listed in Schedule 1 of SARA.

Table 1 below summarizes the various protections afforded following listing to Schedule 1 of SARA.

Table 1: Summary of protections offered to migratory birds protected by the MBCA and their residences immediately upon their addition to Schedule 1 of SARA

StatusGeneral ProhibitionsApplication of Prohibitions
Protection of Individuals
(SARA, section 32)
Residence Protection
(SARA, section 33)
Special concern

SARA general prohibitions do not apply.

However, individuals and their eggs receive protection (as detailed above) everywhere they are found in Canada by the MBCA.

SARA residence protection does not apply.

However, nests are protected everywhere they are found in Canada by the MBCA.

While SARA protections do not apply to species of special concern, the MBCA protections continue to apply everywhere in Canada.
Threatened, endangered (see footnote 14) and extirpated

Protection for individuals of the species everywhere they are found in Canada against being killed, harmed, harassed, captured or taken.

Prohibition against the possession, collection, buying and selling or trading of an individual of the species or any part or derivative of this individual.

Under the MBCA, individuals and their eggs receive protection (as detailed above) everywhere they are found in Canada.

It is an offence to damage or destroy the residence of one or more individuals of a threatened or endangered species everywhere they are found in Canada.

The residence of extirpated species is only protected if a recovery strategy recommends reintroduction into the wild.

Under the MBCA, nests and nest shelters are protected everywhere they are found in Canada, but critical habitat and non-nest residences are not.

In addition to the MBCA protections, SARA protects against killing, harming and harassing, possessing, collecting, buying, selling or trading of individuals, their nests and their eggs. For endangered and threatened species, this also includes protection against the damage or destruction of their residences everywhere in Canada.
I- Recovery planning

Listing a species as endangered, threatened or extirpated triggers mandatory recovery planning, by the competent minister, in order to address threats to the survival or recovery of these listed species.

SARA states that a proposed recovery strategy must be posted on the SAR Public Registry in accordance with the following timelines:

  • endangered species: within one year of listing;
  • threatened species: within two years of listing; and
  • extirpated species: within two years of listing.

In preparing the recovery strategy, the competent minister must determine whether the recovery of the listed wildlife species is technically and biologically feasible. If it is not feasible, the recovery strategy must include a description of the species needs and, to the extent possible, an identification of its critical habitat, and the reasons why its recovery is not feasible.

For wildlife species for which there has been a determination that recovery is feasible, recovery strategies include

  • a description of the species and its needs;
  • an identification of the threats to the survival of the species and threats to its habitat, and a description of the broad strategy to be taken to address those threats;
  • an identification of critical habitat (i.e. the habitat necessary for a listed wildlife species’s recovery or survival);
  • examples of activities that are likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat;
  • a schedule of studies to identify critical habitat where available information is inadequate;
  • a statement of the population and distribution objectives for the species (i.e. the number of individuals, populations and/or geographic distribution of the species required to successfully recover the species);
  • a general description of the research and management activities needed to meet those objectives; and
  • a statement of the time frame for the development of one or more action plans.

Recovery strategies must be prepared in cooperation with

  • appropriate provincial or territorial governments;
  • other federal ministers with authority over federal lands where the species is found;
  • relevant wildlife management boards authorized by a land claims agreement;
  • directly affected Aboriginal organizations; and
  • any other person or organization that the competent minister considers appropriate.

Recovery strategies must also be prepared in consultation with landowners (including provinces and territories) or other persons whom the competent minister considers to be directly affected by the strategy.

The competent minister must prepare one or more action plans based on the recovery strategy. Action plans are also prepared in cooperation and consultation with the above-mentioned individuals or organizations. SARA does not mandate timelines for their preparation or implementation; rather, these are set out in the recovery strategy. Action plans must include

  • the identification of critical habitat, to the extent possible, if not already identified, and consistent with the recovery strategy;
  • examples of activities likely to destroy critical habitat;
  • a statement of the measures that are proposed to protect the species’ critical habitat, including entering into conservation agreements under section 11 of SARA;
  • an identification of any portions of critical habitat that have not been protected;
  • methods to be used to monitor the recovery of the species and its long-term viability;
  • an evaluation of the socio-economic costs of the action plan and the benefits from its implementation; and
  • any other matters that are prescribed by the Regulations.
II- Protection of critical habitat

Requirements under SARA for the protection of critical habitat depends on whether the species are aquatic; migratory birds protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MBCA); or other species, as well as whether these species are found on federal lands, in the exclusive economic zone, on the continental shelf of Canada or elsewhere in Canada. For migratory birds that are protected under the MBCA, their nests and nest shelters are protected against destruction throughout Canada.

When critical habitat or portions of critical habitat have been identified on federal lands, in the exclusive economic zone of Canada or on the continental shelf of Canada, SARA requires that it be legally protected within 180 days of its identification in the recovery strategy or action plan. Protection can be achieved through provisions in or measures under SARA or any other Act of Parliament, including conservation agreements under section 11 of the Act.

If critical habitat is located in a migratory bird sanctuary under the MBCA, in a national park included in Schedule 1 of the Canada National Parks Act, in the Rouge National Urban Park established by the Rouge National Urban Park Act, in a marine protected area under the Oceans Act, or in a national wildlife area under the Canada Wildlife Act, the competent minister must publish a description of that critical habitat in the Canada Gazette within 90 days of the date that the critical habitat was identified in a final recovery strategy or action plan. Subsection 58(1) of SARA, which prohibits the destruction of critical habitat, applies to the critical habitat described in the Canada Gazette 90 days after its publication.

In the case of critical habitat identified on federal land but not found in the protected areas listed above, the competent minister must, within 180 days following the identification of this habitat, in a final posted recovery strategy or action plan, either make a ministerial order to apply subsection 58(1) of SARA, prohibiting the destruction of this critical habitat, or publish on the SAR Public Registry a statement explaining how the critical habitat (or portions of it) is protected under another Act of Parliament, including conservation agreements under section 11 of the Act.

If the critical habitat of a migratory bird species protected by the MBCA is located outside federal lands, the exclusive economic zone, the continental shelf of Canada or a migratory bird sanctuary under the MBCA, the critical habitat will be protected only once the Governor in Council has made an order to that effect, following recommendation from the competent minister.

For portions of critical habitat on non-federal lands, SARA contemplates the protection of the critical habitat by other governments (e.g. provinces and territories). In the event that critical habitat is not protected in these areas, the Governor in Council may, by order, apply the SARA prohibition against destruction of that critical habitat. In cases where the Minister of the Environment is of the opinion that critical habitat on non-federal lands is not effectively protected by the laws of a province or territory, by another measure under SARA (including agreements under section 11) or through any other federal legislation, the Minister must recommend an order to the Governor in Council. Before making the recommendation, the Minister must consult with the appropriate provincial or territorial minister. In all cases, the Governor in Council makes the final decision whether to proceed with the order to protect the critical habitat in question. (see footnote 15)

III- SARA permits

A person intending to engage in an activity affecting a listed species, any part of its critical habitat or the residences of its individuals that is prohibited under SARA, may apply to the competent minister (see footnote 16) for a permit under section 73 of the Act. A permit may be issued if the Minister is of the opinion that the activity meets one of these three purposes:

  • (a) the activity is scientific research relating to the conservation of the species and conducted by qualified persons;
  • (b) the activity benefits the species or is required to enhance its chance of survival in the wild; or
  • (c) affecting the species is incidental to the carrying out of the activity. (see footnote 17)

Additionally, the permit may only be issued if the competent minister is of the opinion that the following preconditions under subsection 73(3) of SARA are met:

  • (a) all reasonable alternatives to the activity that would reduce the impact on the species have been considered, and the best solution has been adopted;
  • (b) all feasible measures will be taken to minimize the impact of the activity on the species or its critical habitat or the residences of its individuals; and
  • (c) the activity will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species.

Section 74 of SARA allows for a competent minister to issue permits under another Act of Parliament (e.g. the Canada National Parks Act) to engage in an activity that affects a listed wildlife species, any part of its critical habitat or the residences of its individuals, and have the same effect as those issued under subsection 73(1) of SARA, if the conditions set out in that provision are met. This is meant to reduce the need for multiple authorizations.

For migratory birds protected by the MBCA and SARA, a SARA-compliant MBCA permit may be issued to authorize an activity affecting a listed migratory bird, instead of issuing two separate permits. In order for a single permit to be issued, all three SARA subsection 73(3) preconditions [items (a), (b), and (c) above] required for the issuance of a permit under SARA must be met. The permitting option for the particular activity must also be available under the MBCA.

Permits under SARA can be issued if an activity affects the residence of a migratory bird, if that residence is not a nest or a nest shelter protected under the MBCA. Permits can also be issued under SARA for activities affecting the protected critical habitat of a listed migratory bird, because critical habitat is not protected under the MBCA.

IV- Management of special concern species

The addition of a species as special concern to Schedule 1 of SARA serves as an early indication that the species requires attention. Triggering the development of a management plan at this stage supports the proactive management of the species, maximizes the probability of success, and could help avoid higher-cost measures in the future. SARA does not require that critical habitat be identified for species of special concern.

The management plan includes conservation measures deemed appropriate to preserve the wildlife species and avoid a decline of its populations. It is developed in cooperation with the appropriate provincial and territorial minister, other federal government ministers, Aboriginal organizations and in consultation with any other affected or interested stakeholders. The management plan for a species must be posted within three years of the species being listed.

Objectives

The objectives of the Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (the Order) are to help maintain Canada’s biodiversity and the health of Canadian ecosystems by preventing wildlife species from becoming extirpated or extinct from Canada and contribute to their recovery, as well as to respond to COSEWIC’s recommendations.

Description

The Order pertains to eleven migratory bird species, as shown in Table 2 below. Of the eleven species,

  • two species already protected under SARA are being up-listed;
  • eight species are new additions; and
  • one species is being delisted.

A description of each species, their ranges and threats, is found in Annex 1. Additional information on these species can also be found in the COSEWIC status reports. (see footnote 18)

Table 2 -- Modifications to Schedule 1 of SARA for 11 migratory bird species

Legal Population NameScientific NamePrevious StatusNew StatusRange
Species being added to Schedule 1 of SARA
Bank SwallowRiparia ripariaNoneThreatenedCanada-wide
Barn SwallowHirundo rusticaNoneThreatenedCanada-wide
BobolinkDolichonyx oryzivorusNoneThreatenedAll provinces
Eastern MeadowlarkSturnella magnaNoneThreatenedOntario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
Eastern Wood-peweeContopus virensNoneSpecial concernSaskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia
Grasshopper Sparrow pratensis subspeciesAmmodramus savannarum pratensisNoneSpecial concernOntario, Quebec
Western GrebeAechmophorus occidentalisNoneSpecial concernBritish Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba
Wood ThrushHylocichla mustelinaNoneThreatenedOntario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
Species being reclassified in Schedule 1 of SARA
Cerulean WarblerSetophaga ceruleaSpecial concernEndangeredOntario, Quebec
Yellow-breasted Chat virens subspeciesIcteria virens virensSpecial concernEndangeredOntario
Species being removed from Schedule 1 of SARA
Hooded WarblerSetophaga citrina (see footnote 19)ThreatenedNot at riskOntario

Benefits and costs

The quantitative and qualitative incremental impacts (benefits and costs) of the Order were analyzed. Incremental impacts are defined as the differences between the baseline situation and the situation in which the Order is implemented over the same period. The baseline situation includes activities ongoing on federal lands where a species is found, and incorporates any projected changes over the next 10 years (2017–2026) that would occur without the Order in place.

An analytical period of 10 years (2017–2026) was selected, as the status of the species must be reassessed by COSEWIC at least every 10 years. Costs provided in present value terms are discounted at 3% over the period of 2017–2026. Unless otherwise noted, all monetary values reported in this analysis are in 2015 Canadian dollars.

Any decision about whether to take action to prevent a species from becoming extirpated involves three issues that do not usually occur simultaneously in most cost-benefit analyses:

  • (1) There is uncertainty about whether the effort to prevent extirpation would be successful.
  • (2) The benefits of protecting the species are known with less certainty than the costs, making a calculation of probable net benefits difficult due to limited information.
  • (3) A decision to protect could be reversed in the future, if need be. However, a decision against protection that results in the loss of the species cannot be reversed.

To reflect these challenges, this cost-benefit analysis presents the best available information and economic analysis possible. Preventing the extirpation of these species would likely result from a combination of the Order and additional protection measures undertaken by various levels of governments, Indigenous peoples and stakeholders. Therefore, the benefits presented cannot be attributed to the Order alone. They are provided here for context.

Overall, the analysis did not reveal any major impacts on Indigenous peoples and stakeholders.

Benefits

The key benefit of the Order is that recovery strategy and action plan development will be triggered for 7 of the 11 species. These documents enable coordinated action by responsible land management authorities wherever the species are found in Canada. Improved coordination among authorities may increase the likelihood of species survival. This process will also provide an opportunity for consideration of the impact of measures to recover the species and for consultation with Indigenous peoples and stakeholders.

The designation of species added to Schedule 1 of SARA determines the allocation of resources to manage and/or recover the species. Designations that reflect the best available scientific information ensure species can be protected according to the purposes of SARA, while minimizing impacts on stakeholders and resources.

More generally, preventing the extirpation of a given species via a variety of actions, including those taken under SARA, such as implementing this Order, contributes to overall biodiversity. More diverse ecosystems are generally more stable and less subject to malfunction; therefore, the benefits (goods and services) they provide are also more stable over time.

Total economic value

Using the total economic value framework, the analysis found that the birds in the Order provide the following use values.

  1. Pest and weed control: many bird species are beneficial by controlling pests on agricultural land, as a large percentage of their summer diet comprises crop-damaging insects (i.e. caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants, wasps, flies, beetles, mayflies).
  2. Nutrient cycling and seed dispersal: many bird species, including migratory birds, distribute nutrients derived from the consumption of insects, fruit, seeds and fish (see footnote 20) and disperse seeds within ecosystems.
  3. Birding and eco-tourism: according to the 2012 Canadian Nature Survey, 4.7 million Canadians engage in birding activities yearly (18% of the total population).
  4. Research: the Barn Swallow in particular is a popular research bird in North America, informing scientists on climate change, ecto-parasites and breeding, natural selection and group living behaviour.

There is also an option value associated with these species, i.e. Canadian residents and firms may hold a value associated with the preservation of Canadian genetic information that may be used in the future for biological, medicinal, genetic engineering and other applications. Economic theory also suggests there is a benefit to erring on the side of avoiding an irreversible outcome (i.e. extinction). (see footnote 21)

Finally, the 10 migratory birds that are being added or reclassified to Schedule 1 of SARA have a non-use value, which includes the value of knowing a species exists despite never observing it directly, and the value of knowing future generations will be able to enjoy the species. These values contribute to the well-being of Canadians.

Several studies estimate willingness to pay values for the preservation of iconic or charismatic species, concluding that charismatic species generally attract higher values than non-charismatic ones, thus providing greater social benefits. (see footnote 22), (see footnote 23) While no criteria have been formally established for designation of an “iconic” species in Canada, the Western Grebe may be of greater value to Canadians given its well-known and elaborate courtship displays. As well, Bobolink, Barn Swallow and Eastern Wood-pewee are highly recognized by Canadians.

One study (see footnote 24) found that Irish farmers are willing to pay on average the equivalent of $15.91 to $18.92 per year for the conservation of a rare farmland migratory bird species, the Corncrake, threatened by mowing and other agricultural activities. Another relevant paper (see footnote 25) estimated that an average household in the Netherlands is willing to pay the equivalent of $24.70 annually for the protection of endangered migratory birds. In terms of iconic birds, a key meta-analysis (see footnote 26) on threatened and endangered species has found that United States households are willing to pay, on average, between $24.81 and $133.57 per household per year to prevent the loss of one iconic bird species. These studies may be indicative of the value that Canadian individuals or households place on the species in this Order.

Costs

In terms of incremental costs, the following matters were considered:

  • Costs to Indigenous peoples and stakeholders of complying with general prohibitions;
  • Potential implications of a critical habitat protection order, if one is required in the future
    • Since critical habitat is only identified in a recovery strategy or action plan following listing, the extent of critical habitat identification is unknown. The need for and the form of future measures are not known at the time of listing. Hence, the analysis of potential changes to critical habitat protections resulting from the Order is illustrative, based upon best available information at this stage;
  • Government costs of recovery strategy, action plan or management plan development, permit applications and issuance, compliance promotion and enforcement; and
  • Implications for environmental assessments.

It is important to note a distinction regarding critical habitat on non-federal lands. If any future critical habitat identified on non-federal lands that is covered under the MBCA is determined by the competent Minister to be insufficiently protected, a decision to issue an order to protect that critical habitat would be made by the Governor in Council. Any such future decision could not be considered an incremental impact of this Order.

Costs associated with general prohibitions

As mentioned earlier in the document, the 10 bird species that are being added or reclassified to Schedule 1 are migratory birds that are protected by the MBCA everywhere they are found in Canada. This means that minimal incremental costs associated with complying with the general prohibitions under SARA can be expected for stakeholders because minimal additional compliance activities will result from adding or reclassifying the species to Schedule 1 of SARA.

Upon listing of an MBCA species as threatened or endangered under SARA, currently active and future permits will need to also meet the requirements of subsections 73(2) to (6.1) and 73(7) of SARA. In most cases, the incremental effort to do so will essentially be limited to the applicant providing the necessary data to demonstrate that the three SARA subsection 73(3) preconditions have been met, and some additional review by officials. There will be no change to permit applications on Parks Canada lands.

It is estimated that it may take an applicant approximately an additional 30 minutes to update an MBCA permit that would already exist under the baseline scenario, and around 2 hours to apply for any additional permits.

Potential critical habitat protections

The majority of species in this Order have wide ranges and wide habitat specificity, meaning that a “landscape approach” would likely be used when identifying critical habitat. In general, landscape-level identifications of critical habitat would involve ensuring a condition of the landscape that provides the necessary quantity and quality of habitat for the species to fulfill its needs is protected rather than protecting highly specific locations, although in some cases there may be specific site-based habitat features within the critical habitat that need protection. Accordingly, the activities considered likely to destroy critical habitat would typically be those with a broad landscape-level impact (e.g. clear-cutting a forest), as opposed to smaller-scale activities like ATV use. In cases where there is more suitable habitat than is required to meet the population and distribution objectives, it may be possible to identify critical habitat in a manner that reduces socio-economic impacts.

The identification of critical habitat is a science-based process that uses the best available information and is guided by a framework (see footnote 27) designed to be flexible enough to adapt to the various situations encountered by recovery practitioners, but structured enough to provide consistency in how critical habitat is identified and presented. The identification of critical habitat in federal recovery documents is reviewed by affected Indigenous organizations, wildlife management boards, partners, stakeholders and jurisdictions and is also open to a public consultation process.

If critical habitat (see footnote 28) for a listed species is identified on federal lands during the creation of a recovery strategy or an action plan, and federal legislation does not already protect the habitat, the competent minister is obligated under subsection 58(4) of SARA to make a Critical Habitat Protection Order to put protections for that habitat in place. In the event such an order is made, it would be considered an incremental impact of the decision to list a species. The analysis does not consider potential orders outside federal lands made under subsection 58(5.1) of SARA, as these would require a separate GIC decision, and the incremental impacts of such an order would be examined at that time.

However, there is a great deal of uncertainty at the time of listing over whether any such order would ever occur and where it would apply because critical habitat is only identified during the development of a recovery strategy (which establishes the population and distribution objectives for the species) or subsequently in an action plan, after a species is listed or reclassified as extirpated, endangered or threatened. At the time of listing, the amount and location of critical habitat needed to meet the population and distribution objectives is unknown, as is whether critical habitat will be identified on federal lands.

The listing of the three species of special concern will not trigger critical habitat identification. As for the Hooded Warbler, the delisting of the species eliminates the potential that a critical habitat protection order on federal lands will be issued.

For all other species, to address the uncertainty associated with the lack of defined critical habitat at the time of the listing, the analysis assumed that all suitable land for breeding, nesting, feeding, foraging, and roosting on federal land within the range of each species could possibly be identified as critical habitat and consequently protected under a critical habitat protection order. This is a conservative approach, since the critical habitat to be identified in the future might only comprise a portion of the range of a species. Nonetheless, all hypothetical impacts of a critical habitat protection order on stakeholders active on federal lands within the range of the species are examined. This ensures that any potential impacts to stakeholders have been examined for any scenario in which critical habitat protection could be put in place on federal land.

This analysis focused on economic activities occurring within the range of the species, specifically on federal lands. The definition of federal lands includes First Nation’s Reserves and any other lands that are set apart for the use and benefit of a band under the Indian Act and all the waters on and airspace above those reserves and lands.

The analysis used Geographical Information Systems to determine economic activities on federal land where the species occur. Databases of federal properties (see footnote 29) and Indigenous lands (see footnote 30) were overlaid with the ranges of the species. Combined with major known threats to survival in Canada, as identified by COSEWIC, this approach provides a conservative view on potential changes for stakeholders arising from critical habitat protection.

Given the threats identified by COSEWIC, the following sectors, which have been or could be active on federal lands, have the potential to affect any future critical habitat of the species: agriculture, logging and forestry, aggregate extraction, mining, urban development, flood control and erosion control. Despite this broad scope, and the uncertainties involved, analysis at this time did not reveal any major impacts. To date, the protections under SARA for individuals and residences have been considered to provide minimal incremental protection compared with existing protections for birds, nests and nest shelters under the Migratory Birds Regulations (MBR) and the MBCA. Thus where there is critical habitat on federal land that is also in use by the industries mentioned above, the existing MBCA protections lessen the incremental impacts to industry of SARA’s critical habitat protections. Although there are certain exceptions (e.g. overgrazing by livestock can decrease breeding habitat without harming nests), given the limited scope of these activities on federal lands, and the flexibilities inherent in defining critical habitat for species that exist across Canada, incremental costs associated with critical habitat protection on federal lands are likely to be low.

Recovery strategy and action plan / management plan development

Some administrative costs for the development of recovery strategies, action plans and management plans will be incurred by the federal government. Recovery plan and action plan development is estimated to cost $40,000 to $50,000 per species, for a total present value of $240,700 to $300,900 for the species in this group. The development of a management plan for the three species of special concern is expected to cost $10,000 per species, for a total present value of $26,700.

Enforcement and compliance promotion

The management regime for these birds under SARA is expected to be consistent with how they have been managed to date under the MBR, with some additional protection of non-nest residences. Little additional enforcement effort is therefore anticipated beyond existing efforts to enforce the MBCA; therefore, no additional costs are anticipated. A Compliance Promotion Plan has been drafted for the Order and it is anticipated that compliance promotion activities will cost approximately $10,000 to the Government of Canada during the year following the coming into force of the Order. Compliance promotion activities will include the following: updates to the SAR Public Registry, outreach to federal land managers and Indigenous Peoples to help them understand their obligations under SARA, materials for industry sectors, which may perceive the Order as having negative impacts on their activities, and information on the species and their occurrence on federal lands provided to departmental enforcement officers.

Permitting

As noted above, permits would be required for activities that would otherwise be prohibited under SARA’s general prohibitions or a potential critical habitat protection order on federal lands. In general, the incremental permitting costs to the Government of Canada is estimated to be between $500 and $2,600 per permit, including costs associated with reviewing permits, assessing applications, and communicating with applicants. On the part of permit applicants (businesses or researchers), applying for permits for scientific or beneficial activities usually involves costs estimated at $100 to $1,100 per permit. Applying for a permit where affecting the species is incidental to the carrying out of the activity is estimated to cost between $600 and $2,400, varying with species and activities involved. For such permits related to high-impact development projects, costs could rise to the tens of thousands of dollars. However, many such projects would undergo an Environmental Assessment process that requires proponents to gather large amounts of information on species at risk, and in such cases the costs associated with gathering this information are not fully attributable to the listing of the species under SARA.

Based on data for existing MBCA permits, it is estimated that up to 69 research permits and up to 28 permits for activities where affecting the species is incidental to the carrying out of the activity could be requested. The incremental costs to the Government of Canada (including additional expenses and labour) associated with these permit requests in the 10 years following listing could be up to $100,000 (undiscounted). This includes costs associated with updating currently active permits and issuing new ones due to a possible increase in the number of scientific permits requested.

Implications for environmental assessments

Generally speaking, there could also be some implications for projects (see footnote 31) required to undergo an environmental assessment by or under an Act of Parliament (hereafter referred to as “federal EA”).

Proponents already need to meet the requirements of the MBCA and the MBR if a project undergoing a federal EA could potentially affect any of these species directly (although they are not required to assess potential damage to the critical habitat of a species). Also, federal EA guidelines already recommend that proponents evaluate effects on species already assessed by COSEWIC that may become listed on Schedule 1 of SARA in the near future. Overall, any incremental costs are expected to be minimal relative to the total costs of performing a federal EA; no attempt has been made to quantify these potential costs.

“One-for-One” Rule

Although the number of permit applications that would be triggered as a result of the Order is unknown, preparing the permit application would represent an administrative cost to the applicants. Therefore, the amendments are considered to be an “IN” under the Government of Canada’s “One-for-One” Rule.

Based on data from past permit applications, it is assumed that up to 28 potential permit applications could be received from businesses in the 10 years following listing. The 28 permit applications could give rise to one-time administrative costs which are estimated to be $6,490 on an annualized basis (2012 C$ discounted at 7% to a base year of 2012) on the part of business applicants, or $232 in annualized administrative costs per business (2012 C$ discounted at 7% to a base year of 2012). These estimates are based upon the experience of SARA permit administrators and data on previously requested permits. The administrative burden costs are based on the assumption that

  • each permit application would take approximately 27 hours of the applicant’s time, for activities such as familiarization with the application requirements, information collection/retrieval and application completion and submission; and
  • for properties that already require a permit under another Act of Parliament for an activity to take place (e.g. National Park, National Wildlife Area, MBCA, etc.), the permit application cost would be only the additional cost required to make the permit SARA compliant, which is estimated to be approximately $596 per permit application.

Small business lens

The small business lens does not apply to this proposal, as the nationwide cost impacts of the proposal are below $1 million per year and costs for small businesses are not considered disproportionately high.

With the listing Order in place, small businesses could seek a SARA permit under subsection 73(2)(c) of SARA. Permits are assessed on a case-by-case basis and would be granted only where all reasonable alternatives were considered and the best solution is adopted; all feasible measures are taken to minimize the impact of the activity; and the activity will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species. It is assumed that up to half of the permit applications for activities where affecting the species is incidental to the carrying out of the activity could qualify as small businesses and, as a result, up to 14 permit applications could be received from small businesses in the 10 years following listing. The annualized average administrative cost for these permits is $3,248 (2012 C$ discounted at 7% to a base year of 2012), for an annualized average of $232 per business (2012 C$ discounted at 7% to a base year of 2012).

Consultation

Under SARA, the independent scientific assessment of the status of wildlife species conducted by COSEWIC and the decision made by the GIC to afford legal protection by placing a wildlife species on Schedule 1 of the Act are two distinct processes. This separation guarantees that scientists may work independently when assessing the biological status of wildlife species and that Canadians have the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process of determining whether or not wildlife species will be listed under SARA to receive legal protections.

The Department begins initial public consultations with the posting of the Minister’s response statements on the SAR Public Registry within 90 days of receiving a copy of an assessment of the status of a wildlife species from COSEWIC. Indigenous peoples and organizations, stakeholders and the general public are also consulted by means of a publicly posted document titled Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species. This was published in December 2010 (Bobolink), December 2011 (Barn Swallow, Cerulean Warbler and Eastern Meadowlark), December 2012 (Hooded Warbler), December 2013 (Bank Swallow, Eastern Wood-pewee and Wood Thrush) and January 2015 (Western Grebe and Grasshopper Sparrow pratensis subspecies).

The consultation documents provide information on the species, including the reason for their designation, a biological description and location information. They also provided an overview of the listing process. These documents were distributed directly to over 3 600 recipients, including Indigenous peoples and organizations, wildlife management boards, (see footnote 32) provincial and territorial governments, various industrial sectors, resource users, landowners and environmental non-governmental organizations.

Consultation before publication in the Canada Gazette, Part I

Ninety-eight comments were received pertaining to the 11 bird species included in this regulatory package. Comments were received from provinces, territories, federal agencies, NGOs, First Nations, Indigenous organizations, wildlife management boards, individuals, municipalities and businesses. More than 85% of comments received supported or did not oppose the modifications to Schedule 1 of SARA, while 15 comments specifically opposed the listing of species or expressed concerns with the impacts of listing.

The opposing comments were received from provinces, individuals, businesses, associations and one First Nation.

Abundance of the species

Some of the opposing comments argued that the species is abundant in a specific area and questioned the dataset used, with some commenters indicating that the species would be more accurately designated at a lower level in their area whereas it can be designated at a higher risk level elsewhere in the country. The Department notes that the purpose of SARA is to prevent the extinction of species and provide for their recovery in Canada as a whole, as opposed to individual provincial jurisdictions. In order for a subspecies to be recognized, populations have to be significant or discrete from those found in other regions of Canada, which is not the case for any of the migratory bird species specified in the Order.

Bobolink: There is no indication that the population is increasing in the Prairies; however, between 1987 and 2006, the North American Breeding Bird Survey (see footnote 33) data indicates that while Bobolinks were abundant in southern Manitoba and parts of Ontario and Quebec, they were not abundant in Saskatchewan, Alberta or British Columbia. Coming from a lower abundance than that recorded in the eastern range, the decline in the west may be not as severe as the east. Trend information updated since the COSEWIC status report continues to show declines. Trends for 1970 to 2012 indicate an annual decline of 3.98% per year for Alberta, of 1.06% per year for Manitoba and of 1.5% per year in Saskatchewan. The short-term trend (2002–2012) for all three provinces are also showing signs of decline for the species, with average declines of 3.4% per year in Alberta, 0.91% per year in Manitoba and 1% per year in Saskatchewan. The decline is indeed more severe in the east according to long-term data (1970–2012), which shows declines of 2.92% per year in Ontario, 4.22% per year in Quebec, 3.82% per year in New Brunswick and 4.85% per year in Nova Scotia. This data indicates a long-term decline of the species throughout its Canadian range.

In addition, the Department notes that there is a specific temporal boundary for threatened species: 3 generations or 10 years, whichever is longest (which, in the case of the Bobolink, is 10 years). The Department considers the North American Breeding Bird Survey as a suitable method for surveying Bobolinks, because many surveys are carried out in open habitat, where the species occurs, and Bobolinks can be easily detected by their song and flight. The North American Breeding Bird Survey covers virtually the entire range of Bobolinks in Canada and surveying is often on roads that have little traffic. The same roads and survey methods have been used for over 30 years, ensuring consistency of the surveys.

Barn Swallow: The causes of the declines of the Barn Swallow would likely be the subject of a series of recommended studies in the recovery strategy and action plan. Although the species has a large range in Canada, the scientific literature indicates that its abundance has undergone important declines. There has been a significant decline of approximately 30% in the total number of mature individuals from 1999–2009, based on an appropriate index of abundance (i.e. the North American Breeding Bird Survey). Population declines are a widely accepted assessment criteria for species at risk, even for widespread and abundant species.

Bank Swallow: Although the species has a large range in Canada, its abundance has undergone important declines. There has been an observed 31% decline in the total number of mature individuals from 2001–2011, based on an appropriate index of abundance (the North American Breeding Bird Survey). In addition, a number of other surveys and information sources were also examined, including the Breeding Bird Atlases for Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and the Maritimes, the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network, the Étude des populations d’oiseaux du Québec, and the Ontario Bank Swallow Research and Monitoring Project. All Breeding Bird Atlases considered indicated a significant decline in abundance or range contraction.

Eastern Wood-pewee: The species was assessed as a species of special concern in Canada. This will not bring any additional general prohibitions or the identification of critical habitat. The species has experienced persistent declines over the past 40 years both in Canada and the United States. The 10-year decline of 25% comes close to satisfying the criteria for a threatened designation; however, since the threshold for this designation is a 30% decline over 10 years, this species was assessed as a species of special concern. The listing will not constrain business operations, since there will be no additional protection measures.

Wood Thrush: This species has undergone a 38% decline in population abundance in Canada from 2001–2011. The long-term North American Breeding Bird Survey data shows a statistically significant annual rate of decline of 4.29% between 1970 and 2011, for a population loss of 83% over the last 41 years. This rate of decline has increased slightly for the period of 2001–2011, with an annual significant decline of 4.69%. The probability of a decline of at least 30% over the past 10 years is 89%, and is therefore a strong indication that this species is declining rapidly. Although the species uses habitat that is seemingly abundant in Eastern Canada, the species itself is no longer considered abundant due to the important declines it has experienced in the past 40 years. Because this species has a large range in Canada and requires some habitat disturbances, it is likely that critical habitat would be identified at a landscape scale, rather than at specific sites. This means that critical habitat would likely involve the protection of only a portion of the range of occurrence and that the area identified would need to meet specific habitat attributes. This protection would result in minimal constraints on businesses, while attempting to halt the population decline of the species.

Potential impact on agricultural or business operations

Some comments mention anticipated impacts on their agricultural operations or their business activities and indicate that the MBCA protections already in place should be sufficient to protect the species.

Migratory birds, their nests and their eggs are already afforded protection under the MBCA. A listing under SARA could create a minimal additional burden on Canadians. This minimal additional burden would apply if the residence is determined to be more than the nest and the planned activity was not already prohibited under the MBCA. For those species with a large range in Canada, it is likely that critical habitat will be identified at a landscape scale, rather than at specific sites. In such cases, critical habitat will likely involve the protection of only a portion of the range of occurrence and that area will need to meet specific habitat attributes.

For the migratory birds included in this Order that are more site-specific, the existing MBCA protections lessen the anticipated incremental impacts of SARA’s protections. If specific incremental measures were to be deemed necessary for site-specific critical habitat protection, SARA provides for the consideration of alternative mechanisms, such as stewardship agreements. These agreements can be used to provide conservation measures that are consistent with the Act, while accommodating a range of circumstances.

Removal of anthropogenic structures

Another type of comment is related to concerns over the ability to remove anthropogenic structures for health and safety reasons.

With respect to the operation, maintenance or modification of an existing man-made structure recognized as a residence, the Government of Canada will work with the landowners and managers of those structures to achieve compliance under SARA and promote species recovery. Under certain conditions, SARA provides that permits may be issued for activities that affect a listed wildlife species, its critical habitat or residences of its individuals. SARA also provides exceptions for certain activities that relate to public safety, health or national security, if these are authorized under an Act of Parliament. The Department will work with landowners and land managers to explore these options when situations concerning public health and safety arise. The Department also intends to reach out to stakeholders through compliance promotion activities to address concerns from agricultural and rural communities.

Public comment period following publication in the Canada Gazette, Part I

The proposed Order and accompanying Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement were published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on March 11, 2017, for a 30-day public comment period. Links to these documents were also posted on the SAR Public Registry and on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and a notice of the public comment period was sent to Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders.

Fifty-six comments from twenty-four respondents were received during the public comment period. Specifically, comments were received from seven First Nations, seven businesses, seven individuals, two environmental non-governmental organizations and one university. Thirty-eight comments supported or did not oppose the proposed amendments to Schedule 1 of SARA, while twelve specifically opposed them. One First Nation commented that it lacked the capacity to provide comments during the public comment period. Four comments were received from one public utility company reiterating the opposing comments they had provided during the initial consultations for Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Eastern Wood-pewee and Wood Thrush. The opposing comments related to the abundance of the species and potential impacts of listing on business activities were addressed in the section above. Finally, another public utility company wrote to request clarifications on their potential permit applications and the Department reached out to provide more details.

Opposition to delisting of Hooded Warbler

Three individuals oppose the delisting of Hooded Warbler, with one of them indicating their views that the species is no longer at risk only because of the federal protections it was afforded as a listed species.

The Department notes that the latest COSEWIC assessment for the Hooded Warbler indicates that the Canadian population of this migratory bird has increased by over 200% since the 2000 COSEWIC assessment. Its extent of occurrence has also expanded significantly and the probability of detection increased by 400% between the 1980s and the early 2000s. The assessment mentions the availability of appropriate breeding habitat in southwestern Ontario as well as a northward expansion of the species range, which may be the result of climate change and reforestation. As a result of the population increase and range expansion, this species no longer meets the criteria for a “threatened” designation.

Differences between COSEWIC and NatureServe designations

Two businesses sent four opposing comments on the addition of Bank Swallow and Barn Swallow to Schedule 1 of SARA, questioning the COSEWIC designation as “threatened” in relation to NatureServe’s national “G5 (Secure)” designation for the two species. They also expressed concerns with a national “threatened” designation when the species is still abundant in their province.

The Department notes that NatureServe conservation status ranks are considered in the species status assessments undertaken by COSEWIC. According to a document entitled “Appropriate Use of NatureServe Conservation Status Assessments in Species Listing Processes,” available on NatureServe’s website, “NatureServe status assessment procedures have different criteria, evidence requirements, purposes and taxonomic coverage than government lists of endangered and threatened species and, therefore, these two types of lists should not be expected to coincide.” NatureServe further clarifies that “the purpose of the conservation status ranks developed by NatureServe is to assess the relative risk facing a species or ecosystem and does not imply that any specific action or legal status is needed to assure its survival.”

Departmental officials examined the most recent data for all species in the Order and found that, should the species undergo assessment today, Bobolink and the Barn Swallow may no longer fit the COSEWIC criteria for the threatened designation. When assessed by COSEWIC in 2010 and 2011 respectively, both species were designated threatened based primarily on results of the North American Breeding Bird Survey available at that time. However, since the publication of the assessments, new data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey covering years up to 2015 have indicated a gradual reduction in the rate of decline, beginning around 1995 for Bobolink, and around 2000 for Barn Swallow. The most recent 10-year period survey (2005–2015) indicates a 20% decline for Bobolink and a 13% decline for Barn Swallow.

Despite the recent reduction in the rate of decline since the 2010 and 2011 assessments, Bobolink and Barn Swallow are still declining. While these species benefitted from changes to the landscape that came about following the European settlement, Bobolink and Barn Swallow have declined by 88% since 1968 and by 76% since 1970 respectively. The magnitude and geographic extent of the overall declines remain causes for conservation concern for these species. In an effort to balance conservation concerns and the availability of more recent data, the Minister decided to recommend to GIC to add the species to Schedule 1 of SARA rather than recommending that the species be referred back for further evaluation as per subsection 27(1.1) of SARA, which could have delayed protection of the two species significantly. The Department requested that COSEWIC prioritize the reassessment of these species.

As for the comment on the national designation of the species when the species seems abundant in one province, the Department reiterates that COSEWIC assessments examine the status of the species across recognized designatable units in Canada, and listing decisions by the Government of Canada are made on this basis.

Permitting concerns

A business indicated that the uncertainty surrounding permit applications and approvals under SARA is creating challenges in their operations. They expressed the need for clear and consistent mechanisms and more efficient permitting processes, such as the general exemptions afforded under the Ontario’s Endangered Species Act for specific species and activities. (see footnote 34)

In fall 2016, the Department released a suite of draft policies to support predictable, clear, and consistent implementation of SARA and to provide clarity on the Act’s requirements and how the Government of Canada will meet its obligations. Public consultations on the draft policies took place between September 2016 and March 2017 and the Department is currently updating the policies to address the comments received during the consultations.

The draft Permitting Policy (see footnote 35) provides clarity on the interpretation of key terms used in the permitting provisions of SARA to support the issuance of permits in a predictable manner and outlines the key considerations relevant to a determination of whether to issue a permit. It also includes guidelines on the use of biodiversity offsets as a tool to avoid jeopardizing the survival or recovery of a species at risk by activities permitted under section 73 of SARA.

Two businesses expressed concerns with future permit applications related to their activities. One business indicated that the inability to obtain an incidental take permit for a migratory bird will have an impact on some of the site revitalization activities that are underway on their property as well as on the complete closure of one site. Activities involve the removal of over 100 buildings that are not structurally sound; present hazards; are too old or in an unsuitable condition; or no longer meet business needs or codes and regulations. Redundant facilities would also be removed.

The draft Policy Regarding the Identification of Anthropogenic Structures as Critical Habitat (see footnote 36) indicates the following: “With respect to the operation, maintenance or modification of existing anthropogenic structures, the Government of Canada will work with the owners/managers of those structures to achieve compliance under SARA and promote species recovery.” Appropriate measures need to be decided on a case-by-case basis. The Department has reached out to the two businesses that provided these comments to discuss the activities that may be problematic when implementing their projects.

Duplication of SARA protections with other existing protections

One business submitted four comments expressing their concern that new SARA protections would duplicate the protections already afforded by the MBCA, and the Ontario Endangered Species Act.

The benefits of listing a species under SARA go beyond the application of the protections of individuals and their residences. As mentioned in the “Background” section of this document, adding a species to Schedule 1 of SARA is the first step to allow for a number of protection measures to be implemented, including the development of a recovery strategy and one or more action plans; the identification and protection of the species’ critical habitat; and the availability of funding for research to address the information gaps identified in a schedule of studies. Listing under SARA also provides the possibility of invoking SARA’s “safety net” mechanisms should the Minister be of the opinion that the laws of the province do not effectively protect the species or the residences of its individuals.

With the exception of activities authorized under a permit, disturbance or destruction of migratory bird nests or eggs is prohibited under the MBCA and its regulations. The Department publishes a website (www.ec.gc.ca/paom-itmb) to support the planning of activities in order to reduce the risk of detrimental effects to migratory birds, their nests and their eggs, in accordance with the purpose of the MBCA. The Department invites concerned individuals or organizations to contact one of its regional offices to discuss the particulars of their projects.

Other comments

An environmental non-governmental association sent a letter supporting the addition of the Grasshopper Sparrow pratensis subspecies to Schedule 1 of SARA, but indicated that a special concern designation may not be sufficient. They sent new information on the studied decline of the species in the province of Quebec to support their claim for a higher classification.

The Department looked at the information provided to determine if the species’s status should be re-examined by COSEWIC and concluded that the new information will be considered when the species is reassessed (within 10 years of the 2013 status report), but decided not to refer the species back to COSEWIC. Only a minority of the individuals of the species is found in the province of Quebec, and although the decline is significant in the province, the overall population of the species across its range has not declined in a way that would meet the COSEWIC criteria for a threatened designation.

The Department is committed to a collaborative process throughout the assessment, listing and recovery planning processes. The results of the public consultations are of great significance to the process of listing species at risk. The Department carefully reviews the comments it receives to gain a better understanding of the benefits and costs of changing the list of wildlife species at risk. Additional information on consultation results for all 11 species is provided for each species in Annex 1.

Rationale

Biodiversity is crucial to ecosystem productivity, health and resiliency, yet is rapidly declining worldwide as species become extinct. (see footnote 37) The Order will support the survival and recovery of 10 species of migratory birds in Canada by affording legal protections to 7 species, and mandating recovery planning for 10 species, thus contributing to the maintenance of biodiversity in Canada. In the case of the seven threatened or endangered species, a listing under SARA will complement the protection that they already receive under the MBCA. In addition, these species will benefit from the development of recovery strategies and action plans that identify the main threats to species survival, as well as identify, when possible, the critical habitat that is necessary for their survival and recovery in Canada. Three species listed as species of special concern may benefit from the development of a management plan, which includes measures for the conservation of the species.

The Order will help Canada meet its commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity. A strategic environmental assessment concluded that the Order will result in important positive environmental effects. Specifically, it demonstrated that the protection of wildlife species at risk contributes to national biodiversity and protects ecosystem productivity, health and resiliency. Given the interdependency of species, a loss of biodiversity can lead to decreases in ecosystem function and services. These services are important to the health of Canadians and have important ties to Canada’s economy. Small changes within an ecosystem resulting in the loss of individuals and species can therefore have adverse, irreversible and broad-ranging effects.

This proposal has direct links with the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada 2013–2016. The amendments to Schedule 1 of SARA will have important environmental effects and support Theme III, “Protecting Nature and Canadians,” of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada 2013–2016. Under Theme III, these amendments will help fulfill Goal 4 (“Conserving and Restoring Ecosystems, Wildlife and Habitat, and Protecting Canadians”), one of its targets (“4.1 Species at Risk. By 2020, populations of species at risk listed under federal law exhibit trends that are consistent with recovery strategies and management plans” (see footnote 38)), and a number of implementation strategies.

The overall costs to the Government of $407,000 to $598,000 (present value) over 10 years, discounted at 3% to a base year of 2016, are limited to federal government actions related to recovery and management plan development, and compliance promotion and enforcement. No direct costs to businesses are currently anticipated.

Implementation, enforcement and service standards

Following the listing, the Department will implement a compliance promotion plan. Compliance promotion initiatives are proactive measures that encourage voluntary compliance with the law through education and outreach activities and raise awareness and understanding of the prohibitions. Potentially affected Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders will be reached in order to

  • increase their awareness and understanding of the Order;
  • promote the adoption of behaviours that will contribute to the overall conservation and protection of wildlife at risk;
  • increase compliance with the Order; and
  • enhance their knowledge regarding species at risk.

These objectives will be accomplished through creating and disseminating information products to explain the new prohibitions applicable on federal lands for threatened or endangered species; the recovery planning process that follows listing and how stakeholders can get involved; and general information on each of the species. These resources will be posted on the SAR Public Registry. Mail-outs and presentations to targeted audiences may also be considered as appropriate.

In Parks Canada heritage places, front-line staff is given the appropriate information regarding the species at risk found within their sites to inform visitors on prevention measures and engage them in the protection and conservation of species at risk.

Subsequent to listing, the preparation and implementation of recovery strategies, action plans or management plans may result in recommendations for further regulatory action for the protection of wildlife species. It may also draw on the provisions of other Acts of Parliament to provide required protection.

SARA provides for penalties for contraventions to the Act, including fines or imprisonment, seizure and forfeiture of things seized or of the proceeds of their disposition. Agreements on alternative measures may also be used to deal with an alleged offender under certain conditions. SARA also provides for inspections and search and seizure operations by enforcement officers designated under SARA. Under the penalty provisions of the Act, a corporation found guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $300,000, a non-profit corporation is liable to a fine of not more than $50,000, and any other person is liable to a fine of not more than $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or to both. A corporation found guilty of an indictable offence is liable to a fine of not more than $1,000,000, a non-profit corporation to a fine of not more than $250,000, and any other person to a fine of not more than $250,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years, or to both.

The Permits Authorizing an Activity Affecting Listed Wildlife Species Regulations, which came into effect on June 19, 2013, impose a 90-day timeline on the Government to either issue or refuse permits under section 73 of SARA authorizing activities that may affect listed wildlife species. The 90-day timeline may not apply in certain circumstances. These Regulations contribute to consistency, predictability and transparency in the SARA permitting process by providing applicants with clear and measurable service standards. The Department measures its service performance annually, and performance information is posted on the Department’s website (see footnote 39) no later than June 1 for the preceding fiscal year.

Contact

Mary Jane Roberts
Director
SARA Management and Regulatory Affairs
Canadian Wildlife Service
Department of the Environment
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0H3
Telephone: 1-800-668-6767
Email: ec.LEPreglementations-SARAregulations.ec@canada.ca

Annex 1 -- Description of species being added to, reclassified in or removed from Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act

Bank Swallow

COSEWIC assessed this species as threatened in May 2013.

About this species

The Bank Swallow is a small insectivorous migratory songbird with brown upperparts, white underparts and a distinctive dark breast band. It is distinguishable in flight from other swallows by its quick, erratic wing beats and its almost constant buzzy, chattering vocalizations. The species is highly social at all times of year and is conspicuous at colonial breeding sites where it excavates nesting burrows in eroding vertical banks.

Breeding occurs in a wide variety of natural and artificial sites within vertical banks, including riverbanks, lake and ocean bluffs, aggregate pits, road cuts, and stock piles of soil, while sand-silt substrates are preferred. Breeding sites tend to be somewhat ephemeral due to the dynamic nature of bank erosion, and can change from year to year. They are often situated near open terrestrial habitat used for aerial foraging. Large wetlands are used as communal nocturnal roost sites during post-breeding, migration, and wintering periods.

The Bank Swallow has an extensive distribution, occurring on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. In North America, it breeds widely across the northern two-thirds of the United States, north to the treeline. It breeds in all Canadian provinces and territories, except perhaps Nunavut. The Bank Swallow can be found in many Parks Canada protected heritage places across the country. (see footnote 40) The Bank Swallow winters primarily in South America.

Cumulative effects from several sources may be a cause of declines in Bank Swallow populations. Breeding and foraging habitat is disappearing, particularly through erosion control projects, flood control (dams), aggregate management activities/excavation, conversion of pastureland to cropland, and afforestation. Climatic changes may reduce overwinter survival or reproductive potential. Widespread pesticide use may cause decreases in the abundance or diversity of flying insects needed for feeding. A further understanding of threats during migration and of wintering grounds is needed to assess their impacts on populations.

Consultations

The Bank Swallow underwent consultations from December 2013 to March 2014. Twenty comments were received with respect to listing the Bank Swallow. Fourteen comments supported or did not oppose listing the species as threatened. The remaining six comments opposed the addition of the species to Schedule 1 of SARA. Of the six, two oppose its designation status and argue it should be listed as a species of special concern instead of being listed as threatened and one opposes listing the species as threatened in Saskatchewan and indicates that listing the species as threatened may be more appropriate in Ontario and Quebec.

Eight comments were also received regarding all species in the December 2013 consultation document, which includes Bank Swallow. Seven of these comments support or do not oppose listing all the species, while one comment opposes it.

Following the publication of the proposed Order in the Canada Gazette, Part I, eleven comments were received supporting or not opposing the listing of all species. Eight comments were also received specific to the Bank Swallow: four of those comments were supportive, while three were opposed to the addition of Bank Swallow to Schedule 1 of SARA. One public utility company wrote to reiterate the comments related to the abundance of the species and potential impacts of listing on business activities that they had provided during the initial consultations and that were addressed previously. The details of each opposing comment were presented in the “Consultation” section of this document.

Listing rationale

The Bank Swallow has experienced a severe long-term decline amounting to a loss of 98% of its Canadian population over the last 40 years. As with many other aerial insectivores, the decline continues, albeit at a slower rate since the 1980s. The North American Breeding Bird Survey data from 2001–2011 indicate a potential loss of 31% of the population during that 10-year period. Although not well understood, the reasons for the decline are likely related to the cumulative effects of several threats, including loss of breeding and foraging habitat, destruction of nests during aggregate excavation, collisions with vehicles, widespread pesticide use affecting prey abundance, and impacts of climate change, which may reduce survival or reproductive potential.

Barn Swallow

COSEWIC assessed this species as threatened in May 2011.

About this species

The Barn Swallow is a medium-sized songbird that is easily recognized by its steely-blue upperparts, cinnamon underparts, chestnut throat and forehead, and by its deeply forked tail. Both sexes have similar plumage, but males have longer outer tail-streamers than females and tend to be darker chestnut on their underparts.

Before European colonization, Barn Swallows nested mostly in caves, holes, crevices and ledges in cliff faces. Following European settlement, they shifted largely to nesting in and on artificial structures, including barns and other outbuildings, garages, houses, bridges, and road culverts. Barn Swallows prefer various types of open habitats for foraging, including grassy fields, pastures, various kinds of agricultural crops, lake and river shorelines, cleared rights-of-way, cottage areas and farmyards, islands, wetlands, and subarctic tundra.

The Barn Swallow is the most widespread species of swallow in the world; it is found on every continent except Antarctica. It breeds across much of North America south of the treeline and south to central Mexico. In Canada, it is known to breed in all provinces and territories except perhaps Nunavut. It is also very common in the network of protected heritage places of Parks Canada and can be found in many national parks and national historic sites. The Barn Swallow is a long-distance migrant and winters throughout Central and South America.

The main causes of the recent decline in Barn Swallow populations are thought to be the loss of nesting and foraging habitats due to the conversion from conventional to modern farming techniques; large-scale declines (or other perturbations) in insect populations; and direct and indirect mortality due to an increase in climate perturbations on the breeding grounds (cold snaps). Other limiting factors include high nestling mortality due to high rates of ectoparasitism, and interspecific competition for nest sites with an invasive species (House Sparrow). In addition, loss of foraging habitat and exposure to pesticides during migration and overwintering are also threats.

Consultations

Barn Swallow underwent extended consultations from November 2011 to November 2012. Seventeen comments were received pertaining to the species: fourteen supported or did not oppose listing while three raised concerns about the impacts of listing the species as threatened. Two of the opposing comments came from industry associations and relate to a perception that adding Barn Swallow to Schedule 1 of SARA would make it an offence to remove buildings for safety reasons or work on bridges and culverts. The third comment is from a business who questions the threatened status of the species and suggests that it would be more appropriate to designate the species as a species of special concern. It indicates that a threatened listing could have significant impacts on its operations.

Following the publication of the proposed Order in the Canada Gazette, Part I, eleven comments were received supporting or not opposing the listing of all species. Ten comments were also received specific to the Barn Swallow: four of those comments were supportive, while four were opposed to the addition of Barn Swallow to Schedule 1 of SARA. One public utility company wrote to request clarifications on their potential permit applications and the department reached out to provide more details. Finally, one public utility company wrote to reiterate the comments related to the abundance of the species and potential impacts of listing on business activities that they had provided during the initial consultations and that were addressed previously. The details of each opposing comment were presented in the “Consultation” section of this document.

Listing rationale

This is one of the world’s most widespread and common landbird species. However, like many other species of birds that specialize on a diet of flying insects, this species has experienced very large declines that began somewhat inexplicably in the mid- to late 1980s in Canada. Its Canadian distribution and abundance may be greater than prior to European settlement, owing to the species’ ability to adapt to nesting in a variety of artificial structures (barns, bridges, etc.) and to exploit foraging opportunities in open, human-modified, rural landscapes. While there have been losses in the amount of some important types of artificial nest sites (e.g. open barns) and in the amount of foraging habitat in open agricultural areas in some parts of Canada, the causes of the recent population decline are not well understood. The magnitude and geographic extent of the decline are cause for conservation concern.

Bobolink

COSEWIC assessed this species as threatened in April 2010.

About this species

The Bobolink is a medium-sized passerine. Males are black below and lighter above, while females are light beige streaked with brown and could be mistaken for some species of sparrow. The Bobolink has a conical bill, rigid, sharply pointed tail feathers and long hind toenails. Male plumage outside the breeding season and juvenile plumage are similar to that of the female. No subspecies of the Bobolink are currently recognized.

The Bobolink originally nested in the tall-grass prairie of the Midwestern United States and south central Canada. Since the conversion of the prairie to cropland and the clearing of the eastern forests, the Bobolink has nested in forage crops (e.g. hayfields and pastures in which a variety of species, such as clover, Timothy, Kentucky Bluegrass, and broad-leaved plants, are predominant). The Bobolink also occurs in various grassland habitats including wet prairie; graminoid peatlands and abandoned fields in which tall grasses are predominant; remnants of uncultivated virgin prairie (tall-grass prairie); no-till cropland; small-grain fields; restored surface mining sites; and irrigated fields in arid regions.

The breeding range of the Bobolink in North America includes the southern part of all Canadian provinces from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador and south to the northwestern, north-central and northeastern United States. The species is not present in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The Bobolink is found in many national parks and other protected areas under the administration of Parks Canada. The Bobolink winters in southern South America, east of the Andes in Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.

The main causes of the decline in Bobolink populations have been identified as incidental mortalities from agricultural operations such as haying that destroy nests and kill adults; habitat loss caused by the conversion of forage crops to intensive grain crops and other row crops; habitat fragmentation, which promotes higher rates of predation on nests located near edges; and pesticide use on breeding and wintering grounds, which may cause both direct and indirect mortality.

Consultations

The Bobolink underwent consultations from November 2010 to February 2011. Sixteen comments were received pertaining to Bobolink: thirteen supported or did not oppose listing while three opposed listing the species as threatened. The opposing comments came from an individual who indicates that it would be more appropriate to designate the species as a species of special concern, and two provincial governments who suggest splitting the eastern and western populations of the species and designating the eastern population as threatened and the western population as a species of special concern.

Four comments were also received regarding all of the species included in the November 2010 consultation document, which includes Bobolink. All support or do not oppose listing all of the species.

Following the publication of the proposed Order in the Canada Gazette, Part I, eleven comments were received supporting or not opposing the listing of all species. Four comments were also received specific to the Bobolink: three of those comments were supportive, while one was opposed to the addition of Bobolink to Schedule 1 of SARA. The details of each opposing comment were presented in the “Consultation” section of this document.

Listing rationale

Over 25% of the global population of this grassland bird species breeds in Canada, which is the northern portion of its range. The species has suffered severe population declines since the late 1960s, and the declines have continued over the last 10 years, particularly in the core of its range in Eastern Canada. The species is threatened by incidental mortality from agricultural operations, habitat loss and fragmentation, pesticide exposure and bird control at wintering roosts.

Cerulean Warbler

The Cerulean Warbler was added to Schedule 1 of SARA as a species of special concern in 2005. COSEWIC reassessed this species as endangered in November 2010.

About this species

The Cerulean Warbler is a small wood-warbler. The adult male is sky blue above and white below, while the female is blue-green above and whitish below. Both sexes have two prominent white wing bars and white tail spots. The species has generated considerable public, scientific and conservation interest recently due to its beauty, habitat specificity, and international conservation concerns. It is considered an umbrella species that reflects the maintenance of populations of other bird species that require mature deciduous forest habitats.

The Canadian breeding range consists of two main geographic clusters in southwestern and southeastern Ontario, plus a small number of breeding individuals in southwestern Quebec. They can be seen in some of Parks Canada protected heritage places in Ontario such as the Thousand Islands National Park of Canada. On the breeding grounds, Cerulean Warblers are associated with large tracts of mature deciduous forest with tall trees and an open understory. They are found in both wet bottomland forests and upland areas. At a finer spatial scale, canopy configuration (e.g. foliage stratification, gap distribution, tree species distribution) is a predictor of habitat suitability.

The species winters in a relatively narrow elevational zone (roughly 500–2 000 m above sea level) in the eastern Andes of South America, from Venezuela to northwestern Bolivia. They are found principally in mature and relatively undisturbed humid forests, but will also use rustic shade-coffee, cardamom and cacao plantations that retain native trees.

Habitat loss and degradation on the wintering grounds are believed to be the primary threats. Massive deforestation of primary montane forests of the northern Andes has occurred in recent decades, and this threat continues. The major threats on the breeding grounds are also related to habitat loss and degradation caused by some forms of intensive logging and the conversion of mature forest to agricultural lands. Habitat fragmentation, which increases nest parasitism by cowbirds and the risk of nest depredation, also seems to be an important threat. Other threats include predicted increases in catastrophic weather events (e.g. severe ice storms and hurricanes) on the breeding grounds and during migration; decreasing habitat quality due to exotic forest pathogens and forest insect outbreaks; and increasing risks of collision with tall structures during migration.

Consultations

The Cerulean Warbler underwent consultations from December 2011 to February 2012. No comments were received with regard to the Cerulean Warbler.

Following the publication of the proposed Order in the Canada Gazette, Part I, eleven comments were received supporting or not opposing the listing of all species. Two supportive comments were also received specific to the addition of Cerulean Warbler to Schedule 1 of SARA.

Listing rationale

This sky-blue forest songbird is at the northern edge of its breeding range in Canada. Relying on relatively large tracts of undisturbed hardwood forest, it has rather specialized habitat requirements on both its breeding and wintering grounds. Its population has been experiencing significant declines across most of its range since the 1960s, and the present Canadian population is estimated at about only 1 000 individuals. These declines are believed to be driven mostly by loss and degradation of this species’ wintering habitat, but it is also threatened by habitat loss and degradation on its breeding grounds in Canada. Also, new information on demographics suggests that chances for population rescue in Canada are lower than previously thought.

Eastern Meadowlark

COSEWIC assessed this species as threatened in May 2011.

About this species

The Eastern Meadowlark is a medium-sized songbird that is a member of the blackbird family. It has a relatively long pointed bill and short tail. Adults are patterned with brown on the back, and have a bright-yellow throat and belly with a large black “V” pattern in the middle of the chest. The white outer tail feathers are especially visible in flight. The Eastern Meadowlark closely resembles the Western Meadowlark -- a species found in similar habitat but nesting primarily in western North America. Of the 16 subspecies of Eastern Meadowlarks that are recognized, only one occurs in Canada (Sturnella magna).

Eastern Meadowlarks prefer grassland habitats, including native prairies and savannahs, as well as anthropogenic grassland habitats including non-native pastures, hayfields, weedy meadows, young orchards, herbaceous fencerows and grassy airfields.

Including all subspecies, the Eastern Meadowlark’s global breeding range extends from central and eastern North America, south through parts of South America. In Canada, the bulk of the population breeds in southern Ontario, becoming progressively less common through southern Quebec, New Brunswick, and southern Nova Scotia. It has been recorded among others in some of the national historic sites of Eastern Canada such as Beaubassin, Grand-Pré and Fort Beauséjour as well as in the Bruce Peninsula National Park of Canada. Eastern Meadowlarks are short-distance migrants, with most of the Canadian population believed to winter in the south-central and southeastern United States.

Decline in Eastern Meadowlark populations are likely due to habitat loss on the breeding grounds from conversion of forage crops to intensive grain crops and other row crops, reforestation of abandoned farmlands, and urbanization; earlier and more frequent haying during the nesting season, which results in low breeding success; a high (and probably increasing) rate of nest predation; overgrazing by livestock; mortality due to pesticide use on the breeding and wintering grounds; and reduced reproductive output stemming from Brown-headed Cowbird nest parasitism.

Consultations

The Eastern Meadowlark underwent extended consultations from November 2011 to November 2012. Four comments were received, all of them supporting or not opposing the listing of this species as threatened. They came from three First Nations and one individual.

Following the publication of the proposed Order in the Canada Gazette, Part I, eleven comments were received supporting or not opposing the listing of all species. Three comments were also received specific to the Eastern Meadowlark. Two of the comments received were supportive, while one was opposed to the addition of Eastern Meadowlark to Schedule 1 of SARA. The details of the opposing comment were presented in the “Consultation” section of this document.

Listing rationale

The Eastern Meadowlark has experienced major changes in population size and breeding range since European settlement. Although its prairie habitat had been lost to cropland by the end of the 19th century, an abundance of surrogate grasslands converted from deciduous forests allowed the expansion of the species breeding range primarily eastward. Since the mid-20th century, however, surrogate grasslands across its range have declined. Although the species’ population remains relatively large, it has been undergoing persistent range-wide declines. These declines are likely driven by ongoing loss and degradation of grassland habitat on both the breeding and wintering grounds, coupled with reduced reproductive success resulting from some agricultural practices.

Eastern Wood-pewee

COSEWIC assessed this species as a species of special concern in November 2012.

About this species

The Eastern Wood-pewee is a small forest bird about the same size as a House Sparrow. Both sexes have similar plumage, being generally greyish-olive on the upper parts and pale on the underparts. This species is often observed perched in an upright position typical of flycatchers. During the breeding season, the most reliable way to detect and identify the Eastern Wood-pewee is by hearing its distinctive, clear, three-phrased whistled song, often paraphrased as “pee-ah-wee.”

The Eastern Wood-pewee is mostly associated with the mid-canopy layer of forest clearings and edges of deciduous and mixed forests in Canada, and tends to prefer forest stands of intermediate age and mature stands with little understory vegetation. During migration, a variety of habitats are used by the species including forest edges, early successional clearings, and primary/secondary lowland (and submontane) tropical forests.

The Eastern Wood-pewee breeds from southeastern Saskatchewan to the Maritime Provinces, south to southeastern Texas and east to the U.S. Atlantic coast. About 11% of its global breeding range is in Canada, which accounts for about 8% of the breeding population. The Eastern Wood-pewee can be seen in many of the eastern national parks. Wintering occurs primarily in South America, from northwestern Colombia and northeastern Venezuela south to southern Peru, northern Bolivia and Amazonian Brazil.

Due to an overall lack of scientific research, threats and limiting factors for the Eastern Wood-pewee have not been clearly identified, and are poorly known. Potential threats to this species may include habitat loss and degradation for breeding and wintering grounds due to urban development and forest management change; changes in availability of flying insect prey; high mortality rates during migration; increasing rates of predation; and structural forest change due to White-tailed Deer browsing.

Consultations

The Eastern Wood-pewee underwent consultations from December 2013 to March 2014. Four comments were received specifically pertaining to adding the Eastern Wood-pewee as a species of special concern to Schedule 1 of SARA: three of them supported or did not oppose the listing. The supporting comments came from an environmental non-governmental organization, an industry sector association and a First Nation. The opposing comment came from a business who argues this species is relatively abundant and that listing this species could have significant impacts on their operations.

Eight comments were also received that relate to all the species included in the December 2013 consultation document. Seven of the comments supported or did not oppose the listing, while one comment from a First Nation opposed the addition of all species to SARA, because they anticipated serious impacts on their use of the land.

Following the publication of the proposed Order in the Canada Gazette, Part I, eleven comments were received supporting or not opposing the listing of all species. Five comments were also received specific to the Eastern Wood-pewee. Three of the comments were supportive, while one was opposed to the addition of Eastern Wood-pewee to Schedule 1 of SARA. One public utility company also wrote to reiterate the comments related to the abundance of the species and potential impacts of listing on business activities that they had provided during the initial consultations and that were addressed previously. The details of the opposing comment were presented in the “Consultation” section of this document.

Listing rationale

While being one of the most common and widespread songbirds associated with North America’s eastern forests, and despite its apparent resilience to many kinds of habitat changes, the Eastern Wood-pewee has experienced persistent decline over the past 40 years at a 10-year decline rate of 25%. This puts it close to the criteria of the threatened designation, although the lack of understanding on the cause of its decline requires further research to determine proper conservation and management measures. This species may become threatened in the foreseeable future if the population continues to decline.

Grasshopper Sparrow pratensis subspecies

COSEWIC assessed this species as a species of special concern in November 2013.

About this species

The Grasshopper Sparrow pratensis subspecies (hereafter Eastern Grasshopper Sparrow) is a small dull-coloured song bird of grassland habitats. It has a short tail, flat head, conical beige-coloured bill and pink lower mandible. Adults of both sexes have similar plumage: a plain buff-coloured throat and breast; buff, unmarked or faintly marked flanks; whitish belly and upper parts, rump and upper tail coverts mottled with rust. Its summer diet is largely composed of grasshoppers and so the Eastern Grasshopper Sparrow is considered beneficial for agriculture.

In Canada, the Eastern Grasshopper Sparrow typically breeds in large human-created grasslands (≥5 ha), such as pastures and hayfields, and natural prairies, such as alvars. This habitat is characterized by well-drained, often poor soil dominated by relatively low, sparse perennial herbaceous vegetation. The habitat used by the Grasshopper Sparrow in its wintering range is generally similar to that used in the breeding range.

In Canada, the breeding range of the Eastern Grasshopper Sparrow includes extreme southern Quebec and southern Ontario, with the vast majority of birds occurring in Ontario. In the United States, it breeds in all states east of the Midwestern states to the East Coast and south to Georgia and Texas. The Eastern Grasshopper Sparrow winters in the southeastern United States, but also in the Caribbean and Central America.

The main causes of Eastern Grasshopper Sparrow declines include habitat loss caused by the conversion of forage crops and pastures to intensive crop production; habitat fragmentation resulting in high predation rates; and more frequent and earlier hay mowing activities during the breeding season causing nest failure.

Consultations

The Grasshopper Sparrow pratensis subspecies underwent consultations from January to April 2015. No comments were received with regard to the Grasshopper Sparrow pratensis subspecies.

Following the publication of the proposed Order in the Canada Gazette, Part I, eleven comments were received supporting or not opposing the listing of all species. Two supportive comments were also received specific to the addition of Grasshopper Sparrow pratensis subspecies to Schedule 1 of SARA.

Listing rationale

The restriction of the Eastern Grasshopper Sparrow to southern Ontario and southwestern Quebec coupled with persistent, long-term decline in population make this species vulnerable to ongoing threats. These threats include habitat loss, as pastures and hayfields are converted to row crops; habitat fragmentation, which increases predation rates; and early hay-mowing activities that destroy nests.

Hooded Warbler

The Hooded Warbler was listed to Schedule 1 of SARA as threatened upon proclamation of the Act. COSEWIC reassessed this species as not at risk in May 2012.

About this species

This small yellow songbird is readily identified by its distinctive plumage and vocalizations. Adult males have a characteristic black hood, but this feature is reduced or lacking in adult females.

The Hooded Warbler typically nests in shrubs associated with small canopy gaps within large tracts (>100 ha) of mature deciduous or mixed forests in eastern North America. High densities can occur following selective logging, provided many mature trees remain. On the wintering grounds in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, there is strong sexual segregation by habitat, with males preferring closed canopy forests and females preferring more open shrubby habitats.

The breeding range of this species has been expanding northwards for at least 40 years. The Canadian breeding distribution is restricted to southern Ontario, where it is considered to be a rare or locally uncommon breeder.

Given the observed increase in the Hooded Warbler population in Canada, habitat availability does not appear to be a limiting factor at present. Climate change appears to be an important factor in the observed range expansion. Some studies in Ontario have found low productivity and suggested that some areas may be acting as ecological sinks. However, there is also evidence that the Hooded Warbler population is very dynamic and is characterized by high levels of immigration and emigration in response to habitat quality. Provided that there is an ongoing supply of suitable habitat, then it is likely that the Hooded Warbler population will continue to be stable or may increase. Loss and degradation of habitat at migration stopover sites and on the wintering grounds have been identified as potential threats, but the magnitude of these threats is unknown.

Consultations

The Hooded Warbler underwent consultations from December 2012 to March 2013. One comment was received that focused specifically on the delisting of the Hooded Warbler. It came from an environmental non-governmental organization and expressed support for the designation change.

Four comments related to all the species included in the December 2012 consultation document were also received, all in favour of the proposed designation changes.

Following the publication of the proposed Order in the Canada Gazette, Part I, eleven comments were received supporting or not opposing the listing of all species. Three opposing comments were also received specific to the delisting of Hooded Warbler from Schedule 1 of SARA. The details of the opposing comments were presented in the “Consultation” section of this document.

Delisting rationale

In Canada, the range and abundance of this forest-nesting species have increased substantially since the species was last assessed. The species has also experienced a significant long-term increase in abundance in the core of its range in the United States, so there is an outside source for rescue. However, habitat degradation at breeding sites and habitat loss and degradation at migration stopover sites and on the wintering grounds are potential threats.

Western Grebe

COSEWIC assessed this species as a species of special concern in May 2014.

About this species

The Western Grebe is a large and conspicuous waterbird. Adapted for an aquatic lifestyle, with lobed feet set well back on a streamlined body, Western Grebes are powerful swimmers but awkward on land. Their white throat, breast and belly contrast with the black and grey plumage of their crown, neck, back and wings. They have bright red eyes and a long, pointed yellowish-green bill. The Western Grebe has been proposed as a bio-indicator for wetland ecosystems.

Western Grebes nest on marshes and lakes with stands of emergent vegetation, stable water levels, extensive areas of open water, and sufficient populations of prey fish. During migration, they stop mainly on large lakes, but sometimes also use sloughs and river backwaters. On their coastal wintering grounds, they are generally found in sheltered salt or brackish water, in bays, inlets, estuaries, lagoons, and channels.

The Western Grebe breeds in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and throughout the western United States. It is a colonial breeder, with an uneven and clustered breeding distribution. It winters mainly in coastal areas from southern Alaska to Mexico, and on inland lakes, particularly in the southern portion of its range. Large numbers formerly occurred in the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca Strait, and Puget Sound), but in recent years the wintering distribution has apparently shifted southward to California.

In breeding areas, the primary threats to the Western Grebe are human disturbance of colonies and habitat degradation. Fluctuating water levels during nesting, disturbance leading to predation of eggs, the introduction of non-native fish, recreational and commercial fisheries, declines in prey availability, and chemical pollution and contaminants can also negatively impact breeding success and survival. The Western Grebe is especially vulnerable to large disturbances in coastal areas, including oil spills, harmful algal blooms, bycatch in gillnet fisheries, changes in prey availability, and predation by bald eagles.

Consultations

The Western Grebe underwent consultations from January to April 2015. Three supporting comments were received regarding the addition of the Western Grebe to Schedule 1 of SARA. Two of them were from provincial government departments, while the third one was from an environmental non-governmental organization.

Following the publication of the proposed Order in the Canada Gazette, Part I, 11 comments were received supporting or not opposing the listing of all species. One supportive comment was also received specific to the addition of Western Grebe to Schedule 1 of SARA.

Listing rationale

Although population declines have occurred within the Western Grebe’s Canadian wintering area on the Pacific coast, this could largely be the result of a southern shift in wintering distribution rather than a true loss in population size. Nevertheless, on a continental scale, wintering populations have undergone a 44% decline from 1995 to 2010 based on Christmas Bird Count data. Some of this decline may also be the result of declines on the Canadian breeding grounds. In addition, the propensity of this species to congregate in large groups, both in breeding colonies and on its wintering areas, makes its population susceptible to a variety of threats, including oil spills, water level fluctuations, fisheries bycatch, and declines in prey availability.

Wood Thrush

COSEWIC assessed this species as threatened in November 2012.

About this species

The Wood Thrush is a medium-sized neotropical migrant, slightly smaller than the American Robin. Sexes are similar, with adults being generally rusty-brown on the upper parts with white underparts and large blackish spots on the breast and flanks. Juveniles are similar to adults, but have tawny streaks and spots on the back, neck, and wing coverts. Overall, the plumage is quite distinctive, and the Wood Thrush is not likely to be confused with other thrush species or the Brown Thrasher. The Wood Thrush has become a symbol of declining neotropical migrants due to significant declines over much of its range since the late 1970s.

In Canada, the Wood Thrush nests mainly in second-growth and mature deciduous and mixed forests, with saplings and well-developed understory layers. This species prefers large forest mosaics, but may also nest in small forest fragments. Wintering habitat is characterized primarily by undisturbed to moderately disturbed wet primary lowland forests.

The Wood Thrush breeds in southeastern Canada from southern Ontario east to Nova Scotia. It breeds in some of the national parks, such as the Bruce Peninsula, Thousand Islands, Point Pelee and La Mauricie national parks. It also nests across the eastern United States, south to northern Florida and the Gulf Coast. In the west, it ranges from eastern Texas to southeast South Dakota and west-central Minnesota. Wood Thrushes winter in Central America, mainly in lowland and tropical forests along the Atlantic and the Pacific slopes from southern Mexico south to Panama.

Several threats are currently known to affect the Wood Thrush. On the breeding grounds, the main threats include habitat degradation and fragmentation due to development and over-browsing by White-tailed Deer. High rates of nest predation and Brown-headed Cowbird nest parasitism associated with habitat fragmentation also threaten the Wood Thrush. On the wintering grounds, the main threats are habitat loss and degradation.

Consultations

The Wood Thrush underwent consultations from December 2013 to March 2014. Four comments were received concerning the listing of the Wood Thrush to Schedule 1 of SARA. One environmental non-governmental organization and two First Nations supported or did not oppose listing, while one business indicated opposition. The business argues that this species is relatively abundant and that listing it could have significant impacts on their operations.

Eight comments were also received that relate to all the species included in the December 2013 consultation document. Seven of the comments supported or did not oppose listing, while one comment from a First Nation opposed the addition of all species to SARA, because they anticipated serious impacts on their use of the land.

Following the publication of the proposed Order in the Canada Gazette, Part I, 11 comments were received supporting or not opposing the listing of all species. Four comments were also received specific to the Wood Thrush. Three of those comments were supportive, while one was opposed to the addition of Wood Thrush to Schedule 1 of SARA. One public utility company also wrote to reiterate the comments related to the abundance of the species and potential impacts of listing on business activities that they had provided during the initial consultations and that were addressed previously. The details of the opposing comment were presented in the “Consultation” section of this document.

Listing rationale

In Canada, this forest-nesting species has shown significant long- and short-term declines in population abundance. The species is threatened by habitat loss on its wintering grounds and habitat fragmentation and degradation on its breeding grounds. It also suffers from high rates of nest predation and cowbird parasitism associated with habitat fragmentation on the breeding grounds.

Yellow-breasted Chat virens subspecies

The Yellow-breasted Chat virens subspecies was listed to Schedule 1 of SARA as a species of special concern upon proclamation of the Act. COSEWIC reassessed this species as endangered in November 2011.

About this species

The Yellow-breasted Chat is regarded as an unusually large warbler. It has olive-green upper parts, a lemon-yellow chin, throat and breast, and a white belly and undertail coverts. It has a thick bill and a long, rounded tail and rounded wings. Its face is greyish, with black lores and distinctive white “spectacles.” The subspecies virens is found in the eastern half of North America. During the breeding season, chats have a distinctive song characterized by repeated whistles, alternating with harsh chattering clucks and soft caws.

The Yellow-breasted Chat virens subspecies is a shrub specialist, occurring in early successional shrub habitats. It is a flagship bird species for these habitats and members of this guild are declining widely in North America. In Ontario, habitat has declined since the early 1960s, because of land conversion and successional change.

Yellow-breasted Chats breed in North America, south of the boreal forest. The virens subspecies breeds from the east-central Great Plains and eastern Texas eastward, and north to southwestern Ontario. Chats winter in the lowlands of eastern and western Mexico through Central America to western Panama.

For the Ontario population of the virens subspecies, the greatest threats are loss of suitable habitat from land conversion (agriculture/urban) and changes in habitat suitability as a result of natural succession.

Consultations

The Yellow-breasted Chat virens subspecies underwent consultations from December 2012 to March 2013. One comment was received pertaining to the addition of the Yellow-breasted Chat virens subspecies to Schedule 1 of SARA. It came from an environmental non-governmental organization and supported listing the species.

Four comments related to all the species included in the December 2012 consultation document were also received, all in favour of listing.

Following the publication of the proposed Order in the Canada Gazette, Part I, 11 comments were received supporting or not opposing the listing of all species. One supportive comment was also received specific to the addition of Yellow-breasted Chat virens subspecies to Schedule 1 of SARA.

Listing rationale

This subspecies is a shrub-thicket specialist that occurs at the northern edge of its range in Canada. Its population in southern Ontario is localized and very small. Since the last status report was produced, declines have occurred in the Ontario population owing to habitat loss. The potential for rescue effect has also been dramatically reduced, because population declines are evident across most of the northeastern range of this subspecies.

  • Footnote a
    S.C. 2002, c. 29
  • Footnote 1
    S.C. 2002, c. 29
  • Footnote 2
    Butchart S. M. H. et al. 2010. Global biodiversity: indicators of recent declines. Science. 328:1164-1168.
  • Footnote 3
    Bamosky A. D. et al. 2011. Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived? Nature. 471:51-57.
  • Footnote 4
    Hooper D. U. et al. 2005. Effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning: a consensus of current knowledge. Ecological monographs. 75:3-35.
  • Footnote 5
    The Governor in Council is the Governor General of Canada acting by and with the advice of the Queen’s Privy Council of Canada (Cabinet).
  • Footnote 6
    Preamble to the Species at Risk Act (2003).
  • Footnote 7
    COSEWIC defines an extinct species as a wildlife species that no longer exists: http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=29E94A2D-1#e.
  • Footnote 8
    Section 2 of the Species at Risk Act defines an extirpated species as a wildlife species that no longer exists in the wild in Canada, but exists elsewhere in the wild.
  • Footnote 9
    Heritage places under Parks Canada authority include places such as national parks, national historic sites, heritage canals, national marine conservation areas and the Rouge National Urban Park.
  • Footnote 10
    As of July 2017.
  • Footnote 11
    More information on COSEWIC can be found on its website at www.cosewic.gc.ca/.
  • Footnote 12
    If the decision is made not to add the wildlife species to Schedule 1 or to refer the assessment back to COSEWIC, the Minister shall include a statement in the SAR Public Registry setting out the reasons for that decision.
  • Footnote 13
    The Regulations define “hunting” as chasing, pursuing, worrying, following after or on the trail of, lying in wait for, or attempting in any manner to capture, kill, injure or harass a migratory bird, whether or not the migratory bird is captured, killed or injured.
  • Footnote 14
    As indicated below, the protections afforded to threatened and endangered species differ in one area, which is the timeline for posting recovery strategies on the Species at Risk Public Registry: two years for threatened species, and one year for endangered species.
  • Footnote 15
    As per SARA, section 61.
  • Footnote 16
    As per the definition in SARA, “competent minister” means (a) the Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency with respect to individuals of the wildlife species in or on federal lands administered by that Agency; (b) the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans with respect to aquatic species, other than species mentioned in (a); and (c) the Minister of the Environment with respect to all other individuals of the wildlife species.
  • Footnote 17
    Species at Risk Act Permitting Policy [proposed]: http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/document/default_e.cfm?documentID=2983.
  • Footnote 18
    http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/search/advSearchResults_e.cfm?
  • Footnote 19
    The species’ scientific name was recently changed to Setophaga citrina. The species is currently listed on Schedule 1 of SARA under its previous scientific name, Wilsonia citrina.
  • Footnote 20
    One study estimated that birds supply between 12.4% and 52.9% of the total phosphorus (a scarce nutrient), as well as 5.2% to 27% of the total nitrogen for terrestrial ecosystems (Fujita, M., and Koike, F. (2007). Birds transport nutrients to fragmented forests in an urban landscape. Ecological Applications, 17(3), 648–654. doi:10.1890/06-0118).
  • Footnote 21
    Arrow, K. J., and Fisher, A. C. (1974). Environmental Preservation, Uncertainty, and Irreversibility. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 88(2), 312–319.
  • Footnote 22
    Richardson, L., and Loomis, J. (2009). The total economic value of threatened, endangered and rare species: An updated meta-analysis. Ecological Economics, 68(5), 1535–1548.
  • Footnote 23
    Metrick, A., and Weitzman, M. L. (1996). Patterns of behavior in endangered species preservation. Land Economics, 72(1), 1–16.
  • Footnote 24
    Hynes, S., & Hanley, N. (2009). The “crex crex” lament: Estimating landowners willingness to pay for corncrake conservation on Irish farmland. Biological Conservation, 142(1), 180-188. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2008.10.014. These values may represent a combination of non-use and use values.
  • Footnote 25
    Brouwer, R., van Beukering, P., and Sultanian, E. (2008). The impact of the bird flu on public willingness to pay for the protection of migratory birds. Ecological Economics, 64(3), 575–585. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2007.04.001.
  • Footnote 26
    Loomis, J.B., and White, D.S. (1996). Economic benefits of rare and endangered species: Summary and meta-analysis. Ecological Economics, 18(3), 197–206. doi:10.1016/0921-8009(96)00029-8.
  • Footnote 27
    Critical Habitat Identification Toolbox, available at https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=AA794D41-1.
  • Footnote 28
    Critical habitat is defined as the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species. Not all of a species’ current habitat would necessarily be deemed critical habitat.
  • Footnote 29
    Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Real Property and Material Policy Division. (2014). Directory of Federal Real Property [Shapefile format].
  • Footnote 30
    Natural Resources Canada, Canada Center for Mapping and Earth Observation. (2014). Aboriginal Lands. v2.5.3. [Shapefile format].
  • Footnote 31
    Under section 79 of SARA, a project means a designated project as defined in section 2 or 66 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, a project as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, or a development as defined in subsection 111(1) of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.
  • Footnote 32
    Any board or other body established under a land claims agreement that is authorized by the agreement to perform functions in respect of wildlife species.
  • Footnote 33
    http://wildlife-species.canada.ca/breeding-bird-survey-results
  • Footnote 34
    Barn Swallow: https://www.ontario.ca/page/alter-structure-habitat-barn-swallow; Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark https://www.ontario.ca/page/bobolink-and-eastern-meadowlark-habitats-and-land-development.
  • Footnote 35
    http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/document/default_e.cfm?documentID=2983
  • Footnote 36
    http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/document/default_e.cfm?documentID=2989
  • Footnote 37
    Butchart S. M. H. et al. 2010. Global biodiversity: indicators of recent declines. Science. 328:1164–1168.
  • Footnote 38
    https://www.ec.gc.ca/dd-sd/default.asp?lang=en&n=CD4179F6-1
  • Footnote 39
    https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=5902EA6D-1
  • Footnote 40
    More details on which species at risk can be found on Parks Canada Agency lands or waters can be searched through the Biotics Web Explorer found under the Parks Canada website http://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/bos/bosmain_e.asp.