July 25, 2005

More protection provided for species at risk

Through its Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, the federal government is contributing over $1.75 million toward 42 projects designed to help conserve habitat and species at risk in British Columbia and the Yukon. This is part of the government's overall investment of $9.2 million in 153 projects across Canada during 2005-2006.

Most of the BC projects being funded this year focus on stewardship efforts related to large marine mammals such as the north Pacific right whale, the rare Garry Oak ecosystems of southern Vancouver Island and recovery efforts specific to species at risk in the South Okanagan, Canada's only desert area. In the Yukon, a number of projects will be carried out related to habitat stewardship and big mammals like the grizzly bear, the caribou and the wood bison.

The purpose of the partnership-based Habitat Stewardship Program is to maintain and restore habitat critical to species at risk throughout Canada by encouraging the implementation of conservation projects by community groups, private landowners, First Nations and local governments.

Administered by Environment Canada, the program is part of a trio of components in Canada's strategy for protecting species at risk. The other two components are the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, endorsed by the provincial, territorial and federal governments.

In related activities, a total of 39 species are being added to Schedule 1, the list of species protected under SARA. Included are 32 terrestrial species and seven aquatic species.

This is the second group of species added to the list since the Act was proclaimed in 2003. To date, 345 species have been designated for protection under SARA. The announcement of the new species listing is scheduled for publication in the July 27, 2005 edition of the Canada Gazette, Part II.

The addition of new species to SARA is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and on consultations with Canadian governments, wildlife management boards, landowners, conservationists, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the Canadian public. The decision to list a species under SARA also includes an analysis of the costs and benefits to Canadians.

Several species which were under consideration for listing have been deferred or rejected. For example, the plains bison will not be listed under SARA at this time because of the inability to genetically distinguish wild and domestic plains bison and the potential economic implications for the Canadian bison industry. Moreover, successful recovery initiatives for this animal are being carried out in some of Canada's national parks.

Left off the list at this point as well are two groups of northern caribou and a species of moss, pending further consultation by Environment Canada with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB).

More information is available on the Web-based SARA public registry, www.sararegistry.gc.ca.

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