At the foundation of species at risk conservation in BC and Canada is the compilation of information around the ecology of a species, its critical habitat needs, the threats that have put it at risk and the recommendations for its recovery. But before a species can even be listed, it must be proposed for listing. In Canada this is done through the independent science body known as the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Originally the focus was just on animals, but Canada has many plants at risk and in recognition of the need for a biodiversity approach to conservation, plants were soon made part of the assessment process. As an independent advisory panel to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, specialist teams meet twice a year to assess the status of species at risk of extinction. Members are experts from academia, government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector responsible for designating species in danger of disappearing from Canada.
As part of the bilateral agreement BC has with the Government of Canada on species at risk, once a species moves from being proposed by COSEWIC to being listed under SARA, provincial-federal recovery teams are created to compile the known information around a species and create provincial recovery strategies. At this level critical habitat is not assessed. The province is also responsible for drafting the initial management plans for species of Special Concern. Once the recovery strategy is submitted to the federal government, critical habitat is assessed and made public with the federal version of the draft recovery strategy on the SARA Registry. these drafts are categorized as "proposed" as they goes through a formal public consultation process. Only species designated as Threatened or Endangered have their critical habitat assessed and identified. Once the recovery strategy is categorized as "final" critical habitat is formally defined. At this point legal action may be taken if critical habitat is not effectively protected through voluntary stewardship on non-federal lands. Species at risk protection and recovery is not just the purvue of Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada also has a role to play along with agriculture interests through the Federal SARPAL program in various provinces, including BC
What about BC? Up until now BC has not had any stand-alone legislation dedicated to protecting species at risk. However in April of 2018, the provincial government began consulation on a made in BC Species at Risk Act. The SCCP has been an active participant in the consultations for this legisaltion, which we hope will be enacted sometime in spring 2019.
Sign up through the provincial website to receive updates on the process and take time to share your views and perspectives to help shape the new legislation.
In the meantime the SCCP has been part of the Provincial Species and Ecosystems At Risk Local Government Working Group (SEAR LGWG), which was initiated in 2010. This group focuses on engagement with BC's regional districts and municipalities and is an important facet of the SCCP's work with land use decision makers and species at risk on private land.
Species at Risk recovery is everyone's responsibility, get involved!