How do we currently manage species at risk in BC?
Most species-at-risk programs, across Canada and internationally, follow a similar approach. They generally assess the status of species to determine if they are endangered or threatened, establish a list of species that are legally considered to be at risk, plan recovery actions, apply protection and recovery measures, and report on the actions that have been taken.
The following section highlights the measures that are currently being used to protect and recover species at risk in B.C.
Assessment of species at risk in B.C.
In British Columbia, the Conservation Data Centre (CDC) has assessed the status of species since 1991. The CDC uses a system that was developed by the Nature Conservancy of the United States (now NatureServe). More than 75 provinces, states, and countries use this system. Species and ecosystems are assigned both a global and provincial rank of 1 to 5, which corresponds to endangered, threatened, special concern, data deficient, and not at risk. The CDC updates B.C.’s rankings every year.
The CDC tracks the occurrences and populations of thousands of native plants and animals in the province. We track more than 624 vertebrate species/subspecies or varieties (343 birds, 149 mammals, 18 reptiles, 20 amphibians, and 94 fish), 6,516 invertebrates, 3,545 plants, and 545 lichens. There are probably many more species that we have not yet discovered, especially plants and invertebrates.
Find more information on the CDC.
Legislation that addresses species at risk
British Columbia does not have its own species-at-risk legislation. Instead, species at risk and their habitats are protected by other legal measures that regulate human-related activities. These measures include the Wildlife Act, Forest and Range Practices Act, Oil and Gas Activities Act, and Land Act. In general, these Acts:
- legally identify specific species as endangered or threatened;
- limit the hunting, taking, trapping, wounding, or killing of some species, such as vertebrate species (birds, fish, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles);
- designate areas that limit some human-related activities because a species at risk or its habitat occurs there; and
- allow government to create broad objectives for land use within a specific area; this may include the protection of habitat for species at risk.
Under this approach, species at risk are protected by decisions made within the sector-specific Acts. This approach may have been sufficient in the past, but it has created a patchwork of rules that do not consistently protect all species at risk or their habitats from all types of human-related impacts across all types of land use.
More information about legislation that addresses species at risk in B.C. can be found here.
Recovery planning and implementation
Recovery planning involves identifying threats to a species at risk and deciding which management actions will work best for that species. During the planning process experts provide the provincial government with advice on the recovery of species at risk. That advice is usually summarized in a recovery plan or a management plan.
During the planning process, an implementation plan may also be created. It outlines the management steps that the government will take when the recovery of a species at risk could have significant socio-economic effects. An example may be the protection of an area that provides habitat for a species at risk, but which in turn could restrict industrial development. There may be trade-offs, for social or economic purposes, between the amount of habitat protected and the amount of development that occurs. It is during this process that government tries to harmonize protection of species at risk with other land uses and the livelihood of communities, or even with other species.
Carrying out species recovery involves various actions, including:
- protecting habitat;
- managing species and their populations (for example, by using captive breeding or predator control);
- managing/mitigating human-related activities that directly affect species at risk (for example, closing access to important habitat, restricting hunting, or setting roadway speed limits);
- restoring habitat;
- promoting shared stewardship (including protecting species at risk on private lands); and
- promoting stakeholder relations, and consultation and education about species at risk.
Recovery actions may be carried out by a variety of government and non-governmental organizations, but this work is most effective when academia, industry, landowners, and land managers join the effort to help species at risk.
Find more information on recovery planning here.
British Columbia’s Conservation Officers enforce a number of provincial laws that help protect species at risk. In addition, federal wildlife and fisheries officers enforce laws that help protect species at risk that are under federal jurisdiction (for example, species that are protected under the Species at Risk Act, Migratory Birds Convention Act, and Fisheries Act).