Critical Habitat of the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) Boreal Population Order: SOR/2019-188
Canada Gazette, Part II, Volume 153, Number 13
SOR/2019-188 June 7, 2019
SPECIES AT RISK ACT
Whereas the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) Boreal population is a wildlife species that is listed as a threatened species in Part 3 of Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act footnote a;
Whereas the recovery strategy that identified the critical habitat of that species has been included in the Species at Risk Public Registry;
Whereas a portion of the critical habitat of that species is in a place referred to in subsection 58(2) footnote b of that Act and, under subsection 58(5) of that Act, that portion must be excluded from the annexed Order;
Whereas pursuant to subsection 58(5) of that Act, the competent minister must consult with every other competent minister and whereas the Minister of the Environment is also the Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency;
And whereas the Minister of the Environment is of the opinion that the annexed Order would affect land that is under the authority of other federal ministers and, pursuant to subsection 58(9) of that Act, has consulted with those Ministers with respect to the Order;
Therefore, the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to subsections 58(4) and (5) of the Species at Risk Act footnote a, makes the annexed Critical Habitat of the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) Boreal Population Order.
Gatineau, June 4, 2019
Minister of the Environment
Critical Habitat of the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) Boreal Population Order
1 Subsection 58(1) of the Species at Risk Act applies to the critical habitat of the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) Boreal population, which is identified in the recovery strategy for that species that is included in the Species at Risk Public Registry, other than the portions of that critical habitat that are
- (a) in a place referred to in subsection 58(2) of that Act;
- (b) found on a reserve or any other lands that are set apart for the use and benefit of a band under the Indian Act;
- (c) on land under the authority of the Parks Canada Agency;
- (d) in the Yukon, on lands under the administration and control of the Commissioner of the Yukon; and
- (e) in the Northwest Territories, on lands under the administration and control of the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories.
Coming into force
2 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.)
Loss of habitat is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity and species persistence in the world today. footnote 1 Protecting the habitat of species at risk is therefore key to their conservation and to the preservation of biodiversity.
The boreal population of the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) is commonly called “boreal caribou.” Like all Woodland Caribou, boreal caribou footnote 2 are a medium-sized member of the deer family. Boreal caribou are distributed across Canada, occurring in seven provinces and two territories and extending from the northeast corner of Yukon east to Labrador, and south to Lake Superior in Ontario. They require large areas composed of continuous tracts of undisturbed habitat. In 2003, the boreal caribou was listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act (“SARA” or the “Act”). Habitat alteration (i.e. habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation) from both anthropogenic and natural sources, and increased predation as a result of habitat alteration have led to boreal caribou population declines throughout their distribution.
As required by SARA, a final recovery strategy for the boreal caribou was posted on the Species at Risk (SAR) Public Registry on October 5, 2012. The recovery strategy identified habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of the species (also known as critical habitat), some of which occurs on federal land. When, in a final posted recovery strategy, all of a species’ critical habitat or portions of that critical habitat have been identified on federal lands, footnote 3 SARA requires that it be protected within 180 days. The Department of the Environment has determined that portions of the critical habitat of the boreal caribou located on federal lands are not protected under SARA or another Act of Parliament, and that a ministerial order pursuant to section 58 of SARA is required.
Canada’s natural heritage is an integral part of its identity and history. In 1992, Canada signed and ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (the Convention). The Convention is an international legal agreement between governments that was established to help ensure that biological diversity is conserved and used sustainably. The text of the Convention notes that the conservation of ecosystems and habitats is a “fundamental requirement for the conservation of biological diversity.”
As a party to this Convention, Canada has developed a national strategy for the conservation of biological diversity and federal legislation to protect species at risk, Canada’s Species at Risk Act. The purposes of SARA are to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated from Canada or becoming extinct; to provide for recovery of wildlife species that are listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity; and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened. footnote 4 Consistent with the Convention, SARA recognizes that the habitat of species at risk is key to their conservation, and includes provisions that enable the protection of this habitat.
Habitat protection under SARA
Once a species has been listed under SARA as endangered, threatened or extirpated, the competent federal minister footnote 5 must prepare a recovery strategy. Recovery strategies must contain information such as a description of the species, threats to species survival and, to the extent possible, the identification of the species’ critical habitat (i.e. the habitat necessary for a listed wildlife species’ recovery or survival). Recovery strategies are posted on the SAR Public Registry.
When, in a final posted recovery strategy or action plan, 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 protected within 180 days of the date of posting on the SAR Public Registry.
If critical habitat is located in a migratory bird sanctuary under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, in a national park described 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 critical habitat was identified in a final recovery strategy or action plan. Ninety days after this description of critical habitat is published in the Canada Gazette, the critical habitat protection under subsection 58(1) of SARA (i.e. prohibiting the destruction of critical habitat) comes into effect automatically, and critical habitat located in the federal protected area is legally protected under SARA.
If critical habitat or any portion of that habitat is found on federal lands other than a federal protected area listed in the previous paragraph, the competent minister must, under subsection 58(5) of SARA, either make a ministerial order to apply subsection 58(1) of SARA, prohibiting the destruction of this critical habitat, within 180 days following the identification of this habitat in a final posted recovery strategy or action plan, or publish on the SAR Public Registry a statement explaining how the critical habitat or portions of it are legally protected under SARA or another Act of Parliament.
Following the development of a recovery strategy, the Act requires the development of one or more action plans for the species. Action plans summarize the projects and activities required to meet recovery strategy objectives and goals. They include information on habitat, details of protection measures, and evaluation of socio-economic costs and benefits.
Permits issued under SARA
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 for a permit under section 73 of the Act. A permit may be issued if the competent minister is of the opinion that the activity meets one of 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. footnote 6
The permit may only be issued if the competent minister is of the opinion that the following three preconditions 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 certain conditions are met. This is meant to reduce the need for multiple authorizations.
Woodland Caribou, Boreal population
The Minister of the Environment and the Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency (Minister of the Environment), are the competent ministers under SARA for the Woodland Caribou, Boreal population.
Given that the boreal caribou is listed as a threatened species on Schedule 1 of SARA, the individuals of the species are protected by the general prohibition in section 32 of the Act, depending on where the species is found. Under section 32, it is prohibited to kill, harm, harass, capture or take an individual boreal caribou, and to possess, collect, buy, sell or trade an individual boreal caribou, or any part or derivative of such. Upon the listing of a terrestrial species as extirpated, endangered or threatened, this prohibition applies automatically on federal lands in the provinces. In the territories, this prohibition applies only on land under the authority of the Minister of the Environment or the Parks Canada Agency.
The final recovery strategy for the boreal caribou was completed and posted on the SAR Public Registry on October 5, 2012. The recovery strategy identified critical habitat of the species in 50 of 51 boreal caribou ranges and outlined a schedule of studies needed to complete the identification of critical habitat. Work is under way to identify critical habitat in the remaining range: northern Saskatchewan’s Boreal Shield range (SK1). A recovery strategy may be amended, as described in section 45 of SARA, if additional scientific information becomes available. In this case, the competent minister would consult and cooperate with others (including stakeholders and Aboriginal organizations) regarding the amendments. The proposed amendments would be posted on the SAR Public Registry for a 60-day public comment period prior to the preparation of a final amended recovery strategy.
A final action plan for the boreal caribou that focuses on federal government actions was completed and posted on the SAR Public Registry on February 13, 2018. The federal action plan describes the Government of Canada’s contribution to the recovery efforts for boreal caribou. The plan identifies recovery measures that the federal government is taking or plans to take under three key pillars: knowledge to support recovery, recovery and protection, and reporting on progress.
Boreal caribou critical habitat on federal lands
Portions of the critical habitat identified in the boreal caribou recovery strategy occur on federal lands in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador. These federal lands can be categorized in the following way.
Indian Act lands
The definition of federal lands under section 2 of SARA includes reserves and lands set apart for the use and benefit of a band under the Indian Act (Indian Act lands).
Devolved lands (also known as territorial lands) are those in the Yukon and in the Northwest Territories whose administration has been transferred from the Government of Canada to the governments of those territories.
Federal protected areas
Protection has been triggered for some portions of critical habitat on federal lands. Pursuant to subsection 58(2) of SARA, a description of the critical habitat of boreal caribou in Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada and Prince Albert National Park of Canada was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on August 3, 2013. The SARA prohibition against the destruction of boreal caribou critical habitat in these national parks came into effect 90 days later. The critical habitat of the boreal caribou that is located within these national parks receives additional protection from the Canada National Parks Act and its regulations. Also, as per paragraph 58(5)(b), a protection statement for the critical habitat of the boreal caribou in Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada was published on the SAR Public Registry on March 26, 2014.
Federally administered lands
Federally administered lands are those that are directly managed by federal government departments, agencies and Crown corporations, and do not include Indian Act lands.
Other than the federal protected areas mentioned above, the Parks Canada Agency administers additional properties that overlap with portions of boreal caribou critical habitat.
The Department of the Environment has determined that existing federal laws and regulations do not currently provide for mandatory, enforceable prohibitions against the destruction of the portions of boreal caribou critical habitat on federally administered lands (excluding federal protected areas and lands administered by the Parks Canada Agency) to the degree that is required by SARA. Therefore, SARA requires that a ministerial order be made to protect these portions of critical habitat on federal lands.
The objective of the Critical Habitat of the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) Boreal Population Order (the Order) is to support the survival and recovery of boreal caribou through the legal protection of its critical habitat on lands administered by federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations in Canada.
The Order applies the prohibition against the destruction of critical habitat set out in subsection 58(1) of SARA to the critical habitat of the boreal caribou on federal land, with the exception of some portions of that critical habitat. The portions of critical habitat on federal land that are excluded from the Order are as follows:
- Federal protected areas referred to in subsection 58(2) of SARA. Critical habitat on these lands is already protected under SARA or other Acts of Parliament, pursuant to paragraph 58(5)(b). Specifically, protection for boreal caribou critical habitat is in place in Prince Albert National Park of Canada, Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada, and Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada.
- Indian Act lands. The exclusion will allow further time to develop collaborative and cooperative approaches to species at risk conservation on First Nation reserves.
- Additional properties administered by the Parks Canada Agency that are not federal protected areas under subsection 58(2) of SARA. The Parks Canada Agency is working to protect boreal caribou critical habitat on these properties.
- Devolved lands in the Yukon and in the Northwest Territories. The federal government will work with the governments of the Yukon and Northwest Territories, Indigenous governments, and northern wildlife management boards to develop a path forward for protection of critical habitat on devolved lands in a manner that respects the intent of devolution.
Federally administered lands
The following 11 federal government organizations administer properties that overlap with portions of the critical habitat for the boreal caribou and that are subject to the Order:
- Correctional Service of Canada;
- Department of the Environment;
- Department of Fisheries and Oceans;
- Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation;
- Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development;
- Department of Indigenous Services Canada;
- Department of National Defence;
- Department of Natural Resources;
- Department of Public Works and Government Services;
- Department of Transport; and
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The Order applies to any portions of boreal caribou critical habitat found on over 300 federally administered lands with a combined area of more than 14 500 km2. It is important to note that some portions of a given property may constitute critical habitat for boreal caribou, while some other portions may not.
The federally administered properties that overlap with boreal caribou critical habitat vary greatly in size. Only 22 of the federally administered properties that were identified are larger than 1 km2, one of which comprises a significant majority of the area that will be subject to the Order. The largest property, at approximately 14 200 km2, is the Edéhzhíe Protected Area in the Northwest Territories. Edéhzhíe is a rich and diverse area of ecological and cultural significance that is currently owned by Canada and administered by the Department of the Environment. In 2018, it was designated as the first Indigenous protected area in Canada. The Government of Canada is also working with First Nations, Indigenous governments and other partners to establish Edéhzhíe as a national wildlife area under the Canada Wildlife Act, which would provide long-term protection for this important area.
The federally administered properties that will be subject to the Order are used for a variety of purposes, such as military activities, transportation (airports, ports), marine navigational aids and lights, health services facilities, weather observation stations, conservation and research facilities. Twelve properties are federal contaminated sites that are undergoing or scheduled for clean-up or remediation.
Activities likely to destroy critical habitat
The final recovery strategy for boreal caribou describes the types of activities that would be likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat. Examples of these activities include, but are not limited to,
- any activity resulting in the direct loss of boreal caribou critical habitat, such as the conversion of habitat to agriculture, forestry cut blocks, mining, and industrial and infrastructure development;
- any activity resulting in the degradation of critical habitat leading to reduced, but not total loss of habitat quality and availability for boreal caribou, for example pollution, drainage of an area, and flooding; and
- any activity resulting in the fragmentation of habitat by human-made linear features, such as road development, seismic lines, pipelines, and hydroelectric corridors.
Benefits and costs
The quantitative and qualitative impacts (benefits and costs) of the Order were analyzed. Generally, only incremental impacts are considered in a cost-benefit analysis. Incremental impacts are defined as the difference between the baseline scenario and the scenario in which the Order is implemented over the same period.
Overall, the analysis did not reveal any major incremental cost impacts on stakeholders and Indigenous peoples. The identified costs are related to potential permit applications, enforcement and compliance promotion. Incremental benefits could not be assessed for the Order. It is expected that the Order will contribute to the recovery of the boreal caribou, although its contribution is likely to be limited given that only a small portion of boreal caribou critical habitat will be implicated. Furthermore, few activities were identified on these lands that would pose a threat to critical habitat in the absence of the Order. The successful recovery of this species will likely be the result of a combination of the Order and additional protection and recovery measures undertaken by various levels of government, Indigenous peoples and stakeholders.
Nevertheless, section 58 of SARA obliges the competent minister to make a protection order for unprotected portions of critical habitat on federal land. The Order will be a part of the recovery implementation process for this species, supporting the overall recovery goal identified in the recovery strategy for boreal caribou: to achieve self-sustaining local populations in all boreal caribou ranges throughout their current distribution in Canada, to the extent possible. The benefits described are those associated with the successful recovery of boreal caribou overall, as opposed to those associated with the Order specifically, and are provided for context only. Most benefits are described in qualitative terms as they are not amenable to quantitative analysis, e.g. the significance of caribou for culture, tradition, identity. However, when possible, quantitative examples are provided to demonstrate the potential magnitude of a small portion of benefits associated with boreal caribou recovery. Overall, the analysis revealed that the recovery of boreal caribou will be associated with maintaining and enhancing a variety of benefits for Indigenous peoples and other Canadians in general, including important and unique cultural, social and economic opportunities.
Monetized costs and benefits provided in present value terms are discounted at 3%. All monetary values reported in this analysis are in 2017 constant dollars.
Socio-economic benefits of boreal caribou recovery
Increasingly, Indigenous peoples and other Canadians have called for a more comprehensive assessment of the significance of species at risk to inform decisions regarding their recovery. However, such an assessment can be challenging. Specifically, a cost-benefit analysis informing a decision about whether to take action to protect a species is complicated by three factors regarding uncertainty and irreversibility:
- (1) There is uncertainty regarding the impact of a given conservation action (or suite of actions) on the probability of achieving the recovery goals.
- (2) The benefits of conservation actions for the species are known with less certainty than the costs, which makes the calculation of probable net benefits difficult due to limited information.
- (3) A decision to protect the species 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.
Economic theory and the precautionary principle suggest that there is a benefit to erring on the side of avoiding a potentially “wrong” decision if that decision cannot be reversed. footnote 7 Therefore, even in situations where protection costs appear to outweigh immediate benefits, accounting for uncertainty and irreversibility could tip the balance, making the overall benefits of protection outweigh the costs.
Given this context, the benefit analysis is based on, to the extent possible, the best available information and the appropriate economic analytical framework. As previously noted, although the recovery of the species and the associated benefits will not be attributable solely to the Order, information about the socio-cultural and economic value of boreal caribou provides useful context for considering the range of benefits associated with the overall recovery of the species.
The benefits described in the assessment were identified using the Total Economic Value (TEV) framework. TEV is often adopted for assessing economic values in society derived from a natural asset such as a species at risk. The framework identifies benefits that can be observed in terms of market and non-market values that contribute to the well-being of society.
This analysis focuses specifically on boreal caribou when possible. However, some examples do not distinguish between types of caribou, and therefore may refer to Woodland Caribou, of which boreal caribou is one population, or to caribou in general.
Value for Indigenous peoples
This analysis is based on a literature review and responses to various consultations for boreal caribou, and is not meant to represent the views of First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
Boreal caribou habitat overlaps with over 400 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities across Canada. Caribou of all types, including boreal caribou, are central to the ways of life of many Indigenous peoples, providing unique cultural, social and economic benefits. footnote 8, footnote 9
Caribou is an important part of Indigenous culture and identity, enabling spirituality and ritual, language preservation, knowledge transmission, tradition and connection to the past. Caribou are recurrent and central in Indigenous stories, songs, art and ceremonies. footnote 10, footnote 11 For example, an important spirit in Innu beliefs is the Caribou Master, the most powerful Animal Master. footnote 12 Not only are caribou featured as cultural symbols for many Indigenous communities, but their hides, bones and antlers are used to make drums and other artifacts for cultural activities and rituals. footnote 13
Furthermore, many Indigenous community crests display caribou, symbolizing the relationship between this species and the communities’ identity. footnote 14 The importance of caribou to Indigenous identity is also reflected in the many sites named for this animal. For example, the Rocky Mountains are traditionally referred to as the Caribou Mountains by the West Moberly First Nations. footnote 15
Finally, the traditional caribou hunt allows for the preservation of Indigenous languages via the use of a rich vocabulary pertaining to the activity. The hunt is also central to the transmission of knowledge, which contributes to the preservation of Indigenous culture and tradition. footnote 16
The traditional caribou hunt supports reciprocity and social cohesion, and contributes to overall health and wellness of Indigenous peoples by providing a valuable source of nutrition footnote 17 and enabling enjoyment of the land and interaction with nature. For example, the hunt and the sharing of the harvest bring together members of various communities and generations, which is an opportunity for strengthening and building bonds and passing of knowledge through sharing food, skills, etc.
Consumption of traditional foods and access to caribou enables communities to increase their food security by limiting their reliance on grocery store food, which tends to be of limited variety and of poor quality. The contribution of traditional foods to health is supported by the results of surveys revealing that the dietary quality of Indigenous individuals was improved on days when they consumed traditional foods, as opposed to only store-bought foods, as traditional foods are sources of protein, vitamin D, iron, zinc, magnesium and other essential nutrients. footnote 18
Caribou meat is high in protein and other nutrients footnote 19 and is often preferred to other wild meats by many Indigenous communities. footnote 20 Caribou liver and marrow are also consumed; marrow can be used as butter and is considered a delicacy. Caribou meat is also described as an excellent trail food. footnote 21 Dried caribou meat is very light, durable and nutritious, is an essential source of food during the winter months and does not easily spoil in summer.
The transition from a traditional diet, which is generally high in protein and nutrients and associated with physical outdoor activities and connection to the land (e.g. via hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering), to a more sedentary lifestyle and a diet high in refined and processed foods, has been linked to an increase in chronic disease such as a high rate of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and obesity. footnote 22 For example, the decline in caribou consumption by the Cree in the 1970s was associated with a health epidemic in the community. footnote 23 Giving up traditional foods and the related activities is associated with a loss of social and spiritual values, and a reduced sense of satisfaction, which can affect overall health. footnote 24
Caribou provide significant economic value to Indigenous peoples. footnote 25 They are used for food, clothing, shelter, art, tools, drums, etc. footnote 26 Caribou hide is considered of the highest quality due to its strength, warmth, insulation, light weight and imperviousness, footnote 27 and is used, among other things, to make clothing such as moccasins, gloves and laces. footnote 28 Caribou bones and antlers are used to make tools such as needles, knives and knife sharpeners, spears, arrows, etc.
Furthermore, traditional caribou hunts have often been opportunities to hunt and gather other fauna and flora valued by Indigenous communities, providing additional economic benefits related to the uses of these animals and plants. footnote 29
For many Indigenous communities, caribou has been one of the primary sources of traditional foods. footnote 30 However, the current level of consumption of traditional food in general, and caribou specifically, is below the desired level for many Indigenous households. footnote 31, footnote 32 In recent decades, some Indigenous communities have self-imposed restrictions on harvesting caribou of all types due to its decline. footnote 33 For example, as part of the traditional knowledge gathered to support the development of the boreal caribou recovery strategy, knowledge holders from the Manitoba Métis Federation highlighted: “Métis are known as Conservationists, and the Métis Laws of the Harvest have been handed down through generations. These Laws, whether written or oral, include protecting species that are threatened.” footnote 34 Furthermore, some British Columbia Métis Nation knowledge holders indicated that they stopped or limited the hunt of boreal caribou in an effort to conserve populations. footnote 35 Surveys carried out among First Nations living on reserve across provinces in Canada between 2008 and 2015 reveal that a large proportion (76%) of the respondents currently consumes traditional wild land mammals, while only a small proportion (6%) consumes caribou meat specifically, with the highest consumption in Saskatchewan and Ontario. footnote 36 Of survey respondents, 74% indicated that they would like to eat more traditional food, including caribou. According to one study, “a harvesting level of two caribou per family per year for fresh and dry meat and for hide, would allow for ongoing subsistence and cultural use.” footnote 37 A traditional harvest of one caribou per family has been suggested by some Saskatchewan First Nation knowledge holders. footnote 38 Furthermore, during discussions with Department of the Environment officials on the topic of caribou recovery targets, two British Columbia First Nations identified a minimum acceptable harvest level of one caribou per household of five per year, based on its historical importance to these First Nations. Current consumption levels, on the other hand, are estimated at 0.34 kg of caribou meat per person per year, footnote 39 or 0.04 caribou footnote 40 per household of five per year (average on First Nation reserve lands across provinces in Canada). Therefore, although caribou currently provides some economic benefit to Indigenous peoples as a source of food, its recovery has the potential to significantly increase these benefits. An illustrative example of the potential monetary value of this benefit is provided below.
Replacement cost estimate
The replacement cost valuation approach uses the cost of replacing a benefit stemming from a natural asset as an estimate of the value of that benefit. Its application is only appropriate under certain conditions, one of which is that the beneficiaries’ willingness-to-pay for the benefit is greater than the replacement cost. footnote 41, footnote 42 If this condition is met, the replacement cost can be an approximation of the minimum value of the benefit. However, this condition is difficult to confirm without carefully studying beneficiary behaviour. footnote 43 In the current context, it is uncertain how Indigenous peoples may choose to replace caribou meat. footnote 44
Nevertheless, in the absence of knowing if the conditions are met, replacement cost may still be a useful proxy for the value of an environmental benefit if society has decided that the beneficiary has a right to that benefit, and society therefore has the obligation to replace it. footnote 45 This is consistent with the boreal caribou recovery strategy which notes that “[a]chieving the recovery goal would allow for local population levels sufficient to sustain traditional Indigenous harvesting activities, consistent with existing Indigenous and treaty rights of Indigenous peoples of Canada.”
Some First Nations have advocated for the use of the replacement cost approach to estimate the minimum value to Indigenous peoples of one benefit related to the caribou harvest — caribou meat as a source of food. Others do not support this approach as they are opposed to the idea of monetizing benefits from nature. footnote 46 In order to ensure that the importance of caribou to Indigenous peoples is represented as comprehensively as possible, this analysis includes an illustrative example, based on several uncertain assumptions, of the potential value of boreal caribou purely as a source of food to Indigenous peoples across Canada. In the event that boreal caribou recovery is achieved, it is expected that these benefits will begin to accrue in 50 years, as recovery is expected to take at least that long.
As this analysis only accounts for the value of substitute sources of protein, it is a significant underestimate of the total value of boreal caribou to Indigenous peoples, given the many other benefits provided by this species, including additional economic benefits related to caribou hide, skin, bone, etc., and the many cultural and social benefits described above.
The baseline and policy scenarios and the associated assumptions used in this analysis are described below.
The baseline scenario was developed based on the current annual consumption of caribou per person living on First Nation reserve land in each province (while the average across provinces per household of five persons per year is 0.04 caribou, as discussed above, this varies across provinces). To take into account only boreal caribou consumption, as opposed to consumption of caribou in general, footnote 47 consumption rates specific to ecozones where only boreal caribou is likely to be accessible were used. Each province’s average consumption rates for those ecozones were applied to population estimates for First Nation communities overlapping boreal caribou habitat, assuming that caribou consumption rates on First Nation reserve lands are representative of consumption rates of all First Nation individuals in these regions. footnote 48 The resulting baseline estimate of the total annual boreal caribou meat consumption by First Nations across provinces in Canada is approximately 3 600 kg (80 caribou) across about 7 000 people. This is an underestimate of current boreal caribou consumption by Indigenous peoples given that Inuit and Métis are not included due to lack of data. The Northwest Territories were not included in this analysis as it is expected that the majority of caribou consumed by Indigenous peoples in the Northwest Territories are not boreal caribou.
As noted above, current consumption levels are not representative of a traditional lifestyle, given that many Indigenous peoples self-impose harvesting restrictions to reduce harm to unsustainable caribou populations.
To assess the potential benefits of boreal caribou recovery relative to this baseline level of consumption, the policy scenario considers the long-term recovery goal for boreal caribou, as defined in the recovery strategy, in which caribou populations are expected to be at a level “sufficient to sustain traditional Indigenous harvesting activities.” As discussed above, one to two caribou per household per year has been suggested by some sources as the minimum required for traditional uses. To be conservative, the policy scenario assumes one caribou per household of five persons (9 kg of caribou meat per person per year) as the minimum level of consumption with the recovery of boreal caribou.
The number of people who would be consuming caribou in the policy scenario is uncertain. As previously noted, currently, only 6% of people living on First Nation reserve lands consume caribou (4% of those live in ecozones where only boreal caribou is likely to be accessible), while 74% of the respondents would like to eat more traditional food. It is expected that the former is a significant underestimate of the number of potential caribou consumers, while the latter could be a significant overestimate. Furthermore, the Indigenous population in Canada is growing, which could potentially further increase future caribou consumption. However, given the lack of other data, the 4% population proportion is used as the conservative assumption for the policy scenario. Based on this assumption, the total annual boreal caribou consumption by First Nations across provinces in Canada with boreal caribou recovery is estimated at about 62 400 kg (1 400 caribou) across 7 000 people. This represents an increase in consumption of about 59 000 kg per year, relative to the baseline. This estimate only takes into account First Nation individuals who are currently consuming caribou, whereas there may be many more who would like to consume boreal caribou if its populations were self-sustaining.
To determine the value of this increase in caribou consumption, a variety of replacement meats and their prices were considered. footnote 49 The aim of the approach is to identify the closest replacement in terms of quality at the lowest price. Elk and venison were identified as the closest substitutes to caribou meat, given their nutritional profiles (especially protein content). In addition, both meats are available at grocery stores at a relatively low cost in comparison to other meats considered.
Given that grocery prices in Northern communities can be over 110% greater than national average prices, footnote 50 an upper range total cost was also estimated with this price adjustment.
Based on these assumptions, the total annual replacement cost of caribou meat is estimated to be between $1.5 million and $3.1 million undiscounted, using national average prices and Northern community prices, respectively. This equates to about $200 to $450 per year for each First Nation person consuming caribou. Given that recovery is expected to take at least 50 years, the present value is estimated to be between about $336,000 and $710,000 annually starting in 2069 (discounted at 3% by 50 years). This value is an approximation of the potential minimum incremental benefit of boreal caribou as a source of food with the recovery of this species, as compared to the current situation. Given data limitations, specifically regarding the number of Indigenous people consuming caribou now and in the future, this estimate is likely a significant underestimate and should be considered an illustrative example based on a series of conservative assumptions. One community noted that elk or venison meat may not be available in some areas and that moose meat may be a more appropriate replacement. If moose meat were chosen as the substitute for caribou meat, the replacement cost estimate would be between $250 and $540 per year for each First Nation person consuming caribou. footnote 51
Value of caribou as an iconic Canadian species
Studies on other at-risk species indicate that society values vulnerable species, footnote 52 especially iconic or charismatic species. footnote 53 Caribou are an iconic Canadian wildlife species, appearing on the 25 cent coin and as symbols on crests, shields and monuments throughout the country, for example on the Federal Court’s Coat of Arms, the Newfoundland and Labrador Coat of Arms, the Nunavut Coat of Arms, and on several military regiment badges. Boreal caribou are one of Canada’s most widely distributed large mammals; they are found in nine provinces and territories across Canada. The species is often used as a symbol of Canada’s vast landscape. Furthermore, boreal caribou recovery could increase caribou viewing opportunities, which could in turn provide benefits to wildlife viewing enthusiasts.
Given the iconic status of caribou, studies have demonstrated that Canadians place value on their continued existence in Canada, regardless of whether Canadians will ever interact with the species directly. footnote 54, footnote 55 For example, in a 2011 Alberta study, footnote 56 households surveyed were willing to pay, on average, approximately $197 per year for 50 years to ensure 3 self-sustaining Woodland Caribou herds, and approximately $349 per year for 50 years for 13 self-sustaining Woodland Caribou herds. Applying the results of this study to all households in Alberta except Indigenous households, footnote 57 the Department of the Environment estimates the value to Albertans of a program to restore 3 to 13 caribou herds to self-sustaining status is between $298 million and $529 million annually for 50 years. This value could not be extrapolated to the rest of Canada, as the baseline and policy scenarios described in the study do not reflect situations in other provinces. Specifically, the Alberta baseline situation reflected fewer self-sustaining herds than in any other province; therefore, their recovery would represent a more significant change from the baseline. Although attitudes toward caribou conservation demonstrated in the study are expected to be shared by other Canadians, the willingness-to-pay per non-Albertan household may be lower to some extent. Note that these values are additional to Indigenous values related to caribou recovery.
Society often places a value on retaining the option of possible future uses associated with a species. The “option value” of boreal caribou to Canadians could stem from its antlers footnote 58 or its bone marrow, footnote 59 both of which could have health benefits. Furthermore, the preservation of genetic information is important for future biodiversity. footnote 60 Genetic and genomic information could be used to inform research on evolutionary history and to inform future research on ungulate fitness and diseases (including resistance and susceptibility), functional genomics, etc., some of which is currently being explored. footnote 61
Co-benefits: Value of caribou habitat
Boreal caribou recovery will require the maintenance and restoration of some portion of its habitat, as described in the recovery strategy. The protection and restoration of this habitat will result in additional benefits not directly related to caribou, but still attributable to caribou recovery efforts. This attribution could only be made to habitat that would be destroyed in the absence of caribou recovery efforts and any new habitat that would be created through restoration efforts aimed at boreal caribou recovery. It is uncertain at this time which specific habitat may be protected or restored to recover boreal caribou. Furthermore, any co-benefits related to habitat protection would be taken into account in the existence value estimates described above, as these were included in the study of the Alberta caribou recovery program. Therefore, this section provides an overview of the benefits stemming from boreal caribou habitat overall for context only.
Ecosystems where boreal caribou are found — primarily mature coniferous forests, peatlands and alpine areas footnote 62 provide many benefits to Canadians, including aesthetic and recreational opportunities, and ecological services such as nitrogen cycling, carbon storage and sequestration, air filtration, flood control, water flow mitigation, and water filtration. footnote 63
For example, boreal forests store and sequester a large amount of carbon. Boreal forests play an essential role in the carbon cycle, as they store about 49% of carbon worldwide. footnote 64 According to one study, footnote 65 the Canadian boreal forest (biomass and soil) stores 47.5 billion tonnes of carbon (or 174 billion tonnes of CO2) footnote 66 and sequesters 103.6 million tonnes of carbon annually (or 384 million tonnes of CO2). The same study estimates that peatlands of the Canadian boreal forests store 19.5 billion tonnes of carbon (or 71.5 billion tonnes of CO2) and sequester 21.4 million tonnes of carbon per year (or 78 million tonnes of CO2). Absent this sequestration, net emissions would be higher.
Additionally, forests help regulate water flow, prevent flooding, reduce run-off, control erosion footnote 67 and offer, along with wetlands and peatlands, clean water via water filtration. Flood control and water filtration by peatlands are estimated to be the boreal forest’s ecosystem service with the highest economic value. footnote 68
Furthermore, the protection of caribou habitat will in turn protect lichen, which is an essential part of the caribou diet. Lichen and its nitrogen-fixing bacteria are important for soil ecology and microbiology, increasing the health of ecosystems for other species. The seasonal migration of caribou to non-lichen rich areas can also result in the transfer, via droppings, of nitrogen-related benefits to other ecosystems. footnote 69, footnote 70
Finally, the conservation of boreal caribou can simultaneously enhance the conservation of other boreal species that share the same ecosystem. footnote 71 Caribou are often considered to be an indicator of the magnitude of the anthropogenic impact in their habitat ecosystems, and are an umbrella species for the boreal forest biodiversity at large. footnote 72 Boreal caribou share their habitat with approximately 40 different threatened or endangered species at risk in Canada, and so protecting their habitat can contribute to protecting Canada’s biodiversity. Examples of species at risk that share the same ecosystem with boreal caribou include the Northern Myotis Bat, wolverine and the Canada Warbler. The Canadian boreal forest is also home to many other species that offer valuable ecosystem services, such as pollination and controlling the spread of vector-borne disease.
If destroyed, the ecosystems that provide habitat for boreal caribou are generally slow to regenerate. Thus, protecting habitat for the boreal caribou also protects sustainability of ecosystem services along with other species that share this habitat. While sustainable forest management in boreal caribou habitat may help mitigate wildfire and other natural disturbances, the evidence of benefits of such management on the caribou is mixed. footnote 73
Costs related to the Order
The baseline scenario for the cost analysis includes activities ongoing on federally administered lands where boreal caribou critical habitat may be found, and incorporates any projected changes over the next 10 years (2019–2028) that could occur without the Order in place. An analytical period of 10 years was selected, as section 24 of SARA states that the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada must reassess the status of the species every 10 years.
The following steps were taken to assess the potential costs of the proposed Order to stakeholders and Indigenous peoples. First, a spatial analysis was conducted by overlaying caribou ranges with federal properties that could be subject to the proposed Order. Second, each federal organization administering potentially implicated properties was sent a list of these properties along with questions seeking confirmation on property locations relative to caribou habitat, and clarification on current and future activities that may affect critical habitat. For any identified activities, further assessment was conducted on cost implications of mitigation measures to avoid habitat destruction. Furthermore, the implications of not being able to implement planned activities were considered, if mitigation was unlikely to be sufficient to prevent habitat destruction.
The potential for the Minister of the Environment to issue permits under paragraph 73(2)(c) of SARA was also considered. Such permits could allow for habitat destruction under certain conditions. Permits are assessed on a case-by-case basis at the time of application and are granted only when all reasonable alternatives have been considered and the best solution has been adopted; all feasible measures will be taken to minimize the negative impact of the activity; and the activity will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species. Although no conclusions can be made on whether a permit could be issued prior to the submission of an application, this analysis takes into account the potential labour cost implications of permit application development and review. The development of a permit application is estimated to cost approximately $4,900, while costs related to the Department of the Environment review of the application are estimated at about $3,200.
More than 300 potentially implicated properties were identified, administered by 11 federal organizations. For the majority of these properties, federal organizations did not foresee any activities that may affect critical habitat. However, several activities or projects were identified that required further assessment in terms of potential for boreal caribou critical habitat destruction and costs associated with avoiding destruction.
As noted, the largest federal property that will be subject to the Order is the Edéhzhíe Protected Area and candidate national wildlife area, which was recently designated as an Indigenous protected area by the Dehcho First Nations and the Government of Canada. Edéhzhíe’s current protections do not allow for any major developments, or natural resource exploration or extraction. With the proposed designation of the national wildlife area in 2020, protections would be similar to those provided by the Order. Current uses on the property include traditional activities, research and monitoring. These are expected to continue with the national wildlife area designation and are not expected to have implications for critical habitat.
Twelve planned contaminated site clean-up or remediation projects overlap boreal caribou habitat on federally administered lands. These projects range from short, one-season clean-up activities to multi-year remediation efforts. The goal of these projects is generally to reduce or mitigate risks to the environment and human health. These projects have undergone a separate environmental review process. Some of these projects may temporarily destroy critical habitat and will therefore require a permit application under paragraph 73(2)(c) of SARA when the Order is in force. In the event that all 12 identified projects require a permit, the total permit application cost is estimated at $58,000 for applicants and $38,000 for the Department of the Environment. In the event that such projects could not be completed, the Government of Canada would continue to hold millions of dollars in liabilities indefinitely. However, given the nature of these clean-up and remediation projects, the potential for SARA permit issuance, where applicable, is considered high given that the objective of the projects is to mitigate and manage risks to the environment.
Furthermore, Natural Resources Canada identified a large three-phase project in the Northwest Territories that may require the construction of a road to complete Phase 3. In this case, a permit application could be required, and it is also possible that a habitat offset may be required to meet the conditions of a SARA permit. The offset could involve the closure of an existing road in boreal caribou critical habitat, which is estimated to cost $1,750 per kilometre. footnote 74
A number of additional projects and activities were identified by government departments that could require a permit application, although this requirement is uncertain at this time. To be conservative, the analysis assumed one permit application for each property where such a project or activity was identified. For example, the Department of National Defence declared five properties overlapping potential boreal caribou critical habitat where military activities could potentially affect that habitat.
Overall, 22 permit applications were included in the analysis, with a total estimated cost to the Department of the Environment of $70,000 and a total cost to applicants of $107,000.
The federal government will incur costs related to inspections, investigations and enforcement measures (including prosecutions) to deal with alleged offences under the Order. These costs include the enforcement costs of both the SARA general prohibitions and the critical habitat protection Order. In the first year of operation, inspections will be conducted on properties based on prioritization, focusing on those properties with high potential for caribou conservation and for potential of non-compliance. In subsequent years, the Department will conduct planned inspections on targeted sites. The estimated total for the first year of operation is $300,000, and the estimated total for each subsequent year is $159,000.
A compliance promotion plan has been prepared 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 updates to the Species at Risk Public Registry and outreach to federal land managers.
The present value of all costs described above is estimated at about $1.7 million over 10 years, $1.5 million of which is attributed to enforcement costs of both the SARA general prohibitions and the Order. No costs to Indigenous peoples were identified.
Section 5 of the Red Tape Reduction Act (the “One-for-One” Rule) does not apply, as the Order will not impose any new administrative burden on business.
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 any potential costs for small businesses are not considered disproportionately high.
The proposed recovery strategy for boreal caribou, including the identification of critical habitat for 50 of 51 ranges, was posted on the SAR Public Registry on August 26, 2011, for an extended comment period that ended February 22, 2012. The Department received more than 19 000 comments, including 192 detailed submissions, from Indigenous communities and organizations, wildlife management boards, government, industry stakeholders, environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), academia, and the general public. The majority of these comments were received as copies of form letters from campaigns initiated by six ENGOs. The Department of the Environment also received a petition from one ENGO with over 32 000 signatures. Of the total comments received on the proposed recovery strategy, a significant majority mentioned support for habitat protection. A report summarizing the comments received on the proposed recovery strategy is available on the SAR Public Registry. The final recovery strategy was posted on the registry on October 5, 2012.
The proposed action plan focusing on federal actions for boreal caribou was posted on the SAR Public Registry on July 27, 2017, for a 60-day public comment period. More than 80 written comments were received from provinces and territories, wildlife management boards, Indigenous peoples, municipal governments, stakeholders, and the general public. One of the main themes of the comments was that ongoing consultation and engagement with all partners and interested parties is important for many activities, including the protection of critical habitat. A report summarizing the comments received on the proposed action plan is available on the SAR Public Registry. The final federal action plan was posted on the registry on February 13, 2018.
Consultation before publication in the Canada Gazette, Part I
In 2018, the Department of the Environment contacted federal organizations that administer federal lands that overlap with portions of the critical habitat of the boreal caribou to inform them that the Minister would be moving forward with the development of the proposed Order. The Department sent letters and a fact sheet on the proposed Order to the federal organizations, seeking feedback and information that would support the analysis of the potential implications of the proposed Order, and invited the federal organizations to share any questions or comments. The Department received responses and exchanged information with these federal organizations to verify the properties that would be subject to the proposed Order and to support the analysis of the potential socio-economic implications.
The Department of the Environment also informed the seven provinces and two territories within the boreal caribou distribution of its intent to develop the proposed Order, and invited these parties to share any information or comments. One response was received from a territorial government, with questions and comments about SARA permit requirements and how the proposed Order would be implemented and integrated with the territorial resource management regime. The Department of the Environment continues to work with the territorial government to address their questions.
In 2018, the Department of the Environment consulted with seven wildlife management boards regarding the proposed Order via letters accompanied by a fact sheet on the proposed Order and a questionnaire regarding potential implications. The Department also presented information on the proposed Order to the boards upon request. Of the six responses received, three were from wildlife management boards acknowledging receipt of the information; they did not have any questions or comments. Two other wildlife management boards did not oppose the proposed Order. These two boards noted the small size of the federally administered properties, and their interest in working together to achieve species conservation objectives and to protect more boreal caribou critical habitat. One wildlife management board indicated support for the proposed Order on the one federally administered property within its area of management.
The Department of the Environment also contacted approximately 400 Indigenous communities, governments, and organizations within the boreal caribou distribution via letters. A fact sheet on the proposed Order and a questionnaire to assist respondents were also provided. The Department also provided information, answered questions and met with interested parties upon request to discuss the proposal.
The Department received 34 responses from Indigenous communities, governments, and organizations. A majority of the respondents indicated support for the protection and recovery of boreal caribou in general, though many respondents did not provide specific comments on the proposed Order. Several respondents noted the small area of federally administered lands that would be protected by the proposed Order, and stated that resources and efforts for habitat conservation should be prioritized to where it would most benefit boreal caribou. Some questioned what actions were being taken by other jurisdictions, and noted the importance of cooperation and collaboration in order to benefit caribou recovery.
A few respondents supported the exclusion of devolved lands or First Nation reserve lands from the proposed Order, with one underscoring the importance of range planning for devolved (territorial) lands. One respondent was opposed to the exclusion of devolved lands, sharing their view that all parties should be following the same rules to benefit the species.
One Indigenous community in Ontario opposed any proposed policies or laws regarding caribou protection, citing the concern that these could impact forestry activities that are important and beneficial to the community. In response, the Department informed the community that it is working collaboratively with many parties on boreal caribou protection and recovery, including through the recently established National Boreal Caribou Knowledge Consortium for sharing knowledge on conservation of the species. The information provided by federal organizations indicates that no forestry activities occur or are planned on the federally administered lands to which the Order applies.
Four Indigenous communities, governments or organizations requested that the Department of the Environment provide a meaningful consultation process or support to enable capacity to respond to the consultation efforts or the collection of Indigenous traditional knowledge. Leading up to the publication of the proposal in the Canada Gazette, Part I, the Department continued discussions with these parties. At a meeting with the Department, one First Nation expressed their interest in several properties related to land use planning in their traditional territory, and noted their concern that other First Nations may not have the capacity to be meaningfully consulted about the proposal. After receiving more information from the Department, a second First Nation confirmed they had no concerns about the proposal. The Department also met with one Indigenous organization, who also confirmed they had no concerns via letter during the public comment period.
Canada has committed to a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. In line with this commitment, the Department of the Environment is taking measures to have meaningful consultations with Indigenous peoples, communities, governments and organizations in the interest of respect, cooperation and partnership.
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 December 8, 2018, for a 30-day comment period. Links to these documents were also posted on the SAR Public Registry and a notice of the consultation period was posted on the Department’s social media webpages.
Fourteen respondents provided feedback during this comment period: seven Indigenous communities, governments, and organizations; one province; one territory; two environmental non-government organizations; one association; one business and one individual. In addition to this feedback, two parties asked for more information on the spatial location of the federal properties that would be subject to the Order. The Department provided this information, and no comments were subsequently received from either party.
Six Indigenous communities, governments, and organizations stated they had no concerns with the proposal. Of these, one First Nation expressed interest in participating in caribou recovery efforts and one Indigenous organization asked for clarity on the attributes of the critical habitat and asked what conservation measures would be taken on the lands following the making of the Order. The recovery strategy for boreal caribou describes the critical habitat (including maps), and the federal action plan identifies measures that the federal government is taking or plans to take to support the recovery efforts for boreal caribou. Both of these documents are available on the SAR Public Registry.
One First Nation expressed its concerns with the decline of woodland caribou populations, emphasized the importance of caribou to their culture and rights, and stated that recovery and protection efforts on provincial lands are necessary. The Department is in discussions with multiple parties including provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous peoples and stakeholders, on approaches to protect the critical habitat of boreal caribou on other lands not covered by the Order.
Two respondents questioned how the proposal considered the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range property in Alberta and the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range property in Saskatchewan. As mentioned in the proposal, there are complex land tenures, jurisdictional authorities, rights and interests in these properties.
In response, the Department reviewed information about these properties, and held discussions with the provinces and with the Department of National Defence. As a result of the re-examination, the two properties are not federal land under SARA. The Department has revised the analysis of the Order accordingly. The Government of Canada is collaborating with multiple parties on approaches to protect the critical habitat of boreal caribou on both properties, including conservation agreements under SARA, to aim for the best possible conservation outcome for the species in this area.
Two respondents questioned the proposed project in the Northwest Territories that was included in the estimated costs. In response, the Department has provided the references used in its analysis in the costs section of this document.
A territorial government submitted questions regarding implementation of the Order within their regulatory regime, and potential implications on third parties that operate on some federal lands. In response, departmental officials met with territorial officials to discuss the topics raised and provide answers. The Department will continue to collaborate with the territory to address any outstanding issues.
An association expressed concerns with the analysis of “co-benefits: value of caribou habitat” and suggested some clarifications and additional information sources be considered. In response, the Department reviewed the information sources and added some explanatory text to the section in question.
Two environmental non-government organizations expressed support for the Order while noting that the Order would have a minimal direct impact on habitat protection and on its own will not achieve the recovery goals set out for boreal caribou. One of these respondents also suggested other factors for consideration in the analysis of benefits and costs, and suggested the estimated costs of enforcing the Order should be directed towards advancing SARA-related actions to protect the critical habitat of boreal caribou.
Finally, one individual expressed support for the proposal and for the protection of the boreal forest in general.
Boreal caribou is an iconic but threatened species in Canada and holds special significance for Indigenous peoples and other Canadians. Boreal caribou is also considered by many to be an indicator of the overall state of Canada’s boreal forest ecosystem. The recovery of this species requires unprecedented commitment, collaboration and cooperation among the various groups involved in the conservation of boreal caribou.
The boreal caribou is listed as a threatened species under SARA. Portions of the species’ critical habitat on federally administered lands in Canada are currently unprotected. Section 58 of SARA obliges the competent minister to put in place protection for critical habitat of threatened species on federal lands where protection is not in place. The Order will support the survival and recovery of the boreal caribou through the protection of the critical habitat on federally administered lands, consistent with the overall objectives of SARA and Canada’s biodiversity commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Government of Canada is working towards protecting the portions of boreal caribou critical habitat on the federal lands that are excluded from the Order. For Indian Act lands, the Government of Canada is developing collaborative and cooperative approaches with First Nations for species at risk conservation on First Nation reserves. The Parks Canada Agency is developing protection for boreal caribou critical habitat on properties that it administers using provisions in, and measures under, federal legislation applicable to the Agency, including SARA and the Canada National Parks Act. Regarding devolved lands in the territories, the Government of Canada is working with multiple parties in the North to develop a path forward for protection of critical habitat on devolved lands in a manner that respects the intent of devolution.
A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) was conducted for the Order. The SEA concluded that, although the benefits associated with the continued existence of the species cannot be attributed to the Order alone, the legal protection of the critical habitat for the boreal caribou on federally administered lands would have important benefits for the species. The Order will also benefit other species that inhabit or visit the boreal forest on federally administered lands.
The objective of the Order directly supports the following goal of the 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS): “Healthy Wildlife Populations — All species have healthy and viable populations.” The Order supports the goal’s medium-term target, which states the following: “By 2020, species that are secure remain secure, and populations of species at risk listed under federal law exhibit trends that are consistent with recovery strategies and management plans.” The objective of the Order supports the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, which recognizes the importance of protecting the habitats of species at risk as a key component of conserving biological diversity. The protection of habitat by the Order will also contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 15, “Life on Land”.
In summary, the Order will contribute to the recovery of the boreal caribou, although its contribution is likely to be limited given that the portion of critical habitat found on federally administered lands is a small portion of the critical habitat of the species. The incremental costs of the Order include Government of Canada actions related to SARA permit applications, compliance promotion and enforcement. No major costs to stakeholders or Indigenous peoples were identified.
Implementation, enforcement and service standards
The implementation of the Order will provide protection and recourse against the destruction of boreal caribou critical habitat on federally administered lands to which the Order applies. Federally administered lands comprise a small fraction of the area containing boreal caribou critical habitat.
The Department of the Environment will be responsible for issuing permits, compliance promotion and enforcement of the Order on the federally administered lands to which the Order applies. The Department has developed a compliance promotion strategy outlining activities with a targeted focus on federal land managers.
The Department will continue to work with the federal organizations who administer lands subject to the Order to contribute to the conservation and protection of the boreal caribou and its critical habitat. The action plan for boreal caribou that focuses on federal actions provides information on other recovery measures the Government of Canada is taking or will take to help achieve recovery for boreal caribou across Canada.
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. Alternative measures agreements 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 the Act. 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 of Canada to either issue or refuse permits under section 73 of SARA to authorize activities that may affect listed wildlife species. The 90-day timeline may not apply in certain circumstances, such as a permit issued under another Act of Parliament (e.g. the Canada National Parks Act) as per section 74 of SARA. These Regulations contribute to consistency, predictability and transparency in the SARA permitting process by providing applicants with clear and measurable service standards. The Department of the Environment measures its service performance annually, and performance information is posted on the Department website no later than June 1 for the preceding fiscal year.
Mary Jane Roberts
Species at Risk Act Policy and Regulatory Affairs
Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Annex 1 – Description of Woodland Caribou, Boreal population
Like all Woodland Caribou, boreal caribou are a medium-sized (1.0 to 1.2 m at shoulder height and weighing 110 to 210 kg) member of the deer family (Cervidae). Adults have a dark brown coat with a creamy white neck, mane, shoulder stripe, underbelly, underside of the tail, and patch above each hoof. A distinctive characteristic of all caribou is large crescent-shaped hooves that provide flotation in snow and soft ground (e.g. peat lands), and assist in digging through snow to forage on lichens and other ground vegetation. Antlers of boreal caribou are flattened, compact, and relatively dense. As a unique feature among the deer family, both male and female boreal caribou have antlers during part of the year, although some females may have only one antler or no antlers at all.
Boreal caribou are distributed broadly throughout the boreal forest. They require large areas comprised of continuous tracts of undisturbed habitat rich in mature to old-growth coniferous forest, lichens, muskegs, peat lands, and upland or hilly areas. Large areas with suitable quality habitat allow boreal caribou to disperse across the landscape when conditions are unfavourable (e.g. natural fire disturbance, anthropogenic disturbance) and to maintain low population densities to reduce their risk of predation.