The Species at Risk Act and You: Information for Businesses

Information Note

This section of the SARA Registry has been prepared for information purposes and convenience of reference only, and has no official sanction. It is not a substitute for the Species at Risk Act or any regulation under this Act. In the event of an inconsistency between the information included here and the Act or its regulations, the latter would prevail. Official or more detailed information can be found in the legal text of SARA.

Many Canadian businesses are actively engaged in helping to protect and recover species at risk. The following information will assist you, as a business person, to contribute to the protection and/or recovery of species at risk by helping you to:

  • understand how the Species at Risk Act may affect you and/or your business;
  • determine whether species at risk may be present in the areas where you operate;
  • take action to comply with the Act; and
  • learn what more you can do to help protect species at risk and their habitat.

For additional information on SARA, you may wish to contact us directly.

What is the Role of Canadian Businesses in the Implementation and Administration of SARA?

The Government of Canada is working collaboratively with Canadian businesses to protect and recover species at risk. Canadian businesses are playing a key role in many aspects of SARA implementation and administration. For example:

  • through the Species at Risk Advisory Committee, business sector representatives provide advice to the Minister of Environment on policies and regulations developed under SARA;
  • through the SARA public consultation process, businesses are actively providing input to the Minister of Environment into the species listing process;
  • with representatives as key members of recovery teams, Canadian businesses are contributing valuable expertise into the recovery planning process; and
  • through the Habitat Stewardship Program, businesses are collaborating with other Canadians to help protect and recover at-risk species and to prevent other wildlife species from becoming at risk.

When Does SARA Require Social and Economic Factors to be Taken into Account?

SARA requires that social and economic factors be considered when action plans are developed, during the recovery planning process. Action plans must include an evaluation of socio-economic costs of a plan and the benefits to be derived from its implementation. The Minister must also monitor action plan implementation and the progress being made toward meeting its objectives, and assess and report on implementation, including socio-economic impacts, 5 years after the plan comes into effect.

Socio-economic factors are also taken into consideration when species are proposed for addition to Schedule 1 of SARA. Listing proposals follow the regulatory process, and are subject to the Government of Canada's Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management, which requires departments to consider the benefits and costs of regulatory proposals that could affect Canadians.

How Might SARA Affect My Business?

The ways in which the Species at Risk Act may affect your business depend on the location of your business activities, whether or not your activities impact a species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA and the designation of the impacted species. The information below offers further insight on how SARA may apply to the business sector.

How Does SARA Protect Species at Risk?

To ensure the protection of species at risk, SARA contains general prohibitions that make it an offence to:

  • kill, harm, harass, capture, or take an individual of a species listed in Schedule 1 of SARA as endangered, threatened or extirpated;
  • possess, collect, buy, sell or trade an individual of a species listed in Schedule 1 of SARA as endangered, threatened or extirpated;
  • damage or destroy the residence (e.g. nest or den) of one or more individuals of a species listed in Schedule 1 of SARA as endangered, threatened or extirpated, if a recovery strategy has recommended the reintroduction of that extirpated species.

Please note that while Schedule 1 lists endangered, threatened and extirpated species as well as species of special concern, the prohibitions do not applyto species of special concern.

Species at risk in Canada may also be protected by provincial or territorial laws; you may wish to consult the appropriate authorities for information on the requirements in your province or territory.

I Operate on Private or Provincial/Territorial Land. How Do the Prohibitions Apply on These Lands?

On private or provincial/territorial land, the prohibitions apply only to:

  • aquatic species listed as endangered, threatened or extirpated in Schedule 1 of SARA; and
  • migratory birds listed in the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and also listed as endangered, threatened or extirpated in Schedule 1 of SARA.

In some circumstances, the prohibitions could also be applied, through an order, to other species listed as endangered, threatened or extirpated in Schedule 1 of SARA when found on private or provincial/territorial land if provincial / territorial legislation or voluntary measures do not adequately protect the species and its residence. Public consultation would first be sought in accordance with normal federal government regulatory procedure.

I Operate on Federal Land and/or Canada's Oceans and Waterways. How Do the Prohibitions Apply?

Under SARA, the definition of federal land includes, but is not limited to:

  • Canada's oceans and waterways;
  • national parks;
  • military training areas;
  • Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration pastures;
  • national wildlife areas;
  • some migratory bird sanctuaries; and
  • First Nations reserves.

Many federal lands are exceptionally rich in wildlife and undisturbed habitat. As such, proper stewardship of these lands is vital to successfully protecting and recovering many species at risk.

Prohibitions apply to all listed species when found on federal lands in a province or lands under the authority of the Minister of the Environment or the Parks Canada Agency in a territory.

In addition, provincial and territorial governments develop their own lists of species at risk that are separate from the federal List of Wildlife Species at Risk (also known as Schedule 1 of SARA). By order, SARA can also protect species designated as endangered or threatened by a provincial or territorial government, but not listed federally in Schedule 1 of SARA, when those species are found on federal lands. These prohibitions would only apply, however, to the species, residences, habitats and lands or sections of lands designated in the order. Consultations required by the Federal Regulatory Policy would first take place.

If you are a commercial fisher, aquaculturist, or involved in any other activity that might impact the habitat of an aquatic species at risk, you can also visit the Fisheries and Oceans Canada aquatic species at risk website for more information, or contact your local Fisheries and Oceans Canada office.

What is Critical Habitat?

Critical habitat is the habitat necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed endangered, threatened or extirpated species (if a recovery strategy has recommended the reintroduction of that extirpated species). Critical habitat will be identified in the recovery strategy or action plan for each listed species and posted on the SARA Public Registry. The development of these strategies and plans is a collaborative process which, to whatever extent possible, will involve consultations with people who a SARA competent minister considers to be directly affected by the strategy or plan.

How is Critical Habitat Protected on Private or Provincial/Territorial Land?

SARA recognizes that protecting the habitat of species at risk is key to their conservation. The intent of SARA is to protect critical habitat as much as possible through voluntary actions and stewardship measures. If these measures are unable to protect the critical habitat, prohibitions against the destruction of that particular critical habitat may come into play.

On private or provincial/territorial land, SARA requires that the critical habitat of aquatic species be protected within six months after it has been identified in a finalised SARA recovery strategy or action plan. SARA contains a prohibition against destroying any part of critical habitat, but also provides other options for protection. Critical habitat of these species must be protected by one of the following methods: the application of the SARA prohibition by ministerial order; other legal means under SARA such as a conservation agreement; or by other federal legislation.

For other, non-aquatic species found on private or provincial/territorial land, provincial or territorial laws can provide protection for critical habitat. Alternatively, the SARA prohibition can be applied by an order from the Governor in Council or other provisions in, or measures under, federal legislation (including SARA), can be used to protect the critical habitat. Current federal government regulatory policy contains a commitment to consult the public on orders from the Governor in Council.

How is Critical Habitat Protected on Federal Land?

SARA requires that the critical habitat of all listed species, when found on federal lands, be legally protected within six months after it is identified in a finalised SARA recovery strategy or action plan. SARA contains a prohibition against destroying any part of critical habitat.

To protect critical habitat located on federal land that is a national park, a marine protected area, a migratory bird sanctuary, or a national wildlife area, the SARA critical habitat prohibition applies without a ministerial order.

In respect of other federal land, critical habitat must be protected by one of the following methods: the application of the SARA critical habitat prohibition by ministerial order; other legal means under SARA such as a conservation agreement; or by other federal legislation.

How Does SARA Affect the Environmental Assessment Process?

SARA includes the following provisions that directly relate to the environmental assessment process:

  1. All EAs conducted under federal legislation, such as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, must identify any species at risk listed under SARA, or critical habitat that is likely to be affected by the project.
  2. If the project is likely to affect a listed species or its critical habitat, SARA requires that the SARA competent minister(s) be notified, in writing, without delay. For aquatic species, Fisheries and Oceans Canada must be notified. For species and their critical habitat, including aquatic species, found exclusively or partly in or on federal lands administered by the Parks Canada Agency, Parks Canada must be notified. For all other species, Environment Canada must be notified. Two notifications might need to be sent if the affected species falls under the responsibility of two departments/agencies. For example, for aquatic species found in areas administered by the Parks Canada Agency and in other areas, notification must be sent to the Parks Canada Agency as well as to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. There are existing regional EA contacts within each department and notification should be sent through these contacts. Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency regional offices can provide contact information.
  3. SARA also requires that when an EA is being carried out on a project that may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the potential adverse effects be identified and if the project is carried out, that measures be taken to avoid or lessen those adverse effects, and to monitor the effects. Such measures must be consistent with any applicable recovery strategies and action plans and management plans for those particular species.
  4. SARA also amends the definition of "environmental effect" under CEAA to clarify, for greater certainty, that environmental effects include any change the project may cause to a species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA, the critical habitat of that species or the residences of individuals of the species.

Please note that while the prohibitions only apply to species listed as endangered, threatened or extirpated in Schedule 1 of SARA, the provisions related to environmental assessments listed above apply to all species listed in Schedule 1, including species of special concern.

In addition to identifying the adverse effects of your project on all species listed in Schedule 1, it is recommended that all other species at risk be considered, including:

You may wish to consult the Environmental Assessment Best Practice Guide for Wildlife at Risk in Canada (PDF version, 400 KB) for guidance in conducting EAs.

For more information on the EA process, you can visit the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website or directly contact your Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency regional office.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Prohibitions?

SARA provides for a number of exceptions in a variety of circumstances. For example, activities related to public safety, health or national security may be exempted from the application of the prohibitions.

Can I Apply For a Permit Under to Engage in Activities that Would Otherwise Contravene SARA?

Yes. Under SARA, permits may be issued or agreements may be entered into to authorize certain activities that would otherwise contravene the general or critical habitat prohibitions, if certain conditions are met. These authorizations are sometimes called "Section 73 Permits", referring to the section of the Act that deals with authorizations.

More information on SARA permits.

How Can I Find Out if There Could Be Species at Risk in the Areas in Which I Operate?

There are a number of resources that may be able to assist you in finding out whether species at risk, their residences or critical habitat might be the present in the areas in which you are operating:

  • The SARA Public Registry Advanced Search tool allows you to search for species listed under SARA;
  • The Species at Risk Public Registry offers general biological information about species at risk in Canada, including their distribution and habitat requirements;
  • Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) regional offices can access databanks on species at risk found on federal lands;
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada maintains databanks on aquatic species at risk and can also assist you in correctly interpreting information from other databanks;
  • Parks Canada maintains a national database of species found in the areas it administers; if the land you manage is near an area administered by Parks Canada, this park or other area may have information that could help you; and
  • NatureServe Canada provides links to the Conservation Data Centers, which in some cases offer the possibility to search for the occurrence of species at risk in particular areas of the province / territory.

Keep in mind that while a species may be found within a certain geographical range, the species may not be present in the particular area you operate in because the habitat may not be suitable.

If the land you operate on has potential habitat or previous occurrences of species at risk, it is recommended that you perform an inventory on the property. Taking stock of rare species is a complex task, however, and should be conducted by specialists.

Please notify your Canadian Wildlife Service regional office of any new information regarding species at risk in the areas in which you operate. Any new record of a listed species at risk is highly valuable to recovery teams.

What Steps Can I Take to Comply With the Act?

Once you have determined that species at risk may live in or pass through the areas you operate in or if you are aware that residences or critical habitat may exist, you should:

  • ensure that the activities you carry out in those areas comply with SARA requirements;
  • ensure that the competent minister is notified if your project requires an assessment of environmental effects and is likely to affect a SARA listed species or its critical habitat;
  • apply for an authorization if a proposed or current activity could contravene a SARA prohibition;
  • take SARA requirements into account when you sign agreements with subcontractors;
  • provide colleagues with accurate and reliable information on the Species at Risk Act, using official information available from the SARA Public Registry or your Canadian Wildlife Service regional office;

To ensure you continue to comply with SARA, you should also:

  • be aware of species which may be added to Schedule 1 in the future by keeping abreast of:
    • species that are currently under consideration for addition to Schedule 1 of SARA (you can search for these species by checking the box beside "only show species under consideration" in the Advanced Search on the SARA Public Registry); and
    • the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada's (COSEWIC) list of Status Reports that are currently in preparation as these species will soon be assessed by COSEWIC and may be added to Schedule 1.
  • consult the Public Registry regularly for:

How Else Can I Help Conserve Species at Risk?

Everyone in Canada has a role to play in protecting and recovering species at risk. As a business, you can:

  • apply for funding through the Habitat Stewardship Program to carry out recovery projects;
  • direct activities towards less sensitive areas and time projects to avoid or minimize impacts to species at risk; and
  • participate and encourage colleagues to participate in public consultations.

For additional information on SARA and how you can help protect species at risk, please contact us directly.