Critical Habitat Identification Toolbox

Developed by
Environment Canada and Climate Change - Canadian Wildlife Service
Critical Habitat Community of Practice

Version 2.3
(Updated  February 2016)

Cover photo of Species at Risk Guide

Introduction

Under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), critical habitat (CH) is the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of listed extirpated, endangered, or threatened species, and that is identified as CH in a recovery strategy or action plan. The identification of CH in federal recovery documents is reviewed by partners, stakeholders and jurisdictions and is also open to a public consultation process. It is important to ensure that the CH identification process is consistent nationally, that the approaches and criteria used are well documented and that decisions made are transparent.

This CH Identification Toolbox is intended to be used by Environment and Climate Change Canada recovery practitioners and those who work with Environment and Climate Change Canada in the development of recovery documents where CH identification is required. The objectives of the toolbox are to provide a broad framework and associated guidance and decision tracking materials in order to improve consistency and transparency in the CH identification process. It is not intended to provide prescriptive methods on how to identify CH in all situations. Rather, it is designed to be flexible enough to adapt to the various situations encountered by recovery practitioners, but structured enough to provide consistency in how CH is identified and presented. Even with this toolbox recovery practitioners will still need to use professional judgement at various steps in the CH identification process, and involve others with expertise and knowledge. When shared with others who participate in the CH identification process, this toolbox will help to ensure a common understanding, terminology, and framework thus facilitating their involvement. This document includes references to two additional guidance documents - a 2010 guide to completing recovery strategies, and a 2012 guide to completing action plans.  These documents have been developed to guide federal recovery practitioners (staff and contractors) in the development of recovery documents, of which critical habitat identification is one component.  These recovery documents are available upon request by contacting ec.planificationduretablissement-recoveryplanning.ec@canada.ca

This toolbox has been developed by Environment and Climate Change Canada's Critical Habitat Community of Practice. The Community of Practice consists of a group of Canadian Wildlife Service recovery practitioners from across the country that meet to discuss approaches to CH identification and develop tools to support the identification process. This toolbox builds on the years of experience in the process of CH identification nationally and has benefited from substantial previous work on CH by Environment and Climate Change Canada, as well as other SARA responsible agencies and partners. A multi-jurisdictional working group is currently developing an implementation and guidance document and workbook for setting Population and Distribution objectives.

The CH Identification Toolbox will be a "living document" that evolves with new information, experiences, and/or policy developments, and/or to align with any other new implementation guidance material (e.g., for Population and Distribution objectives). If you have any questions, comments or suggestions they can be directed to the Environment and Climate Change Canada - Canadian Wildlife Service Species at Risk Recovery Unit.

Critical Habitat Identification Broad Framework

The CH Identification Broad Framework (hereafter Broad Framework) provides a stepwise overview of the process to identify CH, from the initial consideration of the population and distribution objectives for the species through to the presentation of CH in a recovery document (Figure 1). Each step in the Broad Framework is explored and documented in detail in the CH Identification Decision Tracking Workbook.

The guidance provided in this toolbox is intended to help the recovery practitioner work their way through the Broad Framework diagram and complete the Decision Tracking Workbook (which also contains more detailed guidance on specific fields, etc). The Broad Framework consists of six main steps:

Step 1. Review Recovery Strategy Population and Distribution Objective(s)Content Footnote 1/SARA Timelines
Step 2. Gather and Assess Information
Step 3. Develop Criteria for CH Identification
Step 4. Determine and Apply CH Identification Method/Approach
Step 5. Assess Candidate CH Identification
Step 6. Present CH Identification

For the most part, steps in the process are designed to be sequential; however, in some cases the information gathered or conclusions drawn in one step may prompt the recovery planner to reconsider or adjust the outcome of previous steps. More information on this is provided later in this guidance document and in the Decision Tracking Workbook.

Note that the identification of CH, including a description of the biophysical attributes and activities likely to destroy CH, will be used to support the assessment of protection of CH; this is indicated in pink in Figure 1.

Figure 1. CH Identification Broad Framework.
Critical Habitat Broad Framework
Long description for Figure 1

Figure 1 details each step of the CH Identification Broad Framework. Sections 1 through 4 follow a step-wise order. The end of step 4 results in the candidate critical habitat being identified. Following this, step 5 is reached. After step 5, there are 3 possibilities:  1) if CH ID is partial or none, then either a) if SARA timelines permit, complete (additional) field work or reassess available information for potential alternative approaches or methods, otherwise, b) include a schedule of studies, 2) provide a summary of activities likely to destroy CH, then begin protection assessment process, or 3) go directly to step 6.  Step 6 is followed by the protection assessment process. A detailed description of each step is provided in the paragraphs that follow.

Critical Habitat Identification Broad Framework – Version 2.0

1. Review

Recovery Strategy Population and Distribution Objective(s) / SARA Timelines [Begin CH ID Decision Tracking Workbook*]

2. Gather and Assess Information 

A. Document all available information (data sources, data sets)

B. Summarize primary information:

  • Population #, size
  • Distribution and geographic range
  • Habitat Specificity
  • Biophysical Attributes

Identify rarity type [CH ID Broad Approaches*]

C. Summarize additional information:

  • Species mobility
  • Life History Characteristics
  • Threats

Identify appropriate scale of CH ID

3. Develop Criteria for CH ID

A. Establish criteria for assessment and assess knowledge gaps

B. Assess available information against criteria

C. Summarize adequacy of available information, i.e., what data is to be used as basis for CH ID

Seek expert opinion/advice as necessary

4. Determine and Apply CH ID Method/Approach

A. Determine method of CH ID that is to be applied to available, adequate data

B. Apply method of CH ID, e.g.:

  • Critical Function Zone
  • Adjacent Areas
  • Connectivity
  • Decision Tree Bank (existing documents)
  • Habitat features
  • Land Classification
  • Modelling

Result Candidate critical habitat is identified [Standard Data Attributes and Data Storage*]

5. Assess Candidate CH ID

A. in relation to P&D Objective(s)

  • Complete
  • Partial
  • None

B. in relation to CH ID Broad Approaches*& ALTD

C. in relation to Sensitivity Concerns (Sensitivity Assessment)

6. Present Critical Habitat Identification in recovery document

  • Spatial representation
    • Detailed polygons
    • Standardized UTM Grid squares
    • Table with coordinates (lower left UTM grid square points)
    • Other/additional

[CH Mapping Template*]

  • Text description
    • Biophysical attributes
    • Additional CH location description
      If required:
    • S. 124 statement
    • Clarification statement

If partial or none

If SARA timelines permit, complete (additional) field work or reassess available information for potential alternative approaches or methods

Or

Include a Schedule of Studies

Activities Likely to Destroy CH: summary

Protection Assessment

* Refers to a complementary piece in the CH ID Toolbox, i.e., the CH ID Decision Tracking Workbook, the CH ID Broad Approaches, the Standard Data Attributes and Data Storage, and the CH Mapping Template components

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Critical Habitat Identification Decision Tracking Workbook

The CH Identification Decision Tracking Workbook is the portion of the toolbox where the recovery practitioner documents thought processes and considerations made in the various steps to identify and present CH. It is a Microsoft Excel Workbook that contains a tab for each of the steps in the CH identification and presentation process. The decision-points tracked within the workbook correspond with the process and concepts outlined in the Broad Framework (Figure 1). In some areas, the Decision Tracking Workbook simply provides a place to record the available facts and information (e.g., population and distribution objective) while in other areas, it is intended to track rationales, decisions and help determine key information to be used to develop the CH criteria.

This workbook ensures consistency in the factors considered in identifying CH. Documenting this information will assist communications with partners outside of the federal government (e.g., contractors or provincial/territorial government) and between ECCC regions that are cooperating on the identification of CH. Should the workbook be updated as the recovery document moves through the review process, or if information or methodology is changed at a later stage, this should be reflected and tracked within the workbook. Documenting this information will assist with future revisions to CH for a given species and/or help with future evaluations of how ECCC is approaching the identification of CH.

Information tracked within the workbook should be detailed to the extent that it is sufficient for someone reviewing the document to understand its content and/or to locate additional available resources. That is, the intent is to provide a summary of relevant species information, and how this was used to inform CH identification and presentation. Where appropriate, indicating "not applicable" in some of the response boxes is acceptable. If some criteria are not available in the sheet, but are important to the CH identification, these should be added in new rows where applicable and highlighted. In many cases, additional documents may be available related to the CH process (e.g., additional details on geospatial data processes, model development, and criteria development by a recovery team). These should be referenced at the end of the workbook (see Additional Notes section) and the files stored on a regional SharePoint or file network location so they can be accessed by regional staff at a later date as required.

Clicking on the following link will open the CH Decision Tracking Workbook:

[Available upon request]

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Step 1. Review Recovery Strategy Population and Distribution Objective(s)/ SARA Timelines

Objectives: To ensure that the population and distribution objectives and recovery planning timelines are clearly stated and considered at the outset of the CH identification process. Please refer to Step 1 of the Decision Tracking Workbook Content Footnote 2.

  • These considerations will guide the decisions made by the recovery practitioner in working through the CH identification Broad Framework. For example, both SARA timelines and the nature and extent of knowledge gaps may influence the rationale for how to proceed with the identification of CH.
  • These "first step" review items provide the basis for a recovery practitioner to later (a) determine that CH identified is sufficient to meet population and distribution objectives, or (b) determine that there are knowledge gaps, such that the CH identified is insufficient to meet the stated population and distribution objectives. If the latter case is true, and timelines are restrictive, identify CH to the extent possible and include a schedule of studies to fill required knowledge gaps. If timelines allow (i.e., the document is not imminently due), consider using the time to fill knowledge gaps, enabling further identification of CH in the recovery document.

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Step 2. Gather and Assess Information

Objectives: To gather and review all pertinent information available on the species and its habitat, and then to conceptualize the scale at which CH might be identified. Please refer to Step 2 of the Decision Tracking WorkbookContent Footnote 3.

  • All known information sources and data sets are identified and assessed to determine if they are available to ECCC for identifying CH.
  • Primary information relating to population, distribution, and habitat are used to identify rarity type.
  • Additional information relevant to critical habitat identification, e.g., species mobility, life history characteristics, threats, are summarized.
  • The recovery practitioner conceptualizes the scale at which CH might be appropriately identified (i.e., landscape, area, or site scale) using the Broad Approaches diagram (Figure 2).

Step 2A. Document all available information/data sets

All potential sources of information should be explored, and documented in Step 2 of the Decision Tracking Workbook. Sources that should be considered in the information-gathering stage include, but are not limited to:

  • Federal (ECCC-CWS)
  • COSEWIC Status Report & associated survey data summary
  • Interdepartmental Recovery Fund (IRF) Data
  • Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) Data
  • Federal (external) - PCA/DFO/Other Government Departments
  • Provincial Conservation Data Centre
  • Province (other) - e.g. regional office
  • Breeding Bird Atlas
  • Species Inventory Database (SPI)
  • Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge
  • Non-Government Organization
  • Species Specialist(s) - individual biologist(s) or naturalists contacted or contracted including universities, grad students with expert knowledge
  • Community knowledge
  • Any other relevant information (e.g., pertinent research, publications)

For each data source, please provide a summary of what information exists, and what information is available (yes, no, partially - including details/status of data acquisition, where appropriate). The initial summary of information will (a) provide an early flag for requesting and/or characterizing unavailable data, (b) provide a basis for determining the broad approach to CH identification, (c) provide a basis for detailed consideration of the adequacy of potential information sources in relation to CH identification (as outlined in subsequent steps), and (d) may flag potential early problems for completing the CH identification and/or informing the Schedule of Studies, where available information is clearly inadequate.

All known information sources should be assessed to determine if they are available to ECCC for identifying CH. In general, available means: available to Environment and Climate Change Canada for use within the timelines for preparing the recovery document. For example, if an outside organization has information that could be used to inform the identification of CH but is unwilling / unable to share that information with Environment and Climate Change Canada, then the information is not available (in the context of best available information). In some cases, for example where information for a population is known to exist but is unavailable to Environment and Climate Change Canada, this may warrant (a) concluding that CH cannot be identified at this time for that population, and (b) the identification of steps to be taken to secure the information (in the Schedule of Studies), if that data is essential to the CH identification.

Where Environment and Climate Change Canada is in possession of information that is not available publicly, or there are restrictions on the use of that information, Environment and Climate Change Canada will work with the primary holder of that information to secure permission for its use in defining the biophysical attributes and geographical area that makes up critical habitat.

As stated above, all known data sets should be documented to the best of the recovery practitioner's ability. However, depending on the assessment criteria established (Step 3), it is noted that some available data sets may not necessarily need to be collected/compiled by the recovery practitioner, i.e., where deemed not relevant or reliable to inform CH identification. In that case, simple acknowledgement that a data set exists (but is/was not used) may function to reduce confusion and/or diffuse questions arising within the review, approval, and/or consultation and comment period.

In cases where it is recognized that targeted field surveys, and/or data analysis/modelling, and/or data sharing agreements could address information gaps such that CH could be identified (either partially or fully), recovery practitioners will need to work with their respective managers to determine the relative priority of completing this work. Factors that would likely be considered include: legal timelines for posting; relative priority of the species/recovery document in the posting plan; available resources; existence/status of provincial/territorial recovery documents; and the primary threats facing the species (are they habitat based?).

Step 2B. Summarize primary information to inform rarity type and inform CH Broad Approach

Critical Habitat Identification Broad Approaches

The Broad Approaches diagram presents an initial way to characterize the nature of the species at risk based on Rabinowitz's (1981) Seven Forms of Rarity (Figure 2). It provides: a starting reference to conceptualize the scale (i.e., landscape, area, or site) at which CH might be identified; a context for assessing what constitutes available and adequate information; and generates preliminary considerations for how CH might be presented in the recovery document. The recovery practitioner considers the species' population size (large/dominant, small/non-dominant), geographic range (large, small), and habitat specificity (wide, narrow) in order to select the appropriate rarity form (e.g. locally abundant in several habitats but restricted geographically). The rarity form provides a first indication of the potentially appropriate scale for CH identification. Rarity forms on the left side of the diagram (shown in dark green) tend toward landscape scale while those on the right (shown in light green) tend toward a site scale. Those in the middle may be at the area scale although landscape or site scale may be appropriate. Depending on specific factors and supplementary information, an alternate approach may be warranted for some species or populations.

Step 2C. Summarize supplementary information which may inform Broad Approach and CH ID

Based on this initial characterization, the recovery practitioner proceeds through the remainder of Step 2 to gather relevant supplementary information on species mobility, life history characteristics, and threats. In completing the careful review of relevant species information, the initial characterization of appropriate scale for CH identification based on rarity type (e.g., landscape, area, or site-level) may be validated, or modified where appropriate, through the consideration of other factors. In some cases, it may be appropriate for critical habitat to be identified at more than one scale (e.g., a species could have most populations with CH identified at an area-level, with one population with CH identified at a site-level). Note the intent of this section is to assist the recovery practitioner through the thought process of CH identification by ensuring relevant scale considerations are made from the outset; these considerations are important for assessing the adequacy of data, as well for determining the method of CH identification itself. A sound rationale for the scale chosen for critical habitat identification is the most important outcome of the Broad Approaches component.

The Broad Approaches diagram legend includes additional details and examples for each of the scales in order to provide the recovery practitioner with context. Each species at risk is unique; the Broad Approaches diagram can be useful in understanding why another practitioner has taken a different approach in CH identification, and/or validating the approach taken for the species in question. Examples of CH identification methods which may be appropriate for each scale are provided (e.g., at a landscape or area scale, broader ecosystem mapping may be appropriate whereas at a site scale, using a specified distance around actual occurrences, i.e., critical function zone, may be appropriate). The legend also provides examples of activities likely to destroy CH at each scale.

Figure 2 - CH Identification Broad Approaches.
Chart: CH Identification Broad Approaches.
Long description for Figure 2

CH Identification Broad ApproachesNote a of Figure 2 - Long Description

Local Population Size
Large Geographic Range
Wide Habitat Specificity
Large Geographic Range
Narrow Habitat Specificity
Large (dominant somewhere)
Locally abundant over a large range in several habitatsNote b of Figure 2 - Long Description
Locally abundant over a large range in a specific habitatsNote c of Figure 2 - Long Description
Small (non-dominant)
Constantly sparse over a large range and in several habitatsNote b of Figure 2 - Long Description
Constantly sparse in a specific habitat but over a large rangeNote c of Figure 2 - Long Description
Local Population Size
Small Geographic Range
Habitat Specificity Wide
Small Geographic Range
Habitat Specificity Narrow
Large (dominant somewhere)
Locally abundant in several habitats but restricted geographicallyNote c of Figure 2 - Long Description
Locally abundant in a specific habitat but restricted geographicallyNote d of Figure 2 - Long Description
Small (non-dominant)
Constantly sparse and geographically restricted in several habitatsNote c of Figure 2 - Long Description
Constantly sparse and geographically restricted in a specific habitatNote d of Figure 2 - Long Description

Notes of Figure 2 - Long Description

Note [a] of Figure 2 - Long Description

Grid shading corresponds with a tendency toward landscape, area, and site-level critical habitat identification, as described below. However, it should be noted that depending on specific factors and supplementary species information, an alternate approach may be warranted for some species or populations. This is particularly applicable to the middle category (area), where a tendancy toward landscape- or site-level approach will depend heavily on relevant species and habitat information.

Return to note a referrer of Figure 2 - Long Description

Note [b] of Figure 2 - Long Description

CH ID Broad Approach: Landscape
Scale of Reference: 1:100,000 - 1:1,00,000+
Example CH ID Method: Broad bounding box or polygon containing both occupied/suitable and unoccupied and/or unsuitable habitat. The amount of required habitat may be fixed (e.g., 10,000 ha) bu the precise locations of the habitat is not identified. Consider strategic-level land use planning, eco-region mapping, provincial or regional-scale land-use planning.
Example "activities likely to destroy" at this level: landscape composition destruction beyond thresholds, other broader landscape-level effects.

Return to note b referrer of Figure 2 - Long Description

Note [c] of Figure 2 - Long Description

CH ID Broad Approach: Area
Scale of Reference: 1:15,000 - 1:100,000
Example CH ID Method: May include the occupied site (as described below), plus additional unoccupied suitable habitat necessary based on threats or species needs - e.g., to reduce effects of habitat fragmentation addition habitat may be necessary; to provide areas for movement between occupied areas etc. Consider ecosystem mapping (air photos, biogeoclimatic zone, sensitive ecosystem inventory mapping), municipal-scale land use planning.
Example "activities likely to destroy" at this level: Landcape development (e.g., forest harvesting, development for residence, agriculture, industry).

Return to note c referrer of Figure 2 - Long Description

Note [d] of Figure 2 - Long Description

CH ID Broad Approach: Site
Scale of Reference: 1:1 - 1:15,000
Example CH ID Method: Occupied suitable habitat patch which may also include unoccupied suitable habitat within a specified distance and/or contigous to occupied habitat mapping at the scale of individuals or clusters of individuals; may apply critical function zone; land classification polygon, etc.
Example "activities likely to destroy" at this level: Local factors such as damage by ATVs, trampling by dog-walkers, beach infilling for lawn expansion.

Return to note d referrer of Figure 2 - Long Description

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Step 3. Develop Criteria for Critical Habitat Identification

Objectives: To develop criteria for data used in CH identification, and to assess whether the available information (as summarized in Step 2) is adequate for CH identification.

  • Criteria are established to assess the available data, considering the most relevant Broad Approach to CH identification (for example, this may influence scale, type, and/or accuracy of data required), as well as relevant species characteristics informing and/or needed to inform CH identification.
  • Available data sources are assessed to determine if they are adequate, based on the above criteria. If data sources are deemed inadequate based on the criteria, they may be rejected (entirely, or in part) from the CH identification.
  • The adequacy of available information is summarized for each population (or other appropriate unit qualifier) to determine what knowledge gaps may affect CH identification, and to develop a schedule of studies (where required).
  • As required, the recovery practitioner may seek expert opinion/advice for example, to clarify details of available information.

Determining the extent to which CH can be identified can be a challenging process. If it is determined that CH cannot be identified (or can be only partially identified), the reasons must be clear, documented and defensible. At the same time, where CH is identified (either partially or fully), the approaches used must also be defensible, both from a biological and policy/legal perspective.

The following guidance and associated Step 3 spreadsheet within the Workbook provide a process for determining to what extent CH can be identified, by summarizing and tracking decisions around the assessment (i.e., adequacy) of available information. This step will ensure that data sets are tracked and assessed with sufficient detail, in a consistent manner. The tracked information will provide tools to structure a justification (where necessary), in accounting for questions that may arise when CH is not identified or when it is only identified partially.

To date, ECCC does not have approved policy or guidance that specifically addresses when CH cannot be identified. However, some background information exists which discusses the adequacy of available information. For example, with respect to the identification of CH:

Section 41(1)(c) SARA states that a recovery strategy must include

An identification of the species' CH, to the extent possible, based on the best available information, including the information provided by COSEWIC…

and (c.1) a schedule of studies to identify CH, where available information is inadequate;

In summary, the recovery practitioner must document what comprises the best available information and identify critical habitat to the extent possible within the timelines prescribed in SARA.  Where a complete identification is not possible based on the available information, a schedule of studies will be included to obtain that information. It is acknowledged that what constitutes the "best available" information may change over time. However, the fact that there will be better and/or more information on which to base CH identification at some point in the future cannot be used as a reason to delay identifying CH to the extent possible, based on the best information available at this time (unless SARA timelines permit time for particular knowledge gaps to be addressed).

The following is a summary of the approach to assess the adequacy of available information, as it appears in the companion Workbook:

Step 3A. Establish criteria for assessment and identify knowledge gaps.

All potential information sources should be assessed for adequacy; that is, what information is considered appropriate to inform CH identification (including considerations of relevance, and reliability). The first step in this process is to establish criteria against which the available information will be assessed. The framework for what is considered adequate will be dependent on:

  1. What Broad Approach has been identified for the CH identification (landscape, area, site scale)? The Decision Tracking Workbook includes a place to summarize the Broad Approach identified and explain how it influences the assessment of whether available information is adequate. For example:
    • What is the relevant scale of data required (site, area, landscape - for example are individual occurrence records useful to CH identification or is broader-scale range use and habitat information required)?
    • Is the type of data required restrictive (e.g., particular variables are required - for example to identify CH for a bird species, is call/playback information sufficient or is nest confirmation required)?
    • Is the accuracy of data required restrictive (e.g., occurrence data location uncertainty levels - for example for a stationary plant, perhaps <100 m location/UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) uncertainty is acceptable, for a mobile animal perhaps <1 km location/UTM uncertainty is acceptable, for use of data in CH identification)?
  2. What are the relevant species characteristics that inform, or which are needed to inform, CH identification? Note that not all species characteristics described in Step 2B may be deemed relevant to the CH identification. Describe what is known about the relevant characteristic (e.g., time, distance, other quantified estimates) and how this may be applicable to available data (e.g., thresholds or maximum/minimum values to be used in CH identification, as appropriate). Consider what is known (or what may be reasonably inferred from knowledge of similar taxa) about relevant species characteristics, for example:
    • Species mobility
    • Site fidelity - are occurrences stationary vs. transient during the course of multiple years?
    • Dispersal distance
    • Territory/Patch size
    • Longevity
    • Annual/Perennial
    • Dormancy, hibernation, and/or seed bank, viability
    • Natural vs. Planted vs. transplanted/relocated
    • Overwintering vs. migrating habitat; seasonal habitat use
    • Other (as applicable)

Knowledge gaps relating to either the Broad Approach or the species characteristics identified here may directly inform any resultant schedule of studies.

Step 3B. Assess information against established criteria

All information sources listed in Step 2 should be assessed against the criteria established in Step 3A. Please indicate the populations (or other appropriate unit qualifier) which are implicated by each data set, and whether or not the data set is accepted or rejected (entirely, or in part) based on the criteria established in Step 3A. If assessment criteria (Step 3A) are disputed or changed at some later date (e.g., owing to better research info, knowledge of species characteristics, dispersal distance or site fidelity, etc.), it will be clear to subsequent researchers which records should now be included.

Step 3C. Summarize adequacy of available information

For each population (or other appropriate unit qualifier), please summarize the outcomes of the assessment in Step 3B. Summarize the intent of CH identification for each population (where appropriate); for example if it is thought to be fully identified, partially identified, or where there is no CH identified. Where CH identification is partially identified, or where CH cannot be identified, please indicate whether the availability, and/or the adequacy, of the information is a limiting factor. Summarize what is missing (e.g., reliable/relevant data, sharing agreement etc.), how and when this will be acquired, and how this affects the overall identification of CH. Lack of essential available and/or adequate information may warrant inclusion of a Schedule of Studies (SoS). Please refer to the Recovery Strategy Guidelines (2010) for further information on what to include in a SoS. The purpose of the SoS is to outline the essential actions required to complete the identification of CH as opposed to information which may be useful for more general refinement. However, this step in the Decision Tracking Workbook may also be used to document things that would not be reflected in the SoS, such as notes on study designs, related habitat research, etc.

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Step 4. Determine and Apply Critical Habitat Identification Method/Approach

Objectives: To determine the method of CH identification, and to apply it to all available, adequate data in order to geospatially determine candidate CH.

Step 4A. Determine method of CH identification

  • Summarize type of spatial data used as basis for CH ID, e.g., observations, element occurrences, or otherwise.
  • Summarize criteria for using spatial data in CH identification (refer to Step 3A). The criteria may include components such as the years and/or spatial accuracy of data to be included, a description of the biophysical attribute, or any other components that help describe the information going into overall determination of what constitutes critical habitat.
  • Provide rationale for chosen criteria. In some cases, multiple options may have been explored or changes to the approach may have occurred based on comments received during the review process. Please indicate if this was the case and why the chosen approach was felt to be the most appropriate.
  • State the biophysical attributes of CH.

Step 4B. Apply method of CH ID

This will result in the most detailed level of CH identification possible based on the best available information. Concerns about data sensitivity, and constraints in presentation are addressed later in the process:

  • Identify the type of method applied to basic spatial data, e.g., habitat features, land classification, modelling, critical function zone, or other.
  • Characterize the most detailed level of CH identification, e.g., an irregular polygon that contains critical habitat where biophysical attributes are present, or a grid square that contains critical habitat where biophysical attributes are present.
  • Provide rationale for chosen method. In some cases, multiple options may have been explored or changes to the approach may have occurred based on comments received during the review process. Please indicate if this was the case and why this was felt to be the more appropriate approach.
  • Concluding questions: Where CH identification is only partial, or where it cannot be identified, please consider (1) Were there other potential approaches to identify CH for which there was available and adequate information? (2) Has CH been identified in other circumstances? (3) Is the rationale for CH identification (or non-identification) likely to be questioned -- would peer review and/or expert opinion provide valuable support to the approach taken?

Detailed methods and decision-making processes relating to CH identification are documented within the Decision Tracking Workbook.  Section 7.1 of the federal Recovery Strategy Guidelines (Government of Canada, 2010) identifies the information that is to be included in the critical habitat section of a recovery strategy (see list of items below for ease of reference).  Section 1.3 of the federal Action Plan Guidelines (Government of Canada, 2012) provides further information specific to the critical habitat section in action plans.

The following information will be provided:

  1. The extent to which the amount, quality, and the locations of identified critical habitat achieve the population and distribution objectives established in the recovery strategy;
  2. The identification of critical habitat, specifying the geographical location of the critical habitat or describing the area within which critical habitat is found, and a description of the known biophysical attributes of that critical habitat that are required by the listed wildlife species in order to carry out life processes necessary for its survival or recovery;
  3. A clear description of the critical habitat of sufficient detail to allow a person to determine where critical habitat 'is', and where critical habitat 'is not'. A map may be included to help identify critical habitat or the area within which critical habitat is found (a standard map template is available);
  4. If all of the critical habitat cannot be identified based on the best available information, then critical habitat will be identified to the extent possible. Critical habitat identification is often an iterative process and partial identification may be possible in advance of full identification;
  5. Where critical habitat cannot be identified due to a "lack of adequate information", it is appropriate to reflect the progress made to date in identifying critical habitat. In such cases, a schedule of studies to identify critical habitat will be developed;
  6. If available information is assessed to be insufficient to identify critical habitat, a rationale/explanation must be provided.

The critical habitat approach, locations and attributes should be presented in a logical way, supporting its interpretation. Please note that recovery documents are public documents and should be written in plain language. Use of technical terms should be avoided as much as possible; where technical terms must be included, these should be footnoted with plain language explanations. When critical habitat identifications are complex or very technical, supplementary technical documents may be required as supporting documents to the recovery strategy or action plan and should be available upon request.

Although not prescriptive, some sample text for the "Identification of the Species' Critical Habitat" section of the Recovery Strategy is provided below:

Section 41 (1)(c) of SARA requires that recovery strategies include an identification of the species' critical habitat, to the extent possible, as well as examples of activities that are likely to result in its destruction. This federal recovery strategy identifies critical habitat to the extent possible, based on the best available information for [insert species name]; more precise boundaries may be mapped, and additional critical habitat may be added in the future if additional research supports the inclusion of areas beyond those currently identified.

Critical habitat for [insert species name] is identified at [insert number, and appropriate landscape/area/site location unit qualifier, i.e., geographic location units] in [province/region].

Critical habitat for [insert species name] in Canada is identified based on [insert summary of information from Step 4A - i.e., type of spatial data used, criteria for use, rationale for what constitutes available/adequate information]. Using this information, critical habitat is identified as [insert information from Step 4B - type of method applied to available/adequate information e.g., critical function zone or ecosystem mapping, whether the most detailed critical habitat identification is stand-alone spatially and/or in combination with stated biophysical attributes, and brief summary of supporting rationale for applying this method to available/adequate information in determining what is critical habitat]. [optional]: Detailed methods and decision-making processes relating to critical habitat identification are archived in a supporting document.]

Note that the use of subheadings may be a useful way to present in a logical flow, the criteria and methods used in the determination of critical habitat.  Examples of subheadings include: 'Occupancy Criteria', 'Dispersal Corridors', 'Habitat Suitability Model Criteria' 'Application of Criteria' etc.).

The known biophysical attributes of critical habitat required by [insert species name] are described as follows [please provide a list and clear description of biophysical attributes]:

    • [describe biophysical attribute]
    • [describe biophysical attribute]
    • (…)

The areas containing critical habitat for [insert species name] are presented in [specify Figure #s or Table #s - please complete the remainder of Steps 5-6 of Broad Framework in the Decision Tracking Workbook before finalizing Figures and see additional text in Step 6 below].

The end result of Step 4 is the identification of "candidate critical habitat". Note, however, that draft recovery documents do not have to include the term "candidate critical habitat". The term "candidate CH" is used while CH is being developed and shared with partners during the review process prior to the document being ready for posting as proposed; "Proposed CH" is the CH that has been or will be included in a proposed recovery document; and "Final CH" is the CH that is included in a final recovery document.

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Step 5. Assess Candidate Critical Habitat Identification

Objectives: To assess the candidate CH in relation to (A) the population and distribution objective(s), (B) the identified Broad Approach (landscape, area, or site-level) and known activities likely to destroy CH, in order to ensure CH has been identified at the appropriate scale for the species, and (C) sensitivity concerns.

These assessments provide the recovery practitioner the opportunity to review candidate critical habitat against recovery objectives and/or to revise CH where appropriate, as well as characterize any factors that will influence its presentation within the federal recovery document.

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Step 5A. Review in Relation to P&D Objectives

  • The candidate CH is assessed in relation to the population and distribution objective(s) to determine if the identification meets these objectives.
  • If the critical habitat identification is not sufficient to meet the population and distribution objectives (e.g., where the CH identified only partly meets objectives, or where CH has not been identified at all), there are three options:
    • If the SARA timeline permits, additional field work may be undertaken, and/or data sharing agreements completed (i.e., to fill knowledge gaps so that CH can be fully identified);
    • A reassessment of the available information for a potential alternative approach or method to CH identification can be explored.
    • If neither of the above are appropriate, a schedule of studies (with supporting rationale as to why current information is not available and/or adequate) must be included to clearly identify what information is required for the population and distribution objectives to be met.

CH must always be identified "to the extent possible". However, this could mean the CH being identified is not sufficient to meet the population and distribution objectives because entire populations or types of habitat do not have CH identified due to a lack of available/adequate information. In these cases, noting that the identification of CH is "partial" provides clarity that additional CH will need to be identified to achieve the population and distribution objectives.

Note that the key question is whether the CH identified is sufficient to meet the population and distribution objectives based on what is known at this time. Actions required to address any future refinement of CH (e.g., fine-tuning boundaries, or providing greater detail on the biophysical attributes of CH within the area currently identified as containing CH), and/or expectation of new discoveries (e.g., surveys for new populations at additional sites having apparently suitable habitat) could be important, but these activities should not result in a "partial" identification of CH, and do not belong in the schedule of studies. There will always be new information that may necessitate updates to CH, but the question is whether there are any known information sources or criteria (i.e., available, adequate data) that are restricting or preventing CH identification at this time, for one or more populations/subpopulations (or other appropriate unit qualifier). That is, where CH is only partially identified, or where it cannot be identified, there should be certainty that the actions listed in the schedule of studies will directly result in the identification of CH.

Concluding Statement for Critical Habitat Identification

A concise summary statement on the completeness of the CH identification should be included in the recovery document, along with some brief explanatory text. This statement should conclude the section on Identification of the Species' Critical Habitat; i.e., it should follow the description of the CH ID (refer to sample text for Step 4B) and presentation (refer to sample text for Step 6). Sample concluding statements are provided below, for reference. Note that the recovery document should provide sufficient detail to understand why identification of CH was not possible, but should not contain overly detailed information about the assessment of information.

Full identification of CH:
The critical habitat identified is sufficient to meet the population and distribution objectives; therefore a schedule of studies is not required.
Partial identification of CH:
For the reasons stated above, critical habitat can only be partially identified at this time. A schedule of studies has been developed to provide the information necessary to complete the identification of critical habitat that will be sufficient to meet the population and distribution objectives. The identification of critical habitat will be updated when the information becomes available, either in a revised recovery strategy or action plan(s).
No identification of CH:
For the reasons stated above, no critical habitat can be identified at this time. A schedule of studies has been developed to provide the information necessary to identify the critical habitat that will be sufficient to meet the population and distribution objectives.

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Step 5B. Review in Relation to Broad Approaches and Activities Likely to Destroy (ALTD) Critical Habitat

  • The candidate CH is assessed in relation to the scale at which CH was to be identified as determined in Step 2 (Broad Approaches). If, based on Steps 3 and 4, the outcome of CH identification resulted in use of a different scale than what was characterized as most appropriate in Step 2, this decision, and the rationale supporting the discrepancy, needs to be documented in the Decision Tracking Workbook. Note that the original characterization in Step 2 should be left as is, to track initial tendency and evolution of thought process. Please refer to Step 5B of the Decision Tracking Workbook for further guidance.
  • The candidate CH is assessed in relation to the scale at which the majority of activities likely to destroy critical habitat are described. Please refer to Step 5B of the Decision Tracking Workbook, as well as the more detailed guidance below which is to be used in completing the "Activities Likely to Destroy Critical Habitat" section of the recovery document.

Activities Likely to Destroy Critical Habitat - Supplementary Guidance

The intent of the following guidance is to help recovery practitioners complete the 'Activities Likely to Result in the Destruction of CH' section in a Recovery Strategy or Action Plan by providing supplementary materials and detail to what is provided in the Guidelines for Completing Recovery Strategy Templates (Government of Canada, 2010).

Objectives

The objectives of this guidance are:

  1. To help recovery practitioners complete the Activities Likely to Destroy (ALTD) CH section.
  2. To align current guidance with this additional guidance provided within this CH Identification Toolbox.
  3. To provide templates for ALTD CH summary tables that improve standardization of concept and presentation, and most optimally facilitate subsequent protection assessment.

With reference to the third objective, the recovery practitioner should note specifically that the ALTD section will be referred to directly in the CH protection assessment process (refer to Broad Framework - Figure 1). The CH protection assessment process is conducted after the final recovery document is posted and the clear documentation and description of ALTD at this stage is key to facilitating the completion of these protection assessments.

Supplement to 2010 SARA Implementation Guidance: Guidelines for Completing Recovery Strategy Templates

This section provides an overview of the existing guidance (Government of Canada 2010) on ALTD CH, followed by supplementary guidance materials and details. The original implementation guidance is inserted below, piece by piece, in its entirety, within the outlined text boxes. Supplementary guidance materials and details provide additional information, where appropriate, in order to clarify, add to, or highlight portions of the original guidance (not to replace it). Areas for particular attention are shown in italicized text.

Prior to proceeding with the description of ALTD CH the recovery practitioner should have completed all of the preceding steps as outlined in the Broad Framework.

Implementation Guidance on Activities Likely to Destroy CH

Length: max. 1 paragraph or bullet per activity

If any CH is identified in a recovery strategy, this section is needed and examples of activities that are likely to result in CH destruction must be provided. If CH is not identified in a recovery strategy, then this section is not required.

Length: ALTD summary table and 1 paragraph per activity as narrative to the Summary Table (described below) to provide further clarification if necessary. However, with the inclusion of the third column of the ALTD summary table, this would not normally be necessary.

"Understanding what constitutes destruction of critical habitat is necessary for the protection and management of critical habitat. Destruction is determined on a case by case basis. Destruction would result if part of the critical habitat were degraded, either permanently or temporarily, such that it would not serve its function when needed by the species. Destruction may result from a single or multiple activities at one point in time or from the cumulative effects of one or more activities over time. Activities described in Table [insert table number] * include those likely to cause destruction of critical habitat for the species; however, destructive activities are not limited to those listed."

Please include the following text (which is the text above unchanged, with one additional sentence at the end) at the start of the ALTD CH section. This will highlight that the information which follows, although detailed enough to inform management of those activities and to inform protection assessment, will not address each and every situation:

"Understanding what constitutes destruction of critical habitat is necessary for the protection and management of critical habitat. Destruction is determined on a case by case basis. Destruction would result if part of the critical habitat were degraded, either permanently or temporarily, such that it would not serve its function when needed by the species. Destruction may result from a single or multiple activities at one point in time or from the cumulative effects of one or more activities over time. Activities described in Table [insert table number]* include those likely to cause destruction of critical habitat for the species; however, destructive activities are not limited to those listed."

*this Table refers to the portion of the summary table provided in Step 5B of the Decision Tracking Workbook which may be copied into the recovery document. More information on how to use this sample table is provided at the end of the ALTD section.

The recovery strategy must provide a level of detail sufficient to inform the management of these activities to prevent degradation to the point where CH is no longer able to serve its biological function for the species. Where appropriate and possible, thresholds beyond which destruction would occur should be provided. Management activities, protection, and enforcement will be informed by providing information pertaining to cumulative effects wherever appropriate and possible. In many cases it will be important to use adequate qualifiers that describe the time-frame and level of intensity of the activity.

Wherever the information contained in the above box is available, it should be included as narrative to the summary table in a separate paragraph, or summarized within the 3rd column of the ALTD summary table (refer to Step 5B of the Decision Tracking Workbook), as it will be directly relevant to subsequent protection assessment. The recovery practitioner should include information to a level of detail that is consistent with what is known for the species in order to ensure accurate assessment of protection (i.e., over-confidence in, or underuse of, appropriate thresholds or qualifiers may influence CH protection). Explanations should be written in plain language to help the reader understand how the activity results in the destruction of CH.

When quantitative thresholds cannot be determined based on the best available information, the recovery practitioner should use qualifying language to provide as much clarity as possible to inform the management of the activity. Thresholds may be categorical in that any level of an activity would be considered detrimental to CH, or thresholds may be gradient-oriented in that the activity may only have an adverse effect at a certain level - and either no noticeable effect, or even possibly beneficial effects at other levels (and/or when other criteria are taken into account, such as timing and long-term habitat dynamics). In the latter case, clear management guidance may be difficult to articulate, particularly where cause/effect information is limiting. Further, there are challenges in accounting for cumulative effects, and subjectivity (particularly in relation to time-frame - i.e., immediate observable net negative effects vs. interpretation of long-term dynamics).

For example, suppose there is a species of moss that is at risk and occurs in an area where ranching is common, and has been for over 100 years (i.e., an anthropogenically-modified grassland landscape containing introduced species, fire suppression). The SAR has been surveyed at one of the eight known sites every 5 years or so for the past 25 years. It is difficult to estimate the population size owing to the small size of the moss, and survey timing confounds (it is annually occurring). For the two consecutive survey sessions that corresponded with the highest livestocking rates, the SAR was absent. Also absent was one component of habitat (i.e. soft exposed soil of gopher-mounds providing substrate for growth) which had apparently been trampled. However, the survey session following, when livestock had been absent for two years, the SAR area of occupancy was higher than ever observed. It was supposed that the species regenerated from spores banked in the soil, and that the heavy livestock use had resulted in larger amounts of suitable habitat (i.e., bare, disturbed soil). Possibly ongoing fire suppression (e.g., less bare soil availability, owing to succession) enhanced the apparent benefit of intermittent heavy livestock use.

Based on these data (available for only one of eight known sites), what can be surmised about threshold of effect? What about management guidance? The information described above provides a tentative theory about what might be going on for the species, at best. It would be difficult to surmise any credible guidance (from the perspective of a rancher) on livestocking rates and/or field rotation as relates to this SAR. What we do know, however, is that livestock grazing is the most likely activity to destroy CH (since it is typically the predominant human activity in that particular SAR CH). We surmise it can destroy CH immediately by way of destroying one or more biophysical attributes (e.g., gopher soil mounds, as observed). We can suppose (depending on the lifespan of the SAR spores in the soil - which is unknown) that if there were enough consecutive years of extreme livestock use, CH would be permanently destroyed, and that this effect would be similar at other sites where the SAR occurs. On the other hand possibly some level of grazing (interspersed with fallow times) may have neutral, or beneficial effects in the long term.

In this case, where clear management guidance is not possible, it would still be more informative to list the ALTD as "intensive livestock use" rather than simply "grazing" (i.e. provide a qualifier, and describe the activity in the most direct manner possible - the SAR is not likely to be grazed, but rather be impacted by livestock using the habitat). Likewise the description of the activity should contain as much qualifying language as possible, wherever possible addressing impacts to stated critical habitat biophysical attributes. For example instead of "Results in habitat loss", it would be more informative to state "intensive use by livestock results in disturbance and compaction of soil by animal hooves, to the extent that the habitat is no longer suitable to the species, and biophysical attributes necessary for long-term persistence (including gopher soil-mounds required for germination) are destroyed. Effects may be immediate or long-term, and cumulative." Narrative text can then be added to provide further clarification; if there are relevant best management practices or guidelines these should also be referenced. If additional research is required to determine specifically what level of the activity (e.g., livestock use, forest harvesting) is considered destructive to the species, this may be stated. Likewise the risk of the activity continuing at any level may be estimated.

The following information will be provided:

  1. Specific examples of human activities that are likely to result in the destruction of CH. This will in most cases be linked to the threats listed in the threats section. Naming an industrial sector, for example, is insufficient. There are numerous activities involved in any given industry which may, or may not, be likely to result in the destruction of CH for a species.

Activities should be as specific as possible. If a given activity can destroy CH in multiple ways, these should be listed separately.

The recovery practitioner should note that threats are linked to activities causing habitat destruction; that is, the "Threats" and "Activities Likely to Destroy" sections need to align in a logical manner. All activities should be related to a "threat" identified in the preceding section of the recovery strategy; i.e., new threats should not be introduced (via description of an activity) in the ALTD section. Note that not all identified threats may be associated with an activity, however.

The following information will be provided:

  1. The examples of activities provided must be relevant to the CH identified in terms of likelihood of occurring and the likelihood that these activities would result in the destruction of the CH attributes. They may include those which originate outside the geospatial boundaries of CH identified.

The examples of activities will be considered directly within the protection assessment process. Therefore, the recovery practitioner should consider the selection of ALTD in that context. ALTD should be both likely to occur, and likely to result in destruction, for at least some portions or parts of the CH identification.

Since this section of recovery documents links very closely with protection the recovery practitioner should, to the best of their ability, complete all portions of the sample ALTD table provided in Step 5B of the Decision Tracking Workbook. The shaded portions of this table provide a place to detail the likelihood of activities occurring; likelihood that the activity will result in destruction of CH; whether or not a threshold for disturbance can be identified (including any speculation or tendency); any details of impact level (temporal or spatial frequency, likelihood of destruction); any additional information sources or relevant communications; and any type of protection mechanisms that are known to be in place which may help frame or direct protection. Note that not all of these details may be appropriate to include and/or summarize in the portion of the table presented in the public document. In some cases no additional information may be available.

To the extent possible, each activity should be classified primarily as a "site", "area" or "landscape" based threat to CH. If this distinction is not possible, supplementary text should be included to explain why. Note there may be more than one scale of ALTD relevant to the scale of the CH identification (e.g., a site-level CH identification may have an ALTD identified at a landscape level, for cumulative effects, and/or those which originate from outside the geospatial boundaries of CH identified).

With respect to any activities that originate outside the geospatial boundaries of the identified CH, and/or which are cumulative in nature, it will be important to provide sufficient information to inform the protection assessment and the management of those activities so that CH is not destroyed. In many cases, this will be more challenging than site-based activities because the linkage between activity and destruction of CH is not as direct/intuitive.

The recovery practitioner should conceptualize a linkage between the ALTD section and preceding stages of the CH identification process (refer to Broad Framework diagram, Steps 1-5). The recovery practitioner should recall that:

SARA (S.2(1)) defines ''habitat'' as

  1. In respect of aquatic species, spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply, migration and any other areas on which aquatic species depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes, or areas where aquatic species formerly occurred and have the potential to be reintroduced; and
  2. In respect of other wildlife species, the area or type of site where an individual or wildlife species naturally occurs or depends on directly or indirectly in order to carry out its life processes or formerly occurred and has the potential to be reintroduced.

SARA (S.2(1)) defines "CH" as

The habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species and that is identified as the species' critical habitat in the recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species.

Accordingly, it should be considered carefully whether or not sufficient CH has been identified. Even though a species may occupy a fixed point in space at one time, a careful consideration of its life history, mobility, and the dynamics of the ecosystem it inhabits is warranted.

If a site-level approach to CH identification has been taken but in working through the ALTD section it is apparent that most of the threats and related ALTD are at an area-level (for example, in the geospatial area surrounding the site-level CH identification), the CH identification may need to be adjusted to improve its relevance, and adequately meet the SARA definition of CH. The precautionary principle should apply, where supported by existing information.

Recall that socio-economic considerations are excluded from this stage of recovery planning. CH boundaries should be identified based on the best available information (ecological and biological relevance), not socio-economic orientation (for example, deliberately truncated to align with particular land parcel boundaries or land designations), such that ALTD and identified CH boundaries are mutually relevant.

The following information will be provided:

  1. The effect of the activity that is likely to result in the destruction of CH must be clearly articulated, serving three main purposes:
    1. Providing a clear understanding as to why a given activity is likely to destroy CH;
    2. Allowing for extrapolation to other activities with similar effects;
    3. Identifying which elements of CH that the activity could destroy and how.
  2. If timing plays a role in the threat that these activities pose (e.g., time of day or year), include those details;
  3. If there are differences in the likelihood, or threat, of the activities between sites, this should be indicated as well.

The portion of the summary table for ALTD CH presented in the recovery strategy or action plan should include: 1) a description of each activity, 2) a description of the effect of that activity that identifies how CH is likely to be destroyed (e.g., which biophysical attributes of CH that the activity is likely to destroy and how), and 3) where information is available, a summary of qualifying details and effects (i.e., yellow-shaded portion of working table in section Step 5B), where relevant and as appropriate, for example:

  • Scale of ALTD (note that there may be more than one scale of ALTD relevant to any given scale of CH identification). For example, there may be site and landscape level activities that are likely to result in the destruction of CH (e.g., compacting soil at the site by operating heavy machinery AND changing the hydrology of the site by deforesting the watershed).
  • Comment on whether or not the ALTD is confined to the bounds of the CH identification (that is, the ALTD would only be likely to result in the destruction of CH if it occurred within the bounds of CH).
  • A description of the type of effect (direct, cumulative, or both).
  • If timing plays a role in the impact of the activity (e.g., time of day or year), include those details. This may relate to seasonal aspects of the species' life history, e.g., dormancy, hibernation, migration, and/or how it uses different biophysical attributes during different phases of its life cycle.
  • A broader-scale consideration of temporal effects may be important for dynamic and/or early successional habitats. Recommended recovery actions (e.g., best management practices) may include, for example, the temporary alteration of CH in the short term to create or maintain CH in the long term. In this case the impact of a particular activity (in defined scope and implementation) may be beneficial at certain times, but negative at other times, in addition to considering seasonal influences (as described above). These effects may be incorporated into the discussion of how timing influences the impact of the activity, where appropriate.
  • If there are differences in the likelihood, or impact of the activity between sites, this should be indicated as well.

In reference to the last point above, any suspected differences in the likelihood of a particular activity occurring between sites should be documented in the appropriate yellow- and orange-shaded portions of the Decision Tracking Workbook (Table in Step 5B). Note that the recovery practitioner should not presume likelihood based on land tenure. Lease agreements, land management plans, sub-surface mineral rights and right-of ways, even for land designated as a "protected area" may be complex and allow for destructive activities in ways that are not immediately apparent or intuitive. Careful investigation of such rights and tenure agreements in light of the ALTD section comprises part of subsequent protection assessment (i.e., after CH is posted in a final recovery document). Accordingly, the recovery practitioner should be careful in making presumption and/or speculation regarding site-specific likelihood within the recovery strategy. Recall that socio-economic considerations are excluded from this phase of recovery planning.

[Optional] For complex situations, where it is possible that landowners or land managers may have difficulty in determining whether their activity is likely to result in the destruction of CH, a statement may be included to indicate that ECCC can be contacted for more information.

The following information should not be provided:

  1. Descriptions of human activities that kill, harm, harass the individuals (these are described in the threats section);
  2. Names of organizations or companies.

The recovery practitioner should note that the description of ALTD should be framed such that it explains how the activity destroys CH (describing specific impacts to biophysical attributes, where appropriate), not how it damages individuals or groups of individuals. In other words, use language to explain how the habitat is damaged such that it does not support the survival/recovery of individuals.

Provided below (Table 1) is a sample ALTD CH table, which provides a few examples of activities and corresponding descriptive text. The purpose of the third column in the table is to summarize details of the activity (i.e., collated as appropriate from the Decision Tracking Workbook Step 5B, columns D-L) that will help the reader better understand how the activity results in the destruction of CH. Information that can be summarized in this column includes: linkage to related threats, whether or not the activity must occur within the bounds of critical habitat to cause destruction, the scope of the activity (in relation to the the scale of critical habitat identified), whether effects are cumulative and/or direct, whether timing plays a role in the threat that these activities pose (e.g., time of day or year), any thresholds of the activity beyond which destruction would occur (if known), and, if known, if there are any differences in the likelihood of activities between sites, areas, and/or landscapes identified as critical habitat. Please note that it is not necessary to include a summary of columns D-L; summaries are only included where it will provide additional clarity for the reader.

Table 1. Sample Activities Likely to Destroy CH table (which is carried over from Step 5B of the Decision Tracking Workbook).

Description of Activity
Description of effect in relation to function loss
Details of effect
Inappropriate levels of grazing and trampling by domestic livestock (primarily horses, some cattle)
Heavy grazing practices may degrade critical habitat directly or indirectly through soil compaction, introduction of invasive alien species, and altering the composition and structure of the native plant communities.
Related IUCN Threat # 2.3. Grazing and trampling by domestic livestock is a widespread threat that is of high concern. Must occur within the bounds of critical habitat to cause destruction. Effects are predominantly cumulative; it would likely take repetitive occurrences to cause destruction of critical habitat. The activity could cause destruction all times of the year. The information available at this time is insufficient to develop a threshold for this activity and no research has been completed to evaluate domestic livestock numbers or impacts of their grazing. Grazing is also linked to the threat of fire suppression as the loss of productive habitat for herbivory results in the concentration of grazing effects.
Recreation (off-road vehicle use) outside of existing roads and trails
Soil compaction and loss of vegetation leading to changes in hydrology (decreased infiltration and increased run-off), increased erosion, spread of invasive alien plant species, such that critical habitat is directly or indirectly impacted and all life stages of the species (including germination and growth) are not supported.
Related IUCN Threat # 6.1. Off-road vehicle use is a widespread threat that is a low level of concern and must occur within the bounds of critical habitat to cause destruction. A single event (direct effect) is sufficient to introduce invasive alien species, while repeated events (cumulative effects) cause soil compaction. This activity could cause destruction all times of the year, with the possible exception of winter months when the ground is frozen, however, no research data is available. It is not possible to develop a threshold for disturbance in relation to this activity due to the lack of studies regarding this activity.
Inappropriate use of herbicides in invasive plant management activities
Herbicide drift can degrade critical habitat through residual effects, wind drift, incidental application, and altering the composition and structure of the native plant communities, and resulting in an environment which does not support the species.
Related IUCN Threat # 9.3. Herbicide drift is a widespread threat that is low level concern that does not have to occur within the bounds of critical habitat to cause destruction. This activity can have cumulative and/or direct effects; a single occurrence could cause destruction of critical habitat, at any time throughout the year. The information available at this time is insufficient to develop a threshold for this activity.

If the ALTD CH table includes reference to 'scale' (site, area, landscape), the following footnote should be included to provide the reader with an understanding of these terms. If appropriate, this explanation may be provided earlier in the recovery document:

[1] Environment and Climate Change Canada recognizes three broad approaches in identifying critical habitat: site-level (small geographic range, narrow habitat specificity), area-level (large geographic range and narrow habitat specificity, or small geographic range and wide habitat specificity), and landscape-level (large geographic range, wide habitat specificity). These three conceptual scales are used to help provide context for the critical habitat identification, its presentation, and description of activities likely to destroy critical habitat.

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Step 5C. Sensitivity Assessment

Objective: To assess the risk associated with publically presenting candidate CH, in relation to concerns about species' sensitivity to information release (i.e., as potential impacts to survival or recovery of the species).

The presentation of information on the location of a species and its habitat may be restricted within a recovery document, where it is determined to be best for the survival or recovery of the species. The purpose of a sensitivity assessment is to review and consider risks of candidate CH information being shared in the public document, for example in relation to capture and harvest, disturbance, and/or intentional killing or destruction of habitat.

The following guidance is meant to help the recovery practitioner complete a sensitivity assessment after candidate CH is identified. It outlines the process and considerations that should be taken when evaluating the sensitivity of a species to information release in relation to the scale at which the candidate CH was identified.

The rationale and context for the sensitivity assessment is based on SARA Section 124, shown in excerpt below:

S. 124:

The Minister, on the advice of COSEWIC, may restrict the release of any information required to be included in the public registry if that information relates to the location of a wildlife species or its habitat and restricting its release would be in the best interest of the species.

The portion of a recovery document where CH is presented (e.g., in the form of maps) typically contains detailed location information for the species. The release of this information could, in some cases, result in harm to the species or its habitat.

However, in order for CH to be protected, it must be identified within the final recovery document posted on the SAR Registry. Any rationale for not identifying CH in a recovery document, i.e., as a consequence of very high sensitivity, must be carefully weighed against loss of legislative protection under SARA.

Process for Assessing Species Sensitivity to Information Release

The process for assessing species sensitivity to information release comprises 5 parts (i.e., Parts A-E, below). Please record all information in the appropriate/respective tables provided in the Decision Tracking Workbook (Step 5C).

A. Document COSEWIC's sensitivity advice if available

The recovery practitioner should determine what, if any, advisement COSEWIC has made regarding the sensitivity of the species. If COSEWIC has advised that information regarding a species' location or its habitat should not be released, the nature of this advice will need to be interpreted. For example, did the advice specify that any release of information is unacceptable, or is it possible, in the context of CH identification, to identify CH or present it at a broader scale such that it would prevent harm to the species or its habitat? In instances when the degree to which the information should be restricted is not specific enough, further clarification may be sought from COSEWIC. Advice from COSEWIC may be received in a few ways:

  • COSEWIC has, in the past, chosen to advise the Minister directly on particular species.
  • For existing listed species where COSEWIC advice does not exist, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) can request COSEWIC's advice specifically. If requesting advice, ECCC should ask whether location information should be completely restricted, or if presentation at a certain scale may suffice given the situation/threats.

B. Review Sensitivity Criteria Definitions for Sensitivity Assessment

Within the Decision Tracking Workbook (Step 5C), review the sensitivity criteria definitions borrowed from the COSEWIC criteria grid (COSEWIC, 2012). Sensitivity criteria that are defined include:

  1. Capture/harvest of individuals (examples of uses: hunting, gathering, collecting, culture, trade, etc.),
  2. Disturbance by observation (any observation or related activity that has the potential to disturb),
  3. Intentional killing of individuals,
  4. Intentional destruction of habitat, and
  5. Reduced collaboration by stakeholders.

C. Assess species' sensitivity to information release in relation to the scale at which the candidate CH is identified

Within the appropriate section of the Decision Tracking Workbook (Step 5C), indicate at what scale candidate CH has been identified (refer to Broad Approaches diagram). If candidate CH was identified at more than one scale, include each in a separate column. For each column (i.e., in relation to the relevant scale of candidate CH identified), assess if the species could be affected by each of the five sensitivity criteria defined above.

If the answer to any of the sensitivity criteria is "yes", conduct a more detailed analysis by going to part D, using the scale at which the candidate CH is identified. If the answers to all of the sensitivity criteria are "no", there are either no sensitivity issues, or the scale at which the candidate CH is identified is suitable to address them.

D. Detailed Analysis and Evaluation

Conduct a detailed sensitivity analysis by including each spatial unit of candidate CH as appropriate (i.e., named landscapes, areas, or sites). For each unit, perform a more detailed sensitivity assessment using the same five sensitivity criteria as above. This will help determine if identified sensitivity concerns are focused to one particular spot, or if it is of broader concern across units (i.e., named landscapes, areas, or sites). The following process was modified from the COSEWIC Updated Guidelines Concerning Sensitive Information (COSEWIC, 2012).

Within each unit, assess the probability of each criterion of the five sensitivity criteria occurring given the details provided in the candidate CH identification, for example:

  • Low or nil: Low probability of events and if it happens, it would not affect survival or recovery of the species
  • Moderate: Could happen to an extent that would likely not affect survival or recovery of the species
  • High: Could happen to an extent that could impact the survival or recovery of the species
  • Critical: High probability of events and it would have an impact on survival or recovery of the species.

When multiple threats/factors exist within a single sensitivity criterion, determine the sensitivity score (low/nil, moderate, high, critical) based on the cumulative impact of all of the threats/factors (e.g., under the sensitivity criterion "Capture/harvest of individuals", a species may be at risk from both subsistence hunting as well as being targeted by collectors). The recovery practitioner should document the rationale for the ranking of the different criteria by documenting briefly which threats or factors were considered.

Cumulative scores for each unit are automatically established based on the ranking given to each criterion. Where cumulative scores are "may be sensitive" or "sensitive", evaluate whether presenting CH at a broader scale will alleviate sensitivity concerns to the extent that the probability of occurrence of the criteria are moderate, low, or nil. Presenting at a "broader scale" here means, for example, if the candidate CH was identified at a "site" scale, sensitivity concerns may be reduced or eliminated if it is presented at an "area" or "landscape" scale. Note that changing the scale at which CH is presented does not modify the scale at which CH is identified (for further information on CH identification versus presentation, see Step 6).

In order to evaluate if changing the scale of CH presentation will be effective in mitigating sensitivity concerns, many factors may need to be considered, for example:

  • How easily can the biophysical attributes be used to narrow down the species' specific location (e.g., a turtle that occurs in the only small pond within a large area)?
  • Can the species be detected and/or identified from a long distance away (e.g., a bird species with a loud, distinctive song or a large mammal in an open landscape)?
  • When chances of retaliatory killing or destruction are high, does the risk of formally identifying CH (even broadly) in a recovery document outweigh the risk of leaving the habitat unprotected?

If it is believed that modifying the CH presentation scale could alleviate sensitivity concerns, it is advised to re-run the sensitivity assessment at that broader scale (i.e., part E. Re-evaluate (if applicable) section of the sensitivity assessment) to ensure sensitivity concerns have been addressed. If it is concluded that changing the scale at which CH is presented will be effective at mitigating sensitivity concerns, present CH at a broader scale for all or specific parts of CH. A letter from COSEWIC acknowledging the scale of presentation is generally not requested, or required.

In some cases changing the scale at which CH is presented will not adequately reduce the sensitivity concerns, and there may be a decision not to identify CH. In circumstances where the level of species sensitivity to information release is determined to justify not identifying CH, recall that CH must be identified for it to be protected under SARA. For example, CH should not be 'included' in a recovery document and then removed (e.g., in a confidential appendix) before it is posted on the SARA Public Registry as there is no practical benefit to doing this: under SARA this constitutes no identification, and hence, there can be no corresponding protection. In this circumstance the recovery practitioner should request advice from COSEWIC. As per SARA S.124, the request to COSEWIC should ask for acknowledgement that the candidate CH for the species will not be identified, or protected under SARA.

Wherever the "no CH identification" approach is taken, re-consider whether the release of CH location information at any broader scale would negate the benefits offered by CH identification and protection. Where necessary, and where warranted by sensitivity concerns, CH may be presented in the public document at a scale that minimizes the likelihood of harm to the species or its habitat, while more detailed information is provided to landowners and land managers that will be directly affected by the identification and protection (i.e., activities likely to destroy critical habitat); please refer to the following section on presentation of CH in recovery documents (Step 6) for more information on this topic. Section 124 of SARA (advice from COSEWIC) is not required for this approach because nothing has been restricted from the Public Registry that is required. Note that where COSEWIC has advised that caution should be exercised in releasing location information, the recovery practitioner could include this information as context for why CH is presented in the chosen format (e.g., at a specific spatial scale or level).

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Step 6. Present Critical Habitat Identification

Objective: To use a standardized approach and protocol for determining how CH should be presented in recovery documents, and to clearly present the identified CH in the recovery document using standardized methods and templates.

The identification and presentation of CH in public recovery documents can be a challenging task due to the complexity of the subject matter, species-specific issues, and considerations related to data availability/adequacy and species sensitivity to information release. It is recognized that the approach to CH identification will vary between species, both spatially (i.e., scale and configuration of CH identification), and temporally (i.e., attributes and occurrences are fixed in time and space within a "climax" ecosystem vs. mobile or temporary within a broader dynamic environmental complex). It is also recognized that the scale at which CH is identified may differ from the scale at which it is presented in a public recovery document (i.e., after considerations for species sensitivity, data sharing agreements and/or federal-partner relationships).

To date, recovery practitioners have used their best judgement and the best available information to identify and present CH in recovery documents using a variety of methods. Although there have been differences between the presentation methods used, they all included some form of geographical description of the CH (e.g., maps, tables of coordinates, or detailed text) and a description of the biophysical attributes (or characteristics) of the CH.

The following guidance will emphasize the distinction between CH identification and its presentation and promote a more accurate interpretation of CH presented in recovery documents.

Recovery practitioners should use the best available information to identify CH to the extent possible, following Steps 1-5 in the Broad Framework (Figure 1), and do so in the absence of presentation considerations and limitations. It is acknowledged that CH identification methodology cannot be entirely prescriptive, owing to the wide variation in factors and spatial and temporal considerations that are relevant to each species. Accordingly, limitations in presenting CH, for example as posed by data sharing agreement protocols (in terms of what can be presented in a recovery document) should not influence the identification of what habitat is necessary for the survival or recovery of the species. Once CH has been identified to the extent possible, presentation methods should then be considered (Step 6).

In contrast with CH identification, presentation methodology allows for a greater degree of standardization, in terms of what is shown to the public (i.e., standardized "look and feel" of CH maps or tables between recovery documents) and in terms of what the geospatial information provided actually represents (i.e., standardized intent and interpretation).
The identification and presentation of CH in a recovery document must be clear with respect to whether the geospatial representation "is" CH or "contains" CH. In some cases, all of the mapped or described geospatial representation will "be" CH. More commonly, the mapped or described geospatial representation will "contain" CH. That is, CH will exist within the mapped or described geospatial representation where certain criteria are met - for example, occupancy and/or presence of certain biophysical attributes / suitable habitat. Regardless of the approach taken, the goal should be to present critical habitat as clearly as possible in the recovery document so that its location can be determined, thus supporting protection efforts.

The following guidance sets out the recommended approaches and considerations to be taken in presenting CH in recovery documents.

6.1 Critical Habitat Presentation in SAR Recovery Documents

Subject to considerations such as data or species sensitivity and/or data availability, recovery documents should include both levels of mapping outlined below.  The table option for presenting CH location information (see Tables 2 and 3) may be selected when there are a very large number of sites which makes mapping impractical, or to provide relevant information (e.g., list of quarter sections) in addition to mapping.  When land tenure information is presented in the recovery document, it should be referenced as: Federal Lands (including the distinction of Federal Protected Area, vs. Other Federal Lands when that information is available), and Non-federal Lands.  Although not required, including the name of the Federal Protected Area in the recovery document will support the use of incorporation by reference in preparing descriptions of critical habitat for publication in the Canada Gazette, which is the recommended approach.

The two levels of presentation that should be included in recovery documents are:

  1. Detailed representation of CH (CH Units): a detailed mapping of CH boundaries using the best available information (see yellow shaded areas in Figure 3). These are the detailed polygons generated in Steps 4-6 of the Decision Tracking Workbook, henceforth referred to as CH Units in map presentation. Complexities such as mobility, life characteristics, and changing landscapes are taken into consideration when delineating this area. Note that "detailed" mapping may in fact represent accurate delineation of critical habitat, or it may simply represent the most detailed level available. There are two general possibilities when detailed mapping of CH is presented:
    1. Within the mapped CH unit all the area is considered CH. For example, a pond, in its entirety, is considered CH and it can be clearly delineated on a map. Likewise, a species occurrence with accurate coordinates, with a surrounding specified "critical function zone" distance that can be mapped accurately.
    2. Within the mapped CH unit, only the area meeting the criteria established in the critical habitat section of the document (e.g., specific biophysical attributes, recurrent occupancy) are considered CH. In these cases, the detailed CH denotes a maximum extent of where CH may occur, while accounting for the dynamic nature of habitat.
  2. Standardized representation of areas that contain CH (Standardized UTM Grid): a standardized representation of where CH occurs within defined UTM grid squares. This can be accomplished either through mapping of the grid squares (Figure 4) or presenting coordinates for the grid squares (Tables 2 and 3). Grid representation is created based on the Site (1 x 1 km), Area (10 x 10 km or 50 x 50 km), or Landscape (100 x 100 km) grid that best represents the extent of critical habitat or in consideration of sensitivity issues.  
    • Unique alphanumeric codes for the grid squares are created based on the UTM Military Grid Reference System as adapted from the Breeding Bird Atlases of Canada methodology. The codes are based on a combination of zone number and alphabetical code, and grid square number (from 00-99, south-north orientation). Grids are nested within each other, where there are a hundred 1 x 1 km grid squares within a 10 x 10 km grid square, and a hundred 10 x 10 km grid squares within a 100 x 100 km grid square. Thus grids may be scaled up or down within the 100 x 100 km grid alphanumeric code system, and will refer to a unique location in the country by the combination of unique alphanumeric code and lower southwest corner coordinates. See Appendix 1 for further information on this methodology. A 50 km grid option within this system is also available which includes an additional alphabetic code (A-D) attached to the 100 x 100 km grid naming convention (there are four 50 x 50 km grid squares within a 100 x 100 km grid square).
    • In cases where grid squares fall on the transition between UTM zones, resulting in partial grid squares, text should be included to explain this for the reader. For example, if partial grid squares are shown in a CH map, the following text should be added to the figure caption: Not all grid squares shown are complete, due to projection differences between UTM zones. If CH is being presented in a table, a footnote can be included to provide an explanation for partial grid squares. For partial grids presented in a table format, the following text should be added to the table caption: Not all grid squares are complete, due to projection differences between UTM zones. Partial grid squares are evident by their UTM coordinates that seem much more precise (e.g. Easting / Northing 424560 / 5990000 instead of 420000 / 5990000).

6.2 Sample wording and guidance for the different presentation options.

6.2.1. Where detailed mapping and standardized UTM representations of CH are presented in the recovery document

In cases where detailed mapping of CH and standardized UTM grid squares are presented (such as in Figure 3), it should be made clear that the detailed mapping represents the CH identification and that the Standardized UTM grid representation is provided only as a means to allow for a consistent method of flagging areas that contain CH. A summary of how CH is presented should be clearly outlined within the text of the recovery document. The following text is recommended and should be inserted after the description of CH identification outlined in Step 4:

The area(s) containing critical habitat for [species name] is/are presented in [specify Figure(s) #s]; see also Table [x] (if applicable). Critical habitat for [species name] in Canada occurs within the shaded yellow polygon(s) (unit(s)) where the critical habitat criteria and methodology described in this section are met. (*) The [x] x [x] km standardized UTM grid shown on these figure(s) is/are a Standardized national grid system that highlights the general geographic area containing critical habitat, for land use planning and/or environmental assessment purposes.

(*) If additional clarity is required regarding areas that are not CH, the following text may be inserted to the text above at (*):

Within these polygons, any areas that do not possess the biophysical attributes of critical habitat (e.g., roads, buildings, lakes) are not identified as critical habitat.

In cases where both the detailed mapping and the Standardized UTM grid squares are presented, the standard figure caption wording provided below should be included to explain where the CH occurs within the UTM grid squares. This text accounts for the different criteria that may be used in identifying CH and prompts the reader back to the CH identification section to understand what is, or is not, CH. Note that this standard text provided for figure captions may be modified to include more or less detail, where required and as appropriate:

Figure [x]. Critical habitat for [insert species name] at [location, population, descriptor, etc] is represented by the yellow shaded polygon(s) (unit(s)) comprising [insert area measure, where available] ha, where the criteria and methodology set out in Section [insert section number - identification of CH] are met. The [x] x [x] km Standardized UTM grid overlay (red outline) shown on this figure is a Standardized national grid system that indicates the general geographic area within which critical habitat is found. Areas outside of the shaded yellow polygons do not contain critical habitat. [if required: USA landbase (shaded grey) is excluded.]

6.2.2 Where only the Standardized UTM representation of CH is presented in the recovery document:

In cases where only the Standardized UTM representation of CH is presented in the document (as a map), the following text should be added to the body of the document in the CH section:

The areas containing critical habitat for [species name] are presented in [specify Figure #s]; see also Table [x] (if applicable). Critical habitat for [species name] in Canada occurs within the [x] x [x] km standardized UTM grid squares where the critical habitat criteria and methodology described in this section are met. (*) The UTM grid square(s) shown on these figures is/are part of a standardized national grid system that highlights the general geographic area containing critical habitat, for land use planning and/or environmental assessment purposes. Detailed critical habitat mapping is not presented in this document owing to [insert reason - refer to section below on "Additional Considerations: Limiting the presentation of CH in a recovery document"].

(*) If additional clarity is required regarding areas that are not CH, the following text may be inserted to the text above at (*):

Within these polygons, any areas that do not possess the biophysical attributes of critical habitat (e.g., roads, buildings, lakes) are not identified as critical habitat.

In cases where detailed mapping of CH is not presented, and only CH standardized UTM grid squares are presented (such as on Figure 4), the standard figure caption wording provided below should be included. This text accounts for the different criteria that may be used in identifying CH and prompts the reader back to the CH identification section to understand what is, or is not, CH. Note that this standard text provided for figure captions may be modified to include more or less detail, where required and as appropriate:

Figure [x]. Critical habitat for [species name] at [insert location, population, descriptor etc] occurs within the [x] x [x] km standardized UTM grid squares indicated (red outline), where the criteria and methodology set out in Section [insert section number - identification of CH] are met. This standardized national grid system is used to indicate the general geographic area containing critical habitat; detailed critical habitat mapping is not shown. Based on the identification criteria, the grid squares indicated contain approximately [insert area unit measure, where available] ha of critical habitat.

6.3 Mapping information

An ESRI Map package named CH_Template.mpk has been developed (attached below) that includes standard data attributes and metadata. Recovery practitioners should use this map package to prepare CH mapping products according to the standardized template. The map package provides additional guidance on formatting the presentation of CH.

ECCC employees

If your computer has been upgraded to Windows 7 and you are working off Terminal Services follow these steps:

  1. Save a copy of the Map Package to your personal drive.
  2. Open ArcView through Citrix
  3. Locate the Map Package file using the Citrix version of Windows Explorer
  4. Double click on the Map Package file - it should open.

If you are not working off Terminal Services (e.g., contractor):

You should be able to double click and open the files below; if you have trouble you may have to save the file to your hard drive and open it from there.

Normal (layout) view:

[Available upon request]

Portrait view:

[Available upon request]

For ECCC employees the map packages may also be found and downloaded from here:

[Internal link has been removed]

Figure 3. Critical habitat for [insert species name] at [location] is represented by the yellow shaded polygon(s) (unit(s)) comprising XX ha, where the criteria and methodology set out in Section XX are met. The 1 x 1 km sStandardized UTM grid overlay (red outline) shown on this figure is part of a sStandardized national grid system used to indicate the general geographic area within which critical habitat is found. Areas outside the shaded yellow polygons do not contain critical habitat.
Map
Long description for Figure 3

Figure 3 shows a representation of CH that includes detailed mapping of CH and the Standardized UTM grid method of presenting CH. A colored polygon gives the precise location of CH and is framed by standardized UTM grid squares. Both these are defined in the legend. Above the legend, the species common name and Latin name are provided as well as the location of the map based on county or region, province, and unit/grid identifier. In the bottom right corner, map information is provided: UTM Zone, “North American Datum” and the appropriate year, the scale and projection as well as the map’s copyright information.

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Figure 4. Critical habitat for [insert species name] at [location] occurs within the 1 x 1 km standardized UTM grid squares indicated (red hatched outline), where the criteria and methodology set out in Section XX are met. This standardized national grid system indicates the general geographic area within which critical habitat is found; detailed critical habitat mapping is not shown. Based on the identification criteria, the grid squares indicated contain approximately XX ha of critical habitat.
Map
Long description for Figure 4

Figure 4 resembles figure 3 without the polygon of detailed units where CH is found.

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Table xx:  [x] x [x] km standardized UTM grid squares within which critical habitat for [Species name] in Canada is found. Critical habitat occurs where the criteria described in Section xx are met.

Table 2. Sample table using a list of coordinates that describe standardized UTM grid squares that encompass the identified CH.
1 x 1 km standardized grid square IDNote e of Table 2

OR

10 x 10 km standardized grid square IDNote e of Table 2

OR

50 x 50 km standardized grid square IDNote e of Table 2

100 x 100 km standardized grid  square IDNote e of Table 2
Province/
Territory
UTM Grid Square CoordinatesNotef of Table 2

Easting
UTM Grid Square CoordinatesNotef of Table 2

Northing
Land tenureNote g of Table 2Other descriptor of location (e.g. County, Quarter Section, Municipality, etc) if required.
17NU5173Ontario4500005500000Federal Protected Area and Other Federal Lands-
17NU5174Ontario4500005510000Other Federal Lands and Non-federal Lands-
17NU5175Ontario4493825510000Non-federal Lands-

Total = 3 grid squares

Notes of Table 2

Note [e] of Table 2

Based on the standard UTM Military Grid Reference System (see Finding UTM References), where the first 2 digits represent the UTM Zone, the following 2 letters indicate the 100 x 100 km standardized UTM grid, [as required for 10 and 1 km grid presentations of CH] followed by 2 digits to represent the 10 x 10 km standardized UTM grid. The last 2 digits represent the 1 x 1 km standardized UTM grid containing all or a portion of the critical habitat unit. This unique alphanumeric code is based on the methodology produced from the Breeding Bird Atlases of Canada (See Bird Studies Canada for more information on breeding bird atlases).

Return to note e referrer of Table 2

Note [f] of Table 2

The listed coordinates are a cartographic representation of where critical habitat can be found, presented as the southwest corner of the [eg. 1 x 1] km standardized UTM grid square containing all or a portion of the critical habitat unit. The coordinates may not fall within critical habitat and are provided as a general location only. [If required] standardized UTM grid square at the intersection of UTM zones are merged with their adjacent grid squares.

Return to note f referrer of Table 2

Note [g] of Table 2

Land tenure is provided as an approximation of the types of land ownership that exist at the critical habitat units and should be used for guidance purposes only. Accurate land tenure will require cross referencing critical habitat boundaries with surveyed land parcel information.

Return to note g referrer of Table 2

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Table xx. 10 x 10 km standardized UTM grid squares and Critical Habitat Units for [insert species name] in Canada. Critical habitat occurs where the criteria described in Section xx are met.

Table 3. Alternate format for presenting critical habitat using a table that begins with the critical habitat unit name.
Critical Habitat Unit10 x 10 km standardized UTM grid square IDNote h of Table 3UTM Grid Square CoordinatesNotei of Table 3

Easting
UTM Grid Square CoordinatesNotei of Table 3

Northing
Critical Habitat Unit Area (ha)Note j of Table 3Land TenuredNote k of Table 3
Marais du Chemin du Lac Curley18VR05400000505000079Other Federal Lands
Lac La Pêche18VR05400000505000012Other Federal Lands and Non-federal Lands
North Onslow
(sud-ouest)
18VR05400000505000079Federal Protected Area and Non-federal Lands
Marais du Lac Brown18VR25420000505000079Non-federal Lands
Étang de la Grande Ferme
(Cap Tourmente)
19CN6136000052100003Other Federal Lands

Total = 252 ha in 5 critical habitat units

Notes of Table 3

Note [h] of Table 3

Based on the standard UTM Military Grid Reference System (see Natural Resources Canada - Finding UTM References ), where the first 2 digits represent the UTM Zone, the following 2 letters indicate the 100 x 100 km standardized UTM grid, [as required for 10 and 1 km grid presentations of CH] followed by 2 digits to represent the 10 x 10 km standardized UTM grid. The last 2 digits represent the 1 x 1 km standardized UTM grid containing all or a portion of the critical habitat unit. This unique alphanumeric code is based on the methodology produced from the Breeding Bird Atlases of Canada (See Bird Studies Canada for more information on breeding bird atlases).

Return to note h referrer of Table 3

Note [i] of Table 3

The listed coordinates are a cartographic representation of where critical habitat can be found, presented as the southwest corner of the [eg. 1 x 1] km standardized UTM grid square containing all or a portion of the critical habitat unit. The coordinates may not fall within critical habitat and are provided as a general location only. [if required] standardized UTM grid squares at the intersection of UTM zones are merged with their adjacent grid squares.

Return to note i referrer of Table 3

Note [j] of Table 3

The area presented is that of the unit(s) containing critical habitat (rounded up to the nearest 1 ha); therefore, the actual area of critical habitat may be significantly less.  Refer to Section XX for a description of how critical habitat within these areas is defined.

Return to note j referrer of Table 3

Note [k] of Table 3

Land tenure is provided as an approximation of the types of land ownership that exist at the critical habitat units and should be used for guidance purposes only. Accurate land tenure will require cross referencing critical habitat boundaries with surveyed land parcel information.

Return to note k referrer of Table 3

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6.4 Additional Considerations

In presenting the CH identification, the following factors need to be considered and addressed in order to: minimize risk to the species and its habitat; honour any established data sharing agreements; facilitate continuity of established protocols (for example region-specific methods of communication with landowners); and enable protection of CH. These considerations may be in accordance with, or at odds with objectives outlined in the presentation section above. Where discrepancy occurs, information about CH may need to be added to, limited in and/or removed from the final identification and presentation of CH. These circumstances are described in further detail below.

Adding information to aid the presentation of CH in a recovery document

In addition to presenting CH in the manner described above, the recovery document can also include other forms of presentation that will assist landowners and/or land managers in understanding, locating and protecting CH. For example, in the Prairies, it would be helpful to include the list of applicable Quarter Sections, because this is how parcels of land are referred to and commonly understood.

Limiting the presentation of CH in a recovery document

Factors that may prevent the inclusion of detailed CH units, and that may lead the recovery practitioner to choose to present CH using only the standardized UTM grid method (either in table or map form) include:

  • Data availability / adequacy: the information required to carry out a detailed delineation of CH is not available or adequate, but may allow for a presentation of CH using standardized UTM grids and accompanying text;
  • Cumulative score from the Sensitivity Assessment (refer to Step 5C of the Decision Tracking Workbook for additional guidance). For example:
    • Not Sensitive = Detailed CH Unit mapping and standardized UTM grid mapping (see Figure 3).
    • May be Sensitive = Standardized UTM grid mapping without Detailed CH Unit mapping at the scale that matches the CH identification for all, or particular populations (see Figure 4).
    • Sensitive = Standardized UTM grid mapping at the appropriate scale that matches level of sensitivity concern, or not produced at all. In some situations the recovery practitioner may use the same approach as described for "Maybe Sensitive" (above) or may choose to present CH at a broader scale (e.g. using a 10 x 10 km grid rather than a 1 x 1 km grid to minimize risk). Note that responsible management authorities may be provided with detailed information to allow for management of ALTD.
  • A particular jurisdiction may provide Environment and Climate Change Canada with species at risk data, with the provision that occurrence locations may not be presented in a map with more accuracy than, for example, a 1 x 1 km standardized UTM grid level. This may influence how CH is presented for that jurisdiction (i.e., as a consequence of data sharing protocols) but potentially not for other jurisdictions.
  • If the species is an opportunistic and temporary inhabitant of a dynamic ecosystem type (e.g. a particular seral stage and/or pockets of suitable, but temporary habitats), a standardized UTM grid level approach might best facilitate protection in terms of managing activities likely to destroy CH within a broader geographic area.

Where detailed CH mapping is not presented in the recovery document but standardized UTM grid squares are used in presenting CH, there may be a requirement for more detailed text within the recovery document. This may include text describing where CH is, or is not, within each of the grid squares shown. There should be particular attention given to the accuracy and clarity of biophysical attributes and other criteria descriptions in absence of detailed mapping information. Note that it is possible for detailed CH mapping to be withheld for one population, but retained for others, within the same document, if warranted.

Where detailed mapping is not presented in the recovery document and the precise location of critical habitat would be difficult to determine based on the information provided in the recovery document, it should be made clear that additional information on the location of CH exists, and may be requested to support protection of the species and its habitat. A sample statement to include in the body of the recovery document follows:

The areas containing critical habitat are presented in Figures [x-x]. Critical habitat is presented at the level of a [1 x 1 km] standardized UTM grid, in order to [respect protocols for provincial species at risk data use and related agreements / protect the species and its habitat]. More detailed information on the location of critical habitat to support protection of the species and its habitat may be requested, on a need-to-know basis, by contacting Environment and Climate Change Canada's Recovery Planning section at: ec.planificationduretablissement-recoveryplanning.ec@canada.ca.

Using consistent text and figure caption terminology, e.g., "Detailed polygon (unit) within which critical habitat is found", or "Detailed polygon (unit) representing critical habitat", or "[1 x 1 km] standardized UTM grid square within which critical habitat is found", both within and across different recovery documents will facilitate multi-jurisdictional interpretation of methodology and intent.

Inadvertent release of sensitive location information

There may be situations where, by chance, the placement of a grid square or description of CH inadvertently pinpoints the location of CH for a sensitive species.

Example 1: if only 2% of a particular grid square was found in Canada and the rest was found in the USA, this may reveal the location of the habitat in Canada and no longer address the sensitivity issues.

Example 2: if the vast majority of a particular grid square was found in completely unsuitable habitat for the species such as a lake or ocean (for a terrestrial species), it could narrow down the location of sensitive CH information.

Example 3: if the land tenure column in a CH table indicated that CH was only found on federal lands within a particular grid square, and federal land in that grid square was minimal, this could direct the reader to the location in question. Note that the description of CH attributes could further narrow down the location of CH.

These types of situations will need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis where the level of the species' sensitivity and mapping specifics can be considered; however, the following techniques can be considered:

  • Merge partial UTM grid squares with adjacent full UTM grid squares to obscure the fact that CH exists within the smaller one. The merged grid squares may need to be renamed (e.g., 18WQ68 merged with 18WQ69 becomes 18WQ68/69). The additional phrase "standardized UTM grid squares at the intersection of UTM zones are merged with their adjacent grid squares" may be added to the footnotes". The merged grid squares may need to be clipped at the Canada/USA border. The southwest coordinates of the merged grid squares would need to be generated manually (it would fall at the border rather than in the USA). In this case, it may be noted in the recovery document that not all grid squares presented are exactly 100 x 100km.
  • If issues arise using a given scale (e.g., the 10 x 10 km grid), consider using a larger scale (e.g., the 50 x 50 km grid).
  • Other options, such as using the National Topographic System (NTS; larger rectangles) could be considered when the UTM grid poses significant sensitivity issues. A footnote should explain why the UTM grid was not used for the species.

Restricting the release of CH locational information from the recovery document when it is in the best interest of the species

When there are significant sensitivity concerns (Decision Tracking Workbook Step 5C) and consideration is being given to not identifying CH in the recovery document, the recovery practitioner should recall that CH is the critical habitat that is identified in a final recovery document that is posted on the SAR Public Registry. Therefore, wherever possible, a standardized UTM grid (perhaps using larger standardized UTM grid squares) and/or sufficient supplementary text should be included to complete the identification of CH, in preference to not identifying CH. In that circumstance, it should be noted that more detailed location information can be requested to support protection of the species and its habitat (as discussed above).

Presentation Summary

The purpose of presenting CH utilizing these standard approaches is to:

  • Allow standardized presentation for site, area, and landscape level CH identification;
  • Allow standardization in what CH units represent (interpretation of information); facilitates landowners and partners becoming familiar with, and understanding, the process used;
  • Allow sufficient detail for a person to determine where CH 'is' and where CH 'is not' based on the combination of standardized UTM grids, Detailed CH unit location, and description of biophysical attributes;
  • Assist in summarizing, displaying, searching and sharing CH information;
  • Facilitates communication in preventing Activities Likely to Destroy (ALTD) CH from occurring;
  • Allows for opportunity to provide additional information (e.g., list of Quarter Sections), but retains a consistent national approach; and
  • Allows for opportunity to remove detailed CH mapping information, where appropriate (see above - additional considerations), for example to minimize the risk to species from collection, poaching, and disturbance.

6.5 Data Storage

CH files need to be stored on an Environment and Climate Change Canada server so that the information is secure and backed up regularly.

When files are transferred for storage in GKMI, the naming structure shown below should be used. Regional offices can use variations of this naming convention for their internal file management.

Case A. When detailed CH polygons have been mapped:

CH_COSEWIC ID_Scientific Name_Detailed
Sample: CH_285_Clemmys guttata_Detailed

Case B. When only UTM grid squares are included:

CH_COSEWIC ID_Scientific Name_Grid_Grid Scale
Sample: CH_285_Clemmys guttata_Grid_100km

If you do not have access to ECCC servers (e.g. as a contractor or external partner), please provide the completed map package and CH files to the appropriate ECCC Departmental Representative so that they may save this information appropriately. Also note that any regional drafts or candidate CH files (e.g., CH that is undergoing review), proposed CH files (CH that has been or will be included in a proposed recovery document), or final CH files (CH that is included in a final recovery document) should be considered confidential and remains the intellectual property of the Crown. Accordingly, any request for distribution of CH information (to recovery teams, government partners, non-government organizations, or other) must be made via the ECCC Departmental Representative such that data sharing agreements, confidentiality, and consultation with directly-affected parties may be respected.

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References

Rabinowitz, D. 1981. Seven forms of rarity. pp. 205-217 in The Biological aspects of rare plant conservation. Ed. by H. Synge. Wiley.

COSEWIC. 2012. COSEWIC Operations and Procedures Manual. 345 pp. [COSEWIC criteria grid]

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Resources

Government of Canada. 2010. Species at Risk Act Implementation Guidance: Guidelines for completing recovery strategy templates (federal). 37 pp.

Government of Canada. 2012. Species at Risk Act Implementation Guidance: Completing the action plan template (federal) (2.3). 47 pp.

Government of Canada Recovery Strategy Guidelines and Templates are available to Environment and Climate Change Canada employees at the Sharepoint link below; also available upon request from ec.planificationduretablissement-recoveryplanning.ec@canada.ca.

[Internal link removed]

SAR Registry

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada

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Appendix 1: Standardized UTM Grids based on Breeding Bird Atlases of Canada

The Breeding Bird Atlases (BBAs) of Canada use the UTM Military Grid Reference System as well as unique alphanumeric codes to grid the country into 100 x 100 km Blocks and 10 x 10 km Squares, which can be further broken down into 1 x 1 km Grids for the purpose of collecting breeding bird information (Figure 5). Atlases have been created for British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. Although the remaining provinces and territories do not have BBAs, the gridding methodology can be applied to them to create a standardized set of grids (1 x 1 km, 10 x 10 km, and 100 x 100 km) across the country. This will allow for unique alphanumeric codes of these different sized grids (depending on the scale of the CH identification) for further cross-referencing between species and for prioritizing areas for conservation and / or stewardship. To avoid duplication of grid codes at the national scale, UTM band letters were incorporated into the unique identification codes as a single character following the UTM zone number (e.g. 17W). Five UTM bands occur in Canada and span from the southern T-band, which begins at 40 latitude, to the northern X-band, which begins at 72. Each UTM band spans 8 latitude, except for the furthest north X-band which spans 12 latitude. The application of the UTM band is based on the location of the grid centroid to maintain the gridding geometry.

ECCC has also developed a 50 x 50 km grid system to help address sensitivity issues.

There are several advantages to this system, and they include:

  • Nested grids between 100 x 100 km, 50 x 50 km, 10 x 10 km and 1 x 1 km grids - meaning they all line up within each other, to represent the landscape, area and site scales of CH ID, respectively. Note the naming convention of the different scales is consistent with the BBA convention.
  • The UTM coordinate system is a common and well known mapping system. For example, UTM grids are shown on all NTS maps and can be displayed easily in most GIS systems.  
Figure 5. Nested standardized UTM grids based on Breeding Bird Atlases of Canada, demonstrating naming convention.
Nested Standardized UTM Grids based on Breeding Bird Atlases of Canada
Long description for Figure 5

Figure 5 illustrates how the 1x1 km UTM grid squares are nested within the 10x10 km UTM grid squares and how the 10x10 km UTM grid squares are nested within the 100 x 100 km UTM grid squares. It also shows how the naming convention works, to yield a unique identifier for each grid square.

Naming Conventions:
100 X 100 km standardized UTM grid: example: 17WNU
50 X 50 km standardized UTM grid: 17WNU[A,B,C,D]; example: 17WNUA, 17WNUB, 17WNUC and 17WNUD
10 X 10 km standardized UTM grid: 17WNU[0-99]; example: 17WNU51
1 X 1 km standardized UTM grid: 17WNU[0-99][0-99] example: 17WNU5173
Unit of critical habitat (1 X 1 km grid scale): example: 17WNU5173

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These grids have been standardized across the country using the NAD83 datum (unprojected shapefiles), so they will project correctly on the fly without any issues.

Within the feature dataset there are four feature classes for the 1 x 1, 10 x 10, 50 x 50 and 100 x 100 km grids. To obtain a CH grid for a subset of Canada, use the feature class to feature class tool to select the provinces, territories or CWS regions under study by using the appropriate fields and query expressions.

To access the geodatabase containing the feature classes of these standardized grids please contact: ec.planificationduretablissement-recoveryplanning.ec@canada.ca

Feature Class Attributes

UTMZone
This is the UTM Zone in which the grid is found
UTMBand
Single letter indication the UTM band
LT_100KM
Refers to the 100 km alphabetical code based on the BBAs
GRID100KMID
This is the unique alphanumeric code at the 100 x 100 km standardized grid comprising of the UTMZone, UTMBand and LT_100KM
NO_50KM
This is the letter code (A, B, C or D) at the 50 x 50 km standardized UTM grid scale
GRID_50KM
This is the unique alphanumeric code at the 50 x 50 km standardized UTM grid
NO_10KM
This is the number code at the 10 x 10 km standardized UTM grid scale
GRID_10KM
This is the unique alphanumeric code at the 10 x 10 km standardized UTM grid
NO_1KM
This is the number code at the 1 x 1 km standardized UTM grid scale
GRID_1KM
This is the unique alphanumeric code at the 1 x 1 km standardized UTM grid
Easting
This is the lower left x-coordinate of the standardized grid square
Northing
This is the lower left y-coordinate of the standardized grid square
AB
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated province
BC
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated province
MB
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated province
NB
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated province
NL
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated province
NS
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated province
NT
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated territory
NU
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated territory
ONR
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated CWS Region
PE
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated province
QCR
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated CWS Region
SK
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated province
YT
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated territory
ATLR
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated CWS region
PYR
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated CWS region
PNR
Value of 1 indicates that this grid cell overlaps with the indicated CWS region

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Content Footnote

Footnote 1

A multi-jurisdictional working group is currently developing an implementation and guidance document and workbook for setting Population and Distribution objectives. The recovery practitioner should check on availability of this document within the Ecollab Policy and Guidance Folders and complete the Population and Distribution objectives workbook first, if available.

Return to Footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

If a workbook has been completed for the setting of Population and Distribution Objectives, please refer to Step 1 of that document to avoid duplication of efforts.

Return to Footnote 2 referrer

Footnote 3

If a workbook has been completed for the setting of Population and Distribution Objectives, please refer to Step 2 of that document to avoid duplication of efforts.

Return to Footnote 3 referrer