Piping Plover Recovery Strategy 3 Years Late

A CBC online news article this week is shining the spotlight on what is becoming an all too familiar refrain for species at risk in Canada. Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), legally mandated timelines to set forth recovery measures and identify and protect critical habitat for at-risk species are often not being met.

In this case, it’s the endangered Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) in Eastern Canada that’s losing out.

According to the article:

It could be another six months before a recovery plan for the piping plover in Eastern Canada, which was due in 2006, is finally finished.

The plover was one of the first animals listed under the federal Species at Risk Act, proclaimed in December 2002. A recovery strategy for the bird was supposed to be posted three years ago.

That still hasn’t happened.

“The truth is it’s an incredibly complex process to get through,” said Andrew Boyne, who leads the Species at Risk recovery unit in Atlantic Canada.

Many areas are working to protect the bird, and in those areas plover numbers are rebuilding. But there is no overall strategy, and in places where little or no work is happening, numbers are actually decreasing.

The recovery strategy would identify what needs to be done, including the critical habitat the endangered shorebirds need to survive.

Most of the delay is because of consultation, Boyne said. About 1,000 private landowners in Atlantic Canada and Quebec may have critical habitat on their property and have to be notified, he said. Boyne said letters are about to go out.

Two years ago, when CBC News contacted Environment Canada on the same issue, letters were also about to be mailed. So why the delay?

Boyne said his team has faced a big challenge in tracking down who the landowners are for around 200 beaches where the birds are thought to breed.

Here’s what Environment Canada published on its Species At Risk Public Registry way back in February 2007, to justify the delay in posting the finalized recovery strategy:

The proposed recovery strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus melodus), melodus subspecies, was due for posting on the SARA Public Registry by June 5, 2006 for a 60-day public comment period (SARA s.42 & 43).

Environment Canada is leading the recovery planning process for this species. A draft of the recovery strategy is in final stages of preparation. After it is completed, the Minister of the Environment will post it on the SARA Registry. Environment Canada will continue to work in cooperation with all interested parties to ensure a draft is completed and posted on the SARA Public Registry in a timely manner.

It’s disappointing that Environment Canada has been singing the same refrain on Piping Plovers for more than two years (consultation letters are about to be sent out, the recovery strategy is in the final stages of preparation…). For the sake of the plovers at unprotected sites, and those in areas where populations are declining, let’s hope that this time Environment Canada really means it when they say the recovery strategy is almost done.