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Canadian Biodiversity Strategy

GOAL 1 - Conservation and Sustainable Use

C. Restoration and Rehabilitation

The third element of the ecological approach is restoration and rehabilitation, which includes the restoration or rehabilitation of species and ecosystems.

Rehabilitation and Restoration

Article 8:

  1. Rehabilitate and restore degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species through the development and implementation of plans or other management strategies.

Convention on Biological Diversity

Species Recovery

Several species recovery efforts are underway. On a national level, species recovery efforts are currently coordinated by the committee on the Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife (RENEW). Since 1988, the committee has been leading recovery efforts for birds, terrestrial mammals, reptiles and amphibians at risk. Although recovery and reintroduction form part of the RENEW mandate, an over-riding objective of the RENEW strategy is to prevent species from becoming threatened or endangered. Where species are threatened , endangered or extirpated, recovery efforts are undertaken within jurisdictions to enhance or re-introduce species, subspecies and populations. These recovery efforts are designed to improve the viability of threatened and endangered species through such actions as: the protection or enhancement of habitat; the rehabilitation or creation of habitat; the development of contingency plans for major disruptions; captive-breeding and the transplanting of wild or captive-bred individuals; and the enhancement of public awareness and support.

Additionally, some plans are being developed between federal, provincial and territorial governments and indigenous communities to ensure the conservation of species-at-risk and to restore them to levels at which traditional harvesting can be sustained.

Ex situ or "off-site" conservation is sometimes required to support the conservation of vulnerable , threatened and endangered species. There are a number of institutions in Canada currently involved in ex situ conservation supporting both domestic and international species recovery programs. In Canada, ex situ institutions are playing an essential role in conserving native endangered species, such as the Black-footed Ferret and the Whooping Crane, and supporting international efforts to conserve endangered species from other countries, such as the Puerto Rican Toad. All three species are being bred in captivity to produce offspring for re-introduction to their native habitats.

Thelon Game Sanctuary

The Thelon Game Sanctuary was established in the Northwest Territories in 1927 to provide a safe haven for muskoxen, which were then on the brink of extinction. Today, much of the mainland tundra has been repopulated by muskoxen migrating out of this protected core population. The success of the Thelon Game Sanctuary in recovering this species is an illustration of the key role played by protected areas in providing species-at-risk a chance of recovery.

Strategic Directions

Federal, provincial and territorial governments will review their current legislation to determine if improvements are required in order to protect species-at-risk and their habitats, determine the benefits and costs of a more harmonized legislative approach and pursue harmonization where appropriate and practical.
Federal, provincial and territorial governments will work towards harmonizing methodologies to designate species-at-risk.
Determine the ecological requirements of species-at-risk and develop, implement and evaluate the success of recovery plans for species that are defined as extirpated, endangered or threatened, where practical and necessary. Consider the recovery of vulnerable species on a case-by-case basis.
Consider multi-species/habitat recovery plans for areas that contain a number of species-at-risk.
Encourage the involvement of ex situ facilities and expertise in the recovery of species-at-risk.
Federal, provincial and territorial governments will continue to participate and support the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), the Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife (RENEW) and new programs such as the Canadian Nature Federation's Endangered Plants and Invertebrates of Canada program (EPIC).
Expand the mandate of COSEWIC and RENEW to encompass further taxonomic groups adding groups incrementally.
Enhance participation of urban and regional governments, local and indigenous communities and landowners in species recovery projects from early planning phases through implementation.
Support and promote international efforts to recover species-at-risk by: participating in mechanisms, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, that regulate or control trade in species-at-risk; supporting the recovery of migratory and trans-boundary species-at-risk; and participating in other international efforts, such as the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

Safe Haven for Shorebirds

More than 150,000 shorebirds will continue to have safe haven in the newly designated International Shorebird Reserve at Quill Lakes, Saskatchewan. Nearly 16,188 ha in size, the reserve includes the largest saline lake in Canada, freshwater marshes, mixed grass prairie and aspen parkland communities. This reserve joins the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, which comprises 23 other sites in seven countries.

Ecosystem Restoration and Rehabilitation

Several ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation projects are currently underway. In 1988, the Federal Government and the Government of Quebec launched the St. Lawrence Action Plan, allocating approximately $173 million towards the rehabilitation and sustainable use of this ecosystem. In 1991, the Fraser River Basin Action Plan was introduced to promote the sustainable development of the Fraser River ecosystem in British Columbia. This partnership project involves governments, indigenous people and non-government organizations. There are also numerous smaller scale ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation projects underway.

These include restoring wetlands, repairing eroded stream banks and reclaiming areas such as abandoned gravel pits. Many of these projects are community-based and contribute to the conservation of biodiversity.

Ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation can be extremely expensive and is not always successful in fully restoring ecosystems. Preventing ecosystem degradation is, therefore, critical. The cost and scientific and technical implications of each proposed restoration or rehabilitation program must be critically evaluated to determine the program's long-term value in conserving biodiversity. In some cases, scarce financial and human resources could be used more effectively in other conservation initiatives.

Strategic Directions

Using objective criteria to select sites for restoration and rehabilitation, including the habitat requirements of species-at-risk, develop and implement restoration or rehabilitation plans for degraded ecosystems, where practical and necessary.
Develop improved approaches and technologies for ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation, evaluating the potential impacts of programs on ecosystems and species to ensure that desired outcomes are achievable without causing negative impacts.

St. Lawrence Vision 2000

In 1994, the federal and Quebec governments renewed their commitment to the St. Lawrence Action Plan. The new St. Lawrence Vision 2000 includes biodiversity as one of its seven long-term objectives. Over $26 million has been committed to actions such as:

  • conserving 7000 ha of habitat;
  • recovering the Beluga Whale; and
  • rehabilitating the smelt population in the Boyer River.