Federal Species At Risk Act (SARA)

The Métis are a people with a close connection to the land. The health of Métis people and the vibrancy of the Métis way of life are dependent on the health of the ecosystem. The Métis also have common values of conservation and stewardship for natural resources and ecosystems. Unfortunately, a number of species in Canada are under threat from a wide range of stressors. Over the years, this has led to government action to try and protect such species. One such initiative is the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). The information below provides some information on the Act and about species at risk in general.

The Purpose of SARA
The purposes of the Act are to prevent Canadian indigenous species, subspecies, and distinct populations from becoming extirpated or extinct, to provide for the recovery of endangered or threatened species, and encourage the management of other species to prevent them from becoming at risk.
SARA is a result of the implementation of the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, which is in response to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The Act provides federal legislation to prevent wildlife species from becoming extinct and to provide for their recovery.

Why do some species become at risk in Canada?
Through a long history of evolution, each species has become adapted to fit into a particular ecological niche. When things change beyond a certain limit, some species no longer prosper, and their numbers decline until they becomes at risk.
There are many, often complex and interrelated, reasons why certain species decline and become at risk. Various outside forces (factors in a species' environment) obviously influence how well a species is able to survive. In addition, more subtle internal forces, such as the specific biological requirements of a species and its ability to adapt to change, determine whether and how well a species can cope with the outside changes in its environment.

Below are some of the most prevalent environmental factors contributing to species decline:

  • Genetic and Reproductive Isolation
  • Suppression of Natural Events
  • Environmental Contamination
  • Over harvesting and excessive trade
  • Climate Change
  • Disease
  • Invasive Species

Here are ten simple and concrete things that you can do to help protect species at risk:

  • Learn as much as you can about species at risk: explore this web site, join an environmental group, and visit parks, zoos, and botanical gardens that house species at risk.
    • Did you know? There are more than 500 plant and animal species at risk in Canada (according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada), and more than 11,000 throughout the world.
  • Offer your help to teams working to recover species at risk in your area. They sometimes need a helping hand for specific activities.
    • Did you know? In Nova Scotia, elementary school students built artificial nests to assist the recovery of the Roseate Tern, an endangered seabird.
  • Install bird feeders, especially in places where there are very few mature trees.
    • Did you know? Certain bird species, such as the White-Headed Woodpecker, need dead trees to perch and nest in.
  • Grow native plants in your garden, while making sure to buy them from producers that do not harvest them directly from the wild.
    • Did you know? The Purple Loosestrife, a non-indigenous plant that is often planted in gardens, invades wetlands and destroys the habitat of plants and animals that live there.
  • Question residential area plans that could destroy the habitats of species at risk.
    • Did you know? Urban expansion has contributed to the loss of habitat for the American Ginseng and to the decline of the plant, an endangered species used in the past by Aboriginals to treat various diseases.
  • Reduce your contribution to the greenhouse effect: walk, ride a bicycle, or take public transportation to work. Choose an economical car, or carpool.
    • Did you know? Climatic changes are having an effect on polar bears. The pack ice is decreasing in thickness, which makes hunting more difficult for bears, thus reducing their survival rate.
  • Do not use pesticides around the home.
    • Did you know? In 1998, the use of the insecticide carbofuran was banned in Canada after it was proven that it had harmful effects on the Burrowing Owl, an endangered owl in Canada.
  • When travelling, remember that it is sometimes illegal to bring back, without a permit, souvenirs made from plants and animals.
    • Did you know? Some species are declining because they are the objects of excessive trade.
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle. Consume less and buy from companies that are involved in protecting the environment.
    • Did you know? The leatherback turtle sometimes ingests plastic bags adrift on the sea, confusing them with jellyfish, its prey of choice.
  • Respect laws and regulations regarding species at risk.
    • Did you know? Poaching is the primary cause of the decline of the northern abalone, a shellfish from British Columbia. Illegal harvesting of this mollusc prevents the species from reproducing sufficiently.

Important Information

  • Resources can be exhausted. Did you know? Overfishing was the main factor which led to the extinction of blue walleye. The introduction of Rainbow Smelts into Lake Erie may have increased competition and predation on the young fish.
  • Human disturbance can severely affect animal habitat. Did you know? In many parts of Woodland Caribou range, forestry practices and the spread of agriculture and mining have resulted in the loss, alteration, and fragmentation of important caribou habitat.
  • Our growing demand for energy can have a negative impact on some species. Did you know? Human activities represent the most important threat to Lake Sturgeon. Historically, commercial fishing caused precipitous declines in many Lake Sturgeon populations. None of these populations has fully recovered. More recently, the direct and indirect effects of dams pose important threats. Dams result in habitat loss and fragmentation, altered flow regimes, and may increase mortality by entrainment in turbines. Habitat degradation resulting from poor land use and agricultural practices also has had an adverse impact on many populations.
  • Some species at risk have vast migration patterns and can be negatively in many areas. Did you know? Reproductive failure caused by exposure to organochlorine pesticides, in particular DDT, is the main factor for the historic decline of North American Peregrine Falcon populations. Use of these pesticides causes a thinning and subsequent breaking of the egg shells during incubation. Since organochlorine pesticides were banned in Canada and the United States in the early 1970s and in Mexico in 2000, there has been a decrease in the levels of these pesticides in Peregrine Falcon tissues, which has been associated with the increase in reproductive success over the last few years. However, pesticide levels still exceed critical limits in some individuals, and organochlorine pesticides are still used in some parts of the wintering grounds of the anatum and tundrius subspecies. It was recently shown that new pesticides regularly used in the country, i.e., polybrominated odiphenyl ethers, also represent a potential threat for the species. However, the effects of these chemicals, found in high concentrations in the tissues of some Peregrine Falcons, are unknown.

The species at risk information in this notice is located on the SARA Registry <http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca>. If you would like further information on SARA, please visit the SARA Registry website. If you would like to share information or request information about species at risk in general, please contact Brian Tucker, Manager of Métis Traditional Knowledge and Land Use (BrianT@metisnation.org).