Species at Risk
A Blue Vest, a Smile, and a Small Brown Bird
by Denise Stockton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
It is a partially cloudy day on the beach. The light from the sun streams
through the clouds and reflects off the water like so many jewels. To
the south, a man fishes, a couple hikes in the fore dunes, and a multitude
of shorebirds coast over the water. It is a beautiful day.
A woman in a blue vest and a straw hat approaches the couple. As she
comes closer, they read the words printed on her vest: “PLOVER DOCENT.”
Smiling, she greets them and tells them of a tiny bird that needs their
help—the western snowy plover. When the man and woman hear of the
little bird’s plight and how they can help ensure its survival,
they reroute their walk to the shoreline, away from the dunes where the
plovers are nesting.
The western snowy plover, federally listed as threatened under the Endangered
Species Act, is a small, pale brown bird struggling to survive in an ever
decreasing habitat. At Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge
on California’s central coast, the ploverscome to breed and nest
every year from March to September. Their population has declined drastically,
due primarily to human activities.
This small bird has perfect camouflage to protect it from predators,
its drab colors blending into the surroundings. Ironically, this invisibility
makes it more vulnerable to disturbance and injury from non-attentive
beach goers. During the nesting season, fencing is erected around the
nesting grounds to protect the birds from predators and unintentional
disturbance from recreationists. Refuge Manager Chris Barr initiated a
volunteer plover docent program in 2002 to directly reach the beach-going
public on the Refuge and nearby lands. “Our first year was a pilot
program—I was amazed at the positive response we got from the public,”
exclaimed Barr. “Many people said they had no idea of the risks
to the plovers.”
Refuge docents attend workshops to learn about the plover’s natural
history and the outreach techniques that can be used to educate the public
about the bird’s predicament. The docent’s task is to inform
the people of the importance of staying clear of the birds’ nesting
area in the dunes.
Karen Wood was a docent in the spring of 2002. She would don her blue
vest and take the trail to the beach where she greeted refuge visitors
and explained the reasons for the fencing certain areas and the limited
closures. Wood said that after she explained why plovers needed to be
protected and that there was still room for visitor activities, people
were receptive. “It is a problem that needs more public awareness,
and the presence of docents puts a face on it,” explained Wood.
“Even one person out there, greeting the people, answering their
questions, and addressing their concerns, is better than a thousand signs.”
For more information, contact Denise Stockton, Information and Education
Specialist, Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, P.O. Box
5839, Ventura, California 93005, (805) 644-5185, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canada’s Species at Risk Recovery Act
by Ruth Wherry Canadian Wildlife Service
Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) received Royal Assent in December
2002. This brought to a close a 9-year legislative process to enact federal
legislation for the protection of Canada's species at risk and their critical
habitats. Two-thirds of the SARA’s provisions came into force on
June 5, 2003; the remaining provisions will come into effect on June 1,
2004. This legislation is the result of an extensive consultation process
and is broadly supported by Canadians.
The act represents a federal commitment to prevent wildlife species from
becoming extinct or extirpated and to provide for the recovery of species
at risk. It builds on and complements the Fisheries Act, Migratory Birds
Convention Act of 1944, National Parks Act, North American Waterfowl Management
Plan (Plan), North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI), and
many provincial and territorial laws and programs.
The act’s emphasis is on cooperation with stakeholders, with the
flexibility to meet the needs of wildlife and plants. It established the
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Operating
at arm’s length from governments, COSEWIC will continue to assess
and classify wildlife species using the best availablve scientific, community,
and Aboriginal traditional knowledge.
This cooperative approach is backed by a number of binding provisions
once species are placed on the List of Wildlife Species as Risk, such
as automatic prohibitions against killing or harming aquatic species,
migratory bird species, and species on federal lands. There is also authority
to apply the prohibitions to other listed species in provinces and territories
through a safety n-net process. Authority is also provided in SARA to
prohibit the destruction of critical habitat of listed extirpated, endangered
or threatened species anywhere in Canada. The prohibition sections of
the act will come into force on June 1, 2004.
Critical habiat of listed species is identified during the recovery process.
Recovery strategies and action plans are now required within specified
time lines for species listed as extirpated, endangered, or threatened.
Management plans are required within specified time lines for species
of special concern. Recovery strategies, action plans, and management
plans will be prepared in cooperation with the provinces, territories,
Aboriginal organizations, landowners, resource users, and other stakeholders.
Stewardship is an essential part of the cooperative approach reinforcing
the accomplishments of programs such as the Plan and NABCI. It is the
preferred response to critical-habitat protection under SARA and brings
together landowners, conservationists, governments, and others to protect
species and habitat.
Another feature of SARA is recognition of the role of Aboriginal peoples
in the conservation of wildlife. There is a requirement to establish a
National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk to advise the Minister
on the administration of the act and to provide advice and recommendations
to the federal-provincial-territorial Canadian Endagnered Speceis Conservation
Public information sessions on SARA are being held across the country.
Environment Canada is working with numerous stakeholder and conservation
organizations to encourage the participation of landowners, fishers, and
other stakeholders, as well as other interested Canadians. Additionally,
the SARA public registry will contain information and documents such as
COSEWIC assessments, recovery strategies, action plans, management plans,
regulations, and orders, as they become available.
Protecting species at risk is a shared responsibility of all governments
in Canada. This act helps ensure that the federal responsibility is met,
and it helps to fulfill some of Canada’s international obligations
under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
For more information, contact Lynda Maltby, Director, Species at
Risk Branch, Canadian Wildlife Service, 4th Floor, 351 St. Joseph Boulevard,
Hull, Quebec K1A 0H3, (819) 997-2957, email@example.com, www.speciesatrisk.gc.ca