The CAFO Two-Step: Designating and Protecting Critical Habitat

The Canadian Association of Forest Owners believes the federal government should establish clear policy distinction between Crown lands and private property when designating and protecting critical habitat under the Species at Risk Act.

To help you understand why this is important, we’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). If you prefer more detailed information, you can skip the FAQs and follow the link to the complete position paper.

What is the CAFO Two-Step?

The “CAFO Two-Step” is a process proposed by the Canadian Association of Forest Owners to amend the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to clearly distinguish between private and public land when identifying and protecting critical habitat.

Why is it necessary to distinguish between public and private land?

The prosperity of rural Canadians is based largely on the productivity of privately owned lands. The purpose of the proposed amendment is to ensure rural landowners do not suffer losses to their livelihoods, businesses or property values if it’s deemed necessary to protect critical habitat on their private lands.

What are the proposed steps?

Step 1: Find and protect critical habitat on public land first. CAFO suggests the following order of priorities: parks and protected areas, inaccessible and vacant Crown lands, and finally, Crown lands under management license. If, based on credible information, there is inadequate Crown land available to maintain a viable population of the listed species, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Engage in consultation with private landowners to determine how to protect critical habitat on private lands with minimal disruption to farming, forest management activities and annual income levels. Note: A decision to designate or protect critical habitat on private land should not lead to automatic prohibitions, but rather, trigger a process of consultation between the recovery team, the federal agency and the landowner(s). [SARA s48(3)]

What other organizations and governments endorse this approach?

This approach is fully endorsed by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture; representing hundreds of thousands of farmers whose private lands provide habitat for hundreds of wildlife, bird and plant species.

This approach is also consistent with the recent report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development where the authors recommended cooperation with landowners and incentive-based programs.

The New Brunswick Species at Risk Act and the BC government’s Private Managed Forest Land Act also distinguish between private and public land, and a similar approach has been used in the U.S. for several years (creating “Safe Harbors”).

How does this approach improve the performance and results of SARA for all Canadians?

By working closely and cooperatively with landowners, government provides owners with incentives to report and allow access to their land to identify species and habitat, and manage their land in ways that enhance habitat and encourage species success.

How would this approach impact forest companies who operate on public land?

If adequately compensated, private landowners can help ease the pressure on forest companies operating on public land and reduce the need to set aside habitat on public land.  In cases where marginal critical habitat is available on public land and better habitat exists on private land (quite common), it is often in the public interest to impose prohibitions (and provide compensation or other arrangements) on a smaller area of private land rather than larger areas of public land. Many of CAFO members who own large areas of forested land also operate large public forest tenures; they support this proposal.

Is there a policy framework to support amending the Species at Risk Act?

Yes, there are mechanisms within SARA that allow officials to create policies and procedures to adopt this two-step approach when identifying habitat. The Sage Grouse Emergency Order is an example of a legal distinction made between private and public land. CAFO’s two-step approach is based on the same rationale, but does not require cabinet approval or changes to the Act. It simply requires policies and procedures that allow officials to use the two-step approach, while following the spirit and intent of the Act.

Why would the government want to adopt this two-step approach?

This approach is consistent with the government’s policy of responsible resource development and maintaining good renewable jobs that support families.  It also provides certainty for landowners, which is essential to long-term investments, sustainable forest management and increasing crop values. Adopting this approach will positively impact over half a million Canadian families in 138 rural ridings.

Do you have an example of policy language that would allow the implementation of a two-step approach to identifying critical habitat?

Yes. The Species at Risk Act states that the “Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, by order, provide that sections 32 and 33, (i.e. No person shall kill, harm, harass, capture or take; possess, collect, buy, sell or trade; AND No person shall damage or destroy the residence of one or more individuals of a wildlife species that is listed as an extirpated species, an endangered species or a threatened species, or any part or derivative of such an individual) or either of them, apply in lands in a province that are not federal lands.”

If such an order is made to have sections 32 and 33 apply to lands that are not federal lands and a protection assessment is carried out, the act further states that “In undertaking a protection assessment, the Minister shall have regard to the following:

(a) the recovery strategy for the wildlife species;

(b) the management implications for the Province;

(c) landownership issues;

(d) social and economic factors; and

(e) any other matter that the Minister considers relevant to the assessment.”

In considering item (c) landownership issues, officials shall not make a recommendation for a recovery habitat designation on private lands unless they are satisfied, based on information available to them at the time, that the habitat on Crown Lands of a wildlife species listed as an extirpated species, an endangered species or a threatened species is not sufficient to meet the needs of the species.

If private lands have been designated as recovery habitat and the habitat has become occupied by a wildlife species that is listed as an extirpated species, an endangered species or a threatened species as a result of recovery activities, the lands shall not be designated as survival habitat without the written consent of the owner.

You can download the FAQ document or for more detailed information please click the following link to read CAFO’s complete position paper—Designation and Protection of Critical Habitat: Differentiate Between Public and Private Land