Nova Scotia's Species at Risk: Municipal & Community Stewardship

How Municipalities Can Help

Why Might a Municipality Be Interested in Species at Risk?

There are some easy ways that a municipality can get more involved in species at risk, wildlife, and habitat conservation and recovery.  These do not require any significant investment of time or resources, but can be very important in assisting in efforts to conserve species and habitats.  These include: increased awareness, communicating messages to developers, adopting a process for flagging projects that impact wildlife, contacting the Regional Biologist when unsure of impacts on wildlife, contacting Species at Risk Recovery Teams, and explore existing municipal tools and other potential roles.   Each of these six ways to get involved is described in turn below.

For more information on other tools and roles that municipalities can play:
Please view PDF document titled: "A Guide to Municipal Tools Supporting Wildlife Species and Habitat Stewardship in Nova Scotia".  Also please visit the Resources Page of this website.

Increase Awareness
A simple action that a municipality can take to assist with conservation is to try and increase awareness of species at risk, wildlife, and habitat issues among municipal council and staff.  Since many municipalities had not been approached or engaged formally in the conservation of wildlife up until this point appropriate information may not have been readily available.  This document, particularly the background information contained in Part I and the Appendices, should provide municipalities with a solid overview of species at risk and wildlife conservation issues in NS.  One of the key approached to furthering conservation of wildlife is Education and Stewardship (see Table 4) and something as simple as ensuring that staff and councils are informed can contribute considerably to making decisions and choices that can reduce or eliminate negative impacts on wildlife species. 

Communicate with Developers
Whenever possible, municipalities should communicate with developers to encourage awareness and action with respect to the early consideration of species at risk and habitats.  The case can be made to developers for the importance of the proactive consideration of wildlife and their habitats in land use planning and development.  There are a number of reasons to consider wildlife and their habitats early in the development process, including the business advantages, legal requirements, and improved community support.  If a wildlife concern is identified after a development is underway it can result in more costs and effort than if a proactive approach were taken.  A handout outlining these reasons in more detail is included in Appendix 5 and can be reproduced by municipalities for distribution to developers or other concerned citizens.

Adopt a Process for ‘Flagging’ Properties
Municipalities could adopt the process outlined here for ‘flagging’ properties where proposed projects or activities could negatively impact on species at risk, wildlife, or habitats.  Instances have occurred in NS where a developers were well underway only to realize that they were about to build in an area where a legally protected species was located.  Mitigation measures must then be taken, and at such a late stage, can result in considerable cost and inconvenience to the developer.  If a municipality could assist in ‘flagging’ potential species at risk conflicts early in the permitting and approval process, this could be very beneficial for all parties.

There are several situations where this process could be adopted such as: subdivision proposals, re-zoning applications, development permits, road construction proposals, the sale of land/property (tax sales, surplus land), as well as other activities that would alter the landscape.  The flow chart in Figure 1 illustrates the process for flagging properties.  The process should not be a burden to any current municipal approval process.   Also, we are exploring the possibility of other agencies, other than municipalities, also adopting this process.

The process, in general, would involve using the provincial ‘Significant Species and Habitat Database’ (‘Sighab’) in a geographic information system (GIS) program, overlaying proposed development or project locations to determine if projects and wildlife species locations overlap.  If development overlaps or is in close proximity to significant habitat, the next step would be to seek assistance from the NS DNR Regional Biologist responsible for your area of the province (see Appendix 4 for contact information).  The ‘Sighab’ Database referred to above is a provincial database that is available online for all municipalities.  Appendix 3 has a more detailed explanation of the database and how to access it. 






















Figure 1. Flow diagram illustrating the steps in the process for identifying and ‘flagging’ properties where development or other activities could result in negative impacts on wildlife species or their habitats. (See Contact Us page for contact information for NS DNR Regional Biologists).

Contact Regional Biologists or Other Provincial Staff

If a municipality is ever uncertain about the possible negative impacts a municipal decision or action might have on a species at risk, wildlife or their habitat, it is best to simply contact the NS DNR Regional Biologist or other appropriate provincial staff.  The Regional Biologist for your area is knowledgeable regarding species at risk, wildlife, habitats, legal requirements, and how a municipality can assist in conservation and recovery.  Full contact information for Regional Biologists, listed according to region, is provided on the Contact Us page.  Other instances may arise which pertain more directly to wetland and coastal habitat in which can you could contact the Wetlands program staff (see also Contact Us page).

Contact Species at Risk Recovery Teams
If your municipality wants to get more involved in recovery efforts for a particular species at risk within your municipality, it is important to contact the appropriate Species at Risk Recovery Team.  A Recovery Team exists for each species at risk in NS and this team helps oversee all conservation and recovery efforts for the species.  For example, if you wanted to apply for funding with regards to conservation and recovery of a species within your municipality it would be necessary to communicate with the Recovery Team prior to proceeding.  This enables conservation and recovery efforts to be coordinated, and puts you in touch with the recovery experts for this species.  See Recovery Team webpage for a complete list of Recovery Team contacts for each species at risk.

Explore Existing Municipal Tools and Other Potential Roles
It is important that municipalities are open to and continue to explore the existing planning tools within the MGA to determine instances where they can benefit species at risk.  There are examples where planning tools can have multiple benefits that go beyond the primary intent of the legislation.  The next section expands on these “Planning Tools” more specifically.  Also, it is valuable for a municipality to get involved by exploring what other roles your municipality might be able to play and by looking at what has already been done elsewhere.  The potential “Broad Roles” for municipalities are described in more detail below.

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Why Might a Municipality Be Interested in Species at Risk?
A municipality does not necessarily think about how or why they get involved in species at risk conservation and recovery.  We have outlined five reasons why a municipality may be interested in species at risk and elaborate on each of these below.

Why a municipality may be interested in Species at Risk:
  1. Legislation exists to protect species at risk and applies to private and municipal lands
  2. Municipal government is the level of government nearest to the people
  3. Funding opportunities exist for species at risk conservation initiatives
  4. Species at risk can serve as indicators of the health of our natural environment
  5. Municipal "tools" may be able to assist in species at risk conservation and recovery

1. Legislation exists to protect species at risk and municipalities should be aware of how these laws apply to private and municipal lands:

       The Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act protects all species at risk on provincial crown (public) land and all private land

       The federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) protects all species at risk on federal land, as well as all marine and migratory bird species at risk

       Both acts promote species at risk protection by encouraging stewardship, education, and partnerships

2. Funding opportunities exist for initiatives that support the conservation and recovery of species at risk, and municipalities would be eligible to apply:

       The Government of Canada Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk supports stewardship initiatives

       The Federation of Canadian Municipalities promotes healthy, sustainable communities, and improved quality of life through funding green initiatives

3. Species at risk can serve as indicators of the health of our natural environment and municipalities could benefit from supporting species at risk initiatives: 

       People are aware of the importance of a healthy natural environment and the direct connection to healthy, sustainable communities, and a high quality of life

       Participating in initiatives that enhance the natural environment, including species at risk projects, will contribute to retaining and attracting residents and visitors

4. Municipal government is the level of government nearest to the people and thus can play an important role in species at risk conservation and recovery:

       Municipalities could help in communicating and encouraging awareness and stewardship for species at risk

5. Municipalities may have "tools" that could be used to assist in maintaining and conserving species at risk:

       Land use planning, zoning, by-laws, policies, and parks and protected areas are all "tools" that can potentially assist in species at risk conservation and recovery

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