List of Wildlife Species at Risk (referral back to COSEWIC) Order: SI/2021-58

Canada Gazette, Part II, Volume 155, Number 18

Registration
SI/2021-58 September 1, 2021

SPECIES AT RISK ACT

P.C. 2021-884 August 11, 2021

Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to subsections 27(1.1) and (1.2) of the Species at Risk Act footnote a,

  • (a) refers the assessment of the status of the Rusty Cord-moss (Entosthodon rubiginosus) back to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) for further information or consideration; and
  • (b) approves that the Minister of the Environment include in the public registry established under section 120 of that Act the statement that is attached as the annex to this Order and that sets out the reasons for the referral back to COSEWIC.

List of Wildlife Species at Risk (referral back to COSEWIC) Order

ANNEX

Statement Setting Out the Reasons for Referring the Assessment of the Rusty Cord-moss (Entosthodon rubiginosus) Back to COSEWIC

The Rusty Cord-moss was initially assessed as endangered by COSEWIC. In 2006, the species was added to Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act with that status. In April 2017, the species was reassessed by COSEWIC as special concern. To explain this change in status, the scientific body stated in its assessment that, as a result of field and collection research, the known distribution and abundance of the moss had increased significantly since the species was first assessed by COSEWIC in 2004, resulting in decreased extinction risk. The 2017 assessment further indicated that the species is now known to occur in both British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Following receipt of the 2017 assessment, the species was included in the proposed Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act that was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on February 20, 2021, for a 30-day comment period. During that period, the Department of the Environment received comments from a species expert who raised a number of concerns with the proposed reclassification.

The expert shared research reports, which included surveys from 2018 to 2020. The reports describe significant changes since the 2017 COSEWIC status report, including important population declines at two of the species’ largest known occurrences in Canada (by 93–96% near Riske Creek, British Columbia, and by 100% at White Lake, British Columbia). As the main drivers of these changes, the expert identified a landscape-scale fire in 2017, which passed across three of the known sites at Riske Creek, and an invasive exotic grass growth in a number of habitats at White Lake. In addition, although the species was listed as present on many sites in British Columbia in 2017, it was not observed during the surveys that were conducted from 2018 to 2020 and could be, according to the expert, extirpated on these sites.

Based on this new information, the Minister of the Environment is of the view that a more thorough analysis of this new evidence and all other available information should be undertaken to determine whether the current classification of the Rusty Cord-moss as endangered is appropriate or whether the species should be assessed and reclassified as special concern. Therefore, the matter is referred back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration. The Department of the Environment is committed to working with COSEWIC on this matter.

EXPLANATORY NOTE

(This note is not part of the Order.)

Proposal

The objective of this Order is for the Governor in Council (GIC) to refer the matter of the assessment of the Rusty Cord-moss (Entosthodon rubiginosus) back to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) for further information or consideration, pursuant to subsections 27(1.1) and (1.2) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Background

The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct; to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered, or threatened as a result of human activity; and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened. COSEWIC was formed as an independent scientific body in 1977 with a mandate to provide a single, official, scientifically sound, national classification of wildlife species at risk in Canada. The Committee provides the Minister of the Environment with assessments of the status of wildlife species in Canada.

The Rusty Cord-moss was initially assessed as “endangered” by COSEWIC in 2006 and was subsequently added to the list of wildlife species at risk with the same status. In 2017, COSEWIC reassessed the species to a status of “special concern.” To explain this change in status, the scientific body stated in its assessment that the known distribution and abundance of the moss had increased significantly due to field and collection research since the species was first assessed by COSEWIC in 2004, resulting in decreased extinction risk.

Since the publication of this assessment, new information regarding this species has become available. A species expert brought this information to the attention of the Minister following prepublication of a proposed SARA Listing Order (of which the species was part of) in the February 20, 2021, edition of the Canada Gazette, Part I. The expert shared research reports, which include surveys from 2018 to 2020. The reports describe significant changes since the 2017 COSEWIC status report, which include dramatic losses and recent environmental changes that have negatively affected the Canadian populations of the species. Given these recent developments, the expert recommends that a more thorough analysis of this new evidence and of all available information be undertaken to determine if the overall assessment and reclassification of the Rusty Cord-moss as a species of special concern is appropriate.

Implications

Under subsection 27(1.1) of SARA, the Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, within nine months after receiving COSEWIC’s assessment of the status of a species, review the COSEWIC assessment, accept the assessment and add the species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List), decide not to add the species to the List, or refer the matter back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration.

On February 17, 2021, the Administrator in Council acknowledged receipt of assessments for 17 species that COSEWIC provided to the Minister of the Environment. This initiated the nine-month period under the Act, which will end on November 17, 2021. By way of this Order, the GIC is referring the assessment of one of these species, the Rusty Cord-moss (Entosthodon rubiginosus), back to COSEWIC for further consideration.

The Minister of the Environment, in accordance with subsection 27(1.2) of the Act, will include a statement in the Species at Risk Public Registry setting out the reasons for the decision to refer the species’ assessment back to COSEWIC. These reasons are set out in the annex to the Order and will be posted on the website of the Public Registry established under the Act.

With this decision to refer the species’ assessment back to COSEWIC, the latter will reassess the species again, in light of the new information and circumstances. Following this reassessment, COSEWIC may recommend again to reclassify the species. In this case, it will trigger a new section 27 process (order acknowledging the assessment and amending order) unrelated to this current one.

Initial consultations and public comments

Following receipt of the 2017 assessment, the species was included in the proposed Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act, which was prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on February 20, 2021, for a 30-day comment period. During this period, the Department received only one comment on the species from the expert who raised the above-mentioned concerns with respect to its proposed reclassification.

Initial consultations on the species took place between January and May 2018. During this period, the Department did not receive any comment specific to the species.

Contact

Paula Brand
Acting Director
Species at Risk Act Management and Regulatory Affairs
Canadian Wildlife Service
Department of the Environment
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0H3
Telephone: 1‑800‑668‑6767
Email: LEPreglementations-SARAregulations@ec.gc.ca