When you hear Species at Risk, what do you think about? What can you do?

There are currently 71 species listed as at risk in Nova Scotia. So, what are the implications for farmers? In some cases, nothing. Some species are located in very specific areas that are not typically impacted by farming activities (e.g. Tall beakrush, a perennial sedge known only to occur at two lakeshore wetlands in southwestern Nova Scotia). In other cases, farming activities can have a significant impact on a species (e.g. Wood Turtles and Bobolinks). Threats to Wood Turtles include farming activities along river and stream habitats and Boblinks are threatened by mowing forages early in the season killing young birds and destroying nests. To view the full list: https://novascotia.ca/natr/wildlife/biodiversity/species-list.asp.

At risk species have special protections under the Endangered Species Act, which governs what individuals can do to them and to their habitat. The number of at-risk species continues to grow and there are many more potentially vulnerable species that haven’t been listed yet. There are five categories of species at risk in Nova Scotia:

Endangered – a species facing imminent extirpation or extinction (e.g. Barn Swallow)

Threatened – a species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed (e.g. Wood Turtles)

Vulnerable – a species of special concern because of characteristics that make it particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events (e.g. Bobolink)

Extirpated – a species that no longer exists in the wild in the Province but exists in the wild outside the Province (e.g. Woodland Caribou)

Extinct – a species that no longer exists (e.g. Great Auk)

In March of last year, the provincial government introduced legislation that makes it easier to protect the province’s wild animals, plants and water species. The Biodiversity Act is intended to create a platform for regulations to manage threats to rare ecosystems and to better protect wildlife against invasive species. The government is currently seeking additional consultation and the Federation is awaiting the regulations to better understand the direct impact to farms.

According to a report released in May, 2019 by the United Nations, up to one million species could face extinction in the near future due to human influence on the natural world. This is a global issue, but farmers can play an important role in preserving habitat. In our agricultural landscape, a wide variety of ecosystems are present, ranging from cropland to woodland, and pasture to wetlands. Numerous ecosystems often exist within an individual farm operation that support biodiversity and provide habitat for a variety of wildlife species.

Since 2016, the Federation has received funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada through the Species At Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands (SARPAL) program. The Wood Turtle Strides project was an incentive-based stewardship program working directly with farmers to adjust farming practices to better protect Wood Turtle habitat. Additional SARPAL funding for next year is aiming to partner with farms to demonstrate conservation practices for additional species and deliver workshops to increase awareness and opportunities for conservation.

If you are interested in more information related to biodiversity and Species at Risk, the School for Resource and Environmental Studies (Dalhousie University), with support and input from the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and many other partners, has created a Biodiversity Landowners Guide website (www.farmbiodiversity.ca). The website provides information, resources, and guidance to landowners that benefits both agricultural production and biodiversity.

Nova Scotia Lands and Forestry is also currently providing Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation Plans for individual farms. These plans identify current and potential activities that support biodiversity within the farm operation and include a biodiversity assessment and a riparian health assessment of the farm. The plan highlights the positive aspects of current farming activities and recommends changes that could be implemented to further enhance conservation efforts.

For more information, contact the EFP office (902) 893-2293 or email: info@nsfa-fane.ca.