Written by Paul Watson, Alberta EFP Director
Species At Risk
I’m about to launch into a most unpopular topic: species at risk (SAR). Why unpopular? Most people don’t understand much about SAR. What are they? Who decides which species are at risk? What laws protect them? And for farmers, will conserving SAR and their habitat result in more regulation or other things that may impact their livelihood? The Nature Conservancy of Canada answers some of the questions in a post called Species at Risk 101. But this blog is not about SAR, per se; it’s more about why we need to do something to conserve Alberta’s rare species and specifically, what the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) is doing to help.
Why do we need to do something about SAR?
Simply put, people upstream from us are responding to emerging demand from their consumers for sustainably-sourced agricultural products. An industry requirement for sustainably-sourced products has not fully arrived in Canada, yet. But our producer groups, provincially and nationally, are preparing for the day when ALL commodities will need to be produced under a program that verifies sustainable agriculture practices in Canada. The good news is: we don’t need to do much; just get better documentation.
Right now, we are weak on documenting what producers do to conserve SAR and their habitat. Many Alberta producers are involved in programs that benefit the environment and work with organizations to improve habitat protection: Alberta Conservation Association, Ducks Unlimited, Cows and Fish, ALUS, and more. So we do all this good work, but have no mechanism for getting our credit. Which leads me to …
What is Alberta EFP doing about SAR?
We are developing a SAR chapter/module within the Environmental Farm Plan that addresses SAR. The new chapter is in development and has three goals:
- To assure producer privacy by having the module within the EFP.
- To help producers easily and simply meet international requirements around SAR conservation.
- To offer producers the opportunity to access resources (expertise and funding) to make changes on their operation if they choose to do so.
Producer privacy. EFPs are confidential, not shared with government or others, and not subject to FOIP. That means all your information in the Farm Plan is yours; unless YOU choose to share it.
Easily meet international demands. We’re building a database that will allow you to find out which SAR might be on your land. By answering a few questions (e.g. how much native pasture is on your land?) we can refine probabilities, although the module will NOT say ‘you have this SAR on your property.’
Access to resources. Part of doing the EFP module online will result in seeing recommended Best Management Practices (BMPs). We will make suggestions (and they will only be suggestions) as to what we think the best option is for you. You can choose to do something else, put a longer timeline on activities, or simply choose not to do anything. If you are interested in taking further action, we will provide information so you can go to experts for advice (we’re not the experts), find funding, and take easy actions to benefit SAR that might occur on your operation.
At this time, we plan to launch the chapter/module in April 2017. If you have already completed an EFP, we encourage you to do the new SAR module to make it current. If you don’t have an EFP, now’s the time to consider it – it’s free, it’s confidential and it will make you eligible for funding. Best of all, you will be better prepared for the new market demands that are coming soon. I look forward to hearing from you.
Paul Watson (Alberta EFP Director).