+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 9-17S

Legal Opinion for Species at Risk Proposed Policies

March 21, 2017
Expiry Date:
April 1, 2020
Active Status:
County of Warner
1 - Foothills-Little Bow
Vote Results:

WHEREAS the Government of Canada have proposed Species at Risk Act policies in which they are currently accepting input until March 31, 2017; and

WHEREAS this Act and policies can have social and economic impact on any land use planning decision; and;

WHEREAS municipalities are responsible for land use planning as outlined in the Municipal Government Act; and

WHEREAS the Modernized Municipal Government Act has been tabled with expanded provisions related to the environment, which impacts species at risk; and

WHEREAS the proposed Policy Regarding the Identification of Anthropogenic Structures as Critical Habitat under the Species at Risk Act, the Policy on Critical Habitat Protection on Non-Federal Lands, and the Species at Risk Permitting Policy may have implications under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for rural landowners and municipal land-use planning decisions;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) seek a legal opinion on the proposed Species at Risk Act policies to determine what effect that the proposed policies will have on municipal operations and the rights and freedoms of rural landowners;

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that if the legal opinion determines that the proposed Species at Risk Act policies will negatively impact rural landowners, that the AAMDC proceed with further action to work with the provincial and federal government on these proposed policies to demonstrate the social and economic impacts of policy implementation on the rural landscape.

Member Background:

The Government of Canada proposed Species at Risk Act policies include:

  • Policy Regarding the Identification of Anthropogenic Strictures as Critical Habitat under the Species at Risk Act
    • “Based on the definition of critical habitat in the Species at Risk Act. Anthropogenic structures can be identified as critical habitat. If it is determined that anthropogenic structures are required for survival or recovery of the species, as defined by the population and distribution objectives, these structures will be identified as critical habitat.”
  • Approach to the Identification of Critical Habitat under the Species at Risk Act when Habitat Loss and Degradation is Not Believed to be a Significant Threat to the Survival or Recovery of the Species
    • “The federal Species at Risk Act requires an identification of critical habitat to the extent possible, based on the best available information, for all listed extirpated, endangered and threatened species.”
  • Policy on Critical Habitat Protection on Non-federal Lands
    • “The purpose of this consultation and cooperation will be to accurately understand the laws, provisions, and measures that are in place, or are planned to be put in place to protect portions of the critical habitat.”
  • Listing Policy for Terrestrial Species at Risk
    • “When COSEWIC assess a wildlife species, it does so solely on the basis of the best information relevant to the biological status of the species. COSEWIC then submits the assessment to the Minister of Environment.”
  • Species at Risk Act Permitting Policy
    • “Applicants need to demonstrate that all reasonable alternative to their proposed activity were considered and that the needs of the species were considered when doing so. The option of not proceeding with the activity must be considered among the alternatives, although it would not necessarily by identifies as a reasonable alternative.”
  • Policy on Protection Critical Habitat with Conservation Agreements under Section 11 of the Species at Risk Act
  • Policy on Survival and Recovery
RMA Background:

15-16F: Species at Risk and the Need for an Overall Socio-Ecnoomic Impact Assessment

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties works with the Government of Alberta in a timely fashion, to complete an overall Socio-Economic Impact Assessment based on all the species at risk recovery plans and retention plans currently affecting the operations of all industries in the Province of Alberta, including but not limited to oil and gas, forestry, agriculture, tourism and mineral exploration.

DEVELOPMENTS: Awaiting government response.

16-15F: Species at Risk Act (SARA)

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties facilitate a round table discussion with representation from the federal Environment Minister and provincial Environment Minister to rebuild the current Species at Risk Act to improve it in a way that seeks a balanced and cooperative approach (economic, environmental, and social) to species protection that focuses on ecosystem protection; limiting impact on agriculture, industry, rural development, and land use in Alberta.

DEVELOPMENTS: The Government of Alberta response indicates a willingness to work with the AAMDC and the federal government to take a collaborative approach to aligning species at risk protection with the need to address social and economic impacts. This is encouraging and will be followed up on by the AAMDC. As a response from the Government of Canada has not yet been received, this resolution is assigned a status of Incomplete Information. The AAMDC is continuing advocacy efforts at the provincial and federal levels to move this issue forward.

4-14S: Species at Risk Act

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties and the Government of Alberta lobby the federal government to repeal the current Species at Risk Act and rebuild it in a way that better respects the socio-economic reality, seeking a balanced approach (economic, environmental, social).

DEVELOPMENTS: The response received from Environment Canada outlined the Ministry’s recovery strategy and supporting action planning process for endangered and threatened species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The action planning stage includes evaluating the social and economic costs and benefits of actions and the integration of provincial management plans. Though this process works towards the request of this resolution, a recovery strategy is not a regulatory document and as such, it lacks enforcement. Based on this information, the AAMDC assigns this resolution a status of Intent Not Met and will continue to advocate to the federal government and assess Environment Canada’s process to seek a balanced approach to enforcement and implementation related to SARA.


To fulfill the first part of this resolution, the RMA hired MLT Aikins to provide a legal opinion on the proposed Species at Risk Act (SARA) polices. The legal response identifies impacts for municipalities and rural landowners in regard to the policies, and RMA members should be aware of the implications some policies may have in regard to land-use planning and infrastructure project decisions. The legal response in its entirety is available on the RMA website.

The second part of the resolution addresses the socio-economic approaches to policy implementation. In 2019, Alberta Environment and Parks announced the creation of three caribou sub-regional task forces that will advise the government on land- use planning at a local scale, including caribou recovery actions. RMA has representation on these task forces and will be advocating on the significance of the social and economic impacts to ensure that any decision made regrading caribou conservation will utilize methods that will minimize the loss of land, sterilization of the land and will include realistic conservation methods and management tools.

As the general intent of the resolution has been met, it has been assigned a status of Accepted in Principle and the RMA will continue to advocate on the importance of a socio-economic approach to policy implementation, as identified in the legal analysis.

Provincial Boards and Organizations:
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