Multi-species action plan report shows progress halfway across the board

Over the last five years, some species at risk derived more benefit from Parks Canada’s interventions than others, a recently-released report shows.

The implementation report on the 2017-2022 Multi-Species Action Plan for Jasper National Park shows that while all of the 26 measures identified in the plan were initiated, only 50 per cent were completed. Similarly, 50 per cent of the six site-based population and distribution objectives (PDOs) were also fully achieved, though all were also initiated.

Unpacking those findings reveals that Parks Canada is making good ongoing progress towards protecting the seven species listed in the Species at Risk Act. Those 26 measures and six PDOs were focused on six species for which management actions within Jasper National Park could have a substantive impact on species survival or recovery.

Those species included the whitebark pine, woodland caribou, common nighthawk, Haller’s apple moss, and the little brown myotis and northern myotis bats. The two bats and the whitebark pine are the endangered species.

Parks Canada considers its actions based on a variety of factors including which species need the most help. It also takes heavily into account where its efforts would have the most benefit. As time went on, some actions became less important and therefore moved down the priority list.

“That's part of what we do in the action plan. We evaluate for this species, what can we do that will make a difference? In some areas, some actions will do a lot. There's other areas you could maybe put your effort into another one of the species that will have a huge impact. That species might be threatened, but if we took action on that one, we could really help,” said Brenda Shepherd, monitoring and species at risk biologist for Jasper National Park.

“We want to use our effort well. It's not just about what we can do, it's about what Canada can do.”

Her team runs the ecological integrity monitoring program to monitor species at risk here in Jasper National Park. In the more than two decades that she has served in this role, she has seen many species come and go to and from this list.

Of the 26 actions identified for this most recent action plan, progress has been made on all of them though only 13 have been completed.

“All of them have made a difference on the ground for some species more than others,” Shepherd said.

“Whitebark pine is a really good example, where we set out in 2017 to plant 5,000 seedlings in five years. We've planted 18,000 seedlings in that time. We're really pleased with that progress. We underestimated what we could accomplish.”

Parks staff also identified a hibernaculum, or over-wintering site, for the two bat species. The action taken was to manage recreational access to all caves using a permit system in order to greatly reduce the risk of white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease that has yet to appear in Jasper National Park’s bats. Shepherd and her team monitor the bats’ activity levels every summer. They have not seen a huge decline in bat populations here so far.

For caribou, one of the plan’s measures was to manage fire and forest clearing in order to keep elk populations low. Wolf populations are also low, which is also good for the caribou recovery effort.

The implementation report offers ecological and socioeconomic impacts of the actions. It also includes the proposed caribou conservation breeding project as an action plan highlight. A final decision on that project is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh