Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk

As part of Canada's national strategy for the protection of species at risk, the federal government established the Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) for Species at Risk. The HSP became operational in 2000–2001 and allocates between $9 and $13 million a year to projects that conserve and protect species at risk and their habitats.

The overall goal of the HSP is to “contribute to the recovery of endangered, threatened, and other species at risk, and to prevent other species from becoming a conservation concern, by engaging Canadians from all walks of life in conservation actions to benefit wildlife.”

The HSP provides funding to stewards for implementing activities that protect or conserve habitats for species assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as nationally at risk (endangered, threatened or of special concern) and priority is given to projects that target species listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). These activities must take place on private lands, provincial Crown lands, Aboriginal lands, or in aquatic and marine areas across Canada. The program also fosters partnerships among organizations interested in the recovery of species at risk. As such, it supports many organizations and individuals in their efforts to meet the requirements of the National Recovery Program and the SARA.

The HSP is one of the three main federal funding programs that are centered on the protection and recovery of species at risk and are being implemented by Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Parks Canada. The two other federal funding programs directly involved in the protection and recovery of species at risk are the Interdepartmental Recovery Fund and the Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk.


Voluntary activities are clearly making a difference in habitat protection, the recovery of species, and the preservation of biodiversity. The federal government approved $45 million over five years for the HSP for Species at Risk, beginning in 2000, as one of three pillars in Canada’s national strategy for the protection of species at risk. The other two pillars are the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, endorsed by the provinces and territories, and the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Under the SARA, stewardship is the first step in protecting critical habitat. Hundreds of stewardship projects are underway across Canada, many of them funded by the HSP. The program directs funds where they are needed most and into the hands of people who can make a difference--those who work on Canada's lands and waters and who care about this country's natural legacy.

The HSP helps Canadians protect species at risk and their habitats. The program fosters land and resource use practices that maintain the habitat necessary for the survival and recovery of species at risk, enhancing existing conservation activities and encouraging new ones. Since 2000, the program has funded over 1850 projects for more than $106 million. These projects have in turn leveraged an additional $254 million for a total investment of approximately $360 million in stewardship projects to support the recovery of species at risk. Projects under the HSP addressed both habitat conservation and threat mitigation, benefiting approximately 400 species assessed by the COSEWIC. The program has established over 180 partnerships with Aboriginal organizations, landowners, resource users, nature trusts, provinces, the natural resource sector, community-based wildlife societies, educational institutions and conservation organizations. Since its inception, the HSP has contributed to the legal securement of approximately 150 000 ha of habitat. Every year, on average, an additional 166 000 ha are protected through direct actions taken by landowners, land managers, or conservation agencies. Furthermore, the program supports, habitat improvement actions on 31 000 ha of land and 380 km of shoreline. The program reaches more than a million people every year through outreach and education activities.

The program helps implement the SARA. Accordingly, the program gives a higher priority to activities that support species listed under the Act as endangered and threatened, and a lower priority to activities that aid species listed as of special concern.

Priority landscapes that have been targeted by the program include

  • the Garry oak (Quercus garryana) ecosystem of southern Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and Fraser Valley of British Columbia, which is home to more than 20 species at risk nationally;
  • the tallgrass prairie and aspen parkland region of Manitoba, where habitat protection efforts benefit plant and bird species at risk, such as the Small White Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium candidum) and Sprague's Pipit (Anthus spragueii);
  • the Upper Thames watershed of southern Ontario, where 37 species at risk are under threat from development and aggregate land use;
  • the St. Lawrence Lowlands of southern Quebec, where the Missisquoi Bay wetlands provide the last large sanctuary for the Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera); and
  • the coastal limestone barrens of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula, which house dozens of plant species at risk, including at-risk Salix and Braya species.

To ensure efficient use of limited resources, the HSP is a targeted program. Regional and national planning partners establish the overall program and priorities, then specific projects are developed and funded. The HSP is administered by Environment Canada and managed cooperatively with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada. Activities that respond to regional priorities are coordinated by five regional implementation boards: Pacific and Yukon, Prairie and Northern, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic. The members of these boards represent the three responsible departments, as well as provincial, territorial, conservation and other stakeholder interests.

What Is Stewardship?

“Stewardship” refers to the wide range of voluntary actions that Canadians take to care for the environment, ranging from conserving wild species and their habitats directly, to improving the quality of habitat by mitigating human impact. These types of conservation activities, particularly those that protect habitat, are essential to the recovery of species at risk. They are also instrumental in preventing other species from becoming at risk.
Some of the ongoing stewardship activities supported by the HSP include

  • installing nest boxes in Ontario and Quebec for several species of birds (including the Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) and the Barn Owl (Tyto alba));
  • monitoring marine mammal populations and protecting important habitats from disturbance along the Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific coasts;
  • developing selective fishing methods to ensure that fish and other aquatic species at risk are not caught accidentally in nets set for other species;
  • involving Aboriginal communities in the conservation of declining fish species in British Columbia; and
  • sponsoring community-based projects in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to restore riverbanks and prevent soil erosion.

Partnerships are the key to making stewardship a successful conservation tool in Canada. Federal and provincial governments encourage action by providing scientific information, technical assistance and economic incentives. Non-governmental organizations help private landowners and concerned citizens identify and implement effective stewardship activities. Many other partners are also involved, including resource users, fishers, Aboriginal organizations, educational institutions and community organizations.

Program Goals and Objectives

Protecting habitat and contributing to the recovery of species at risk are the HSP's main goals. The program focuses on results in three main areas:

  • securing or protecting important habitat to protect species at risk and support their recovery;
  • mitigating threats to species at risk caused by human activities; and
  • supporting the implementation of other priority activities in recovery strategies or action plans, where these are in place or under development.

In addition to the above objectives, the program aims to achieve a minimum of 1:1 leveraging on funds that it invests so that, for every $1 provided by the HSP, at least $1 is raised by project recipients. This leveraging can take the form of either financial or in-kind resources (volunteered labour, products or services). Partner funding and other support broaden the scope of projects, improve on-the-ground results, and strengthen the public and private collaboration that is essential to involving all Canadians in stewardship activities for species at risk.

By stimulating the creation of a larger pool of funds and the formation of partnerships, the HSP is able to fund activities that support its core objectives.

Program Contacts

To become involved in the HSP, you must have an eligible project. Contact a regional coordinator to find out whether your organization and project would be a candidate for funding.

The call for proposal submissions takes place in the fall.

Access to HSP on-line system