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An evaluation of the Canadian recovery planning process for species at risk Neve, Silke Anne

Abstract

Efforts to recover species that are nationally recognized as being at risk of extinction have been underway in Canada since 1988 as part of the program for the Recovery of National Endangered Wildlife (RENEW). The passage of federal species at risk legislation (i.e., the Species at Risk Act, or SARA) in December 2002 placed renewed emphasis on species recovery efforts in that the legislation imposed timelines on governments in relation to the preparation of recovery plans. SARA requires federal and provincial governments to prepare recovery strategies within three or four years for all 190 extirpated, endangered, and threatened species that are currently listed in Schedule 1 of the act. Recovery strategies outline the long term goals and short term objectives for a species' recovery and are meant to provide guidance to governments and other agencies regarding its recovery. In order to ensure that the strategies include all relevant information and respect the interests of those who could be affected by recovery actions, recovery strategies are to be prepared with the involvement of representatives from the relevant jurisdictions as well as other relevant stakeholders. The purpose of this research was to assess the degree to which the decision-making approach used by a select group of recovery teams in preparing recovery strategies appeared to be consistent with what the literature considers to be "good processes" (i.e., processes that are most likely to lead to successful outcomes). To the extent that: (1) the processes did not conform to the literature, and/or, (2) the outcomes were deemed to be unsuccessful, my aim was to provide recommendations for ways in which the processes could be improved upon. I identified four specific objectives upon which to focus my efforts: 1. Determine the extent to which a select set of recovery teams followed the guidelines provided by RENEW (i.e., the Recovery Operations Manual) and found them to be useful. 2. Characterize and evaluate the decision-making processes recovery teams followed in terms of the degree to which they incorporated aspects of decision-making approaches that have been described in the literature as facilitating better outcomes. 3. Evaluate each recovery team's success in developing a "good" recovery strategy, defined as a strategy that meets the following criteria: (a) team members were satisfied with it; (b) it required few substantive revisions as a result of the peer review process (from which it can be inferred that the team had done an adequate job); and, (c) it was approved by the responsible jurisdictions and RENEW (from which it can be inferred that it meets the needs of the species and fulfills the requirements of the Species at Risk Act). 4. Provide recommendations for ways in which the recovery teams' decision-making process could be improved upon with a view to making it more efficient and/or effective. Recommendations focused on potential changes to the guidelines outlined in the Recovery Manual or the adoption of new policies and/or programs to support the guidelines. Information for this research was derived primarily from interviews with members of nine recovery teams that are currently active in British Columbia. Interviews were conducted between November 2002 and February 2003. The results of this study suggest a number of areas of improvement to the recovery planning process, among which perhaps the most critical is the need for RENEW to better define the purpose of recovery teams and the range of stakeholders that are meant to be involved. Improvements in the design of the process, the teams' access to resources in support of participants and process, and the management of the process were also noted. Teams were able to reach consensus on draft recovery strategies suggesting that they were successful in achieving a "good" outcome (i.e., a "good" recovery strategy). However, further analysis of the quality and legitimacy of the consensus revealed some flaws. Furthermore, the ability of teams (and/or recovery implementation groups) to sustain their level of success as they proceed with the development of recovery action plans was put into question.

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