Notice of permit

Regional or Local Number: SSFU-2015-029-GNP

Notice is hereby given that pursuant to the provisions of section 74 of the Species at Risk Act permit no. SSFU-2015-029-GNP is issued.

Purpose:
Activity affecting the species is incidental to the carrying out of the activity

Description:
Parks Canada is constructing a scenic road with parking areas, viewpoints, connecting walking trails, day use areas and a 3.2 km neighbour/emergency access along the eastern edge of the East Block of Grasslands National Park (GNP). The project will provide basic access to key locations in GNP and meet commitments outlined in GNP’s 2010 Park Management Plan to improve road access, develop interpretive viewing and day-use areas, and to increase infrastructure to enhance visitor experience in this area of the park. The road will be on the upland grasslands between the badlands to the west and privately-owned cultivated fields to the east. The 10.85 km low-profile, asphalt-topped, single lane road (no ditches, road top flush to ground, 3.5 m wide) is designed to accommodate two-way traffic at speeds of 20-30 km/h using a series of laybys for passing (pullover spots) every ~400 m. The road will replace an existing 13 km dirt vehicle trail, portions of which have been maintained as motorized vehicle access trails and other portions as hiking/wagon trails since park acquisition. Prior to park acquisition, past landowners used it for access of pasture lands and fire response for decades. In addition to enhancing visitor experience, the road will address informal vehicle trail use and unauthorized off-roading. Project activities will take place within critical habitat for the Greater Sage-Grouse and Sprague’s Pipit and contravene s.58 of SARA.

Start Date: 2017-07-01   End Date: 2019-10-31

Issuing Authority: Parks Canada Agency

Authority Used:

  • Species at Risk Act
  • Canada National Parks Act

Location of Activity (province, territory or ocean):

  • Saskatchewan

Affected Species:

Pre-Conditions:
ALTERNATIVES: The option of not constructing a road was considered. This was not deemed a reasonable alternative because road development in this area is required to meet park management plan commitments, to facilitate visitor access and discourage informal vehicle trail use and unauthorized off-roading. Alternative locations for the road were considered and the best option for Greater Sage-Grouse and Sprague’s Pipits was chosen. The chosen road alignment is the best alternative because it minimizes impacts to species at risk by avoiding the most suitable habitat, maintaining contiguous patches of native prairie, and running parallel to a natural escarpment, thereby minimizing habitat fragmentation. Additionally, it runs adjacent to the park boundary and cultivated crop land which provides no suitable habitat for either species. Alternative road designs were also considered, including a 2-lane road with ditches. A two-way, single lane road with laybys to allow passing was chosen as the best option. It will incorporate a low-profile design, where the road top is flush to the ground and there are no ditches. It is the best option to minimize impacts to Greater Sage-Grouse and Sprague’s Pipits because it substantially reduces the overall footprint of infrastructure compared to a conventionally constructed road, and maintains a lower visual impact for the birds and more natural contour, allowing infrastructure to blend into the surrounding landscape more effectively. MITIGATIONS: No construction activities or travel to/from the site will occur between 90 minutes before sunset to 90 minutes after sunrise April 1 - May 30 to avoid disturbing Greater Sage-Grouse during lekking times. Ground clearing activities will happen outside of the sensitive breeding window for migratory birds (April 15 - August 15). Vehicles, machinery and equipment will be limited to an 8.25 m buffer surrounding road infrastructure (extending from the edge of the road) and a 2.5 m buffer extending from the centreline of minor infrastructure (viewpoint, walking trails). Staging areas will be limited to existing developments (yard sites, campground, and hardened road surfaces). Areas of sagebrush will be avoided to the extent possible, or mitigations enforced to minimize impact to sagebrush plants. All ground disturbance within the buffer area will be reseeded with a native mix to assist the regeneration of a representative native prairie community and maintained to prevent exotic species from establishing and/or spreading. If any Greater Sage-Grouse leks are found within 3.2 km of the road during operation, the road will be closed to traffic 90 minutes before sunset and until 90 minutes after sunrise, from April 1 – May 30. Speed limits will be posted at 30 km/hr to reduce noise and road mortality. JEOPARDY TO SURVIVAL OR RECOVERY OF THE SPECIES: Greater Sage-Grouse: Achievement of population and distribution objectives within the timeframe set in the Amended Recovery Strategy for the Greater Sage-Grouse in Canada (Government of Canada, 2014) is not expected to be impacted by this project. The residual effects of the project will have a minimal effect on the impacted area’s ability to support life processes of Sage-grouse (lekking, nesting, brood-rearing and wintering) as the area is relatively poor habitat and only likely to support foraging. Additionally, the residual negative impact of the project on sagebrush (primary forage) will be negligible with only a few plants affected. There are no active or historic leks within 3.2 km of the proposed road, and the project is not expected to impact currently active leks or the re-occupancy of historic leks. Less than 0.1% of critical habitat for the Greater Sage-grouse in Canada will be affected by this project. Sprague’s Pipit: Achievement of population and distribution objectives within the timeframe set in the Amended Recovery Strategy for the Sprague’s Pipit in Canada (Environment Canada, 2012) is not expected to be impacted by this project. It is possible that pipit abundance will decrease along this proposed road because pipits have been shown to avoid nesting close to roads. The magnitude of that decrease is unknown, though expert opinion estimates the impact to be minimal. Less than 0.1% of critical habitat for the Sprague’s Pipit in Canada will be affected by this project. While moving forward with the project might result in a small decrease in pipit abundance in the area, it will not likely impact the Park’s ability to achieve the population and distribution objective. HABITAT IMPROVEMENTS FOR GREATER SAGE-GROUSE AND SPRAGUE'S PIPITS IN GENERAL PROJECT AREA:Greater Sage-Grouse: Managed grazing for the maintenance and/or enhancement of valley grasslands habitat to benefit Greater Sage-Grouse in the East Block began in 2014 on 1,100 ha. In 2016, the park started a multi-year collaborative grazing program with park ranching neighbours to increase the total number of valley grasslands managed for Sage-grouse to over 5,500 ha (3,500 ha of those on park lands) by 2017. Other recovery efforts within the park in recent years included the removal of fences to reduce the availability of raptor perches, and marking existing fences to reduce mortality from entanglement with fence wires. Because of these recovery efforts, combined with the chosen road design, location and mitigations, it is expected that the construction and on-going operation of the road will not jeopardize survival or recovery of either species. Sprague’s Pipit: Grasslands National Park has been applying adaptive management techniques in the East Block using grazing to improve both Sage-grouse and Sprague’s Pipit critical habitat condition within larger, more contiguous patches of critical habitat. Managed grazing to maintain and/or enhance Sprague’s Pipit habitat in the East Block started in 2010, and was incorporated into the park’s Adaptive Grazing Management Strategy in 2012, which set targets of resting 30% and lightly grazing 30% of upland grasslands within the park. (Lightly grazed areas are a key habitat requirement for Sprague’s Pipits.)

Contact Person(s)
Parks Canada
Species Conservation and Management
Natural Resource Conservation
Parks Canada
30 Victoria Street 3rd floor
Gatineau, QC
J8X 0B3
Tel: 888-773-8888
Fax: 819-420-9273
pca_sar.registrycomments@pc.gc.ca