Recovery Strategy for the Black-footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes) in Canada
A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all Species at Risk Act recovery strategies, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (2004). The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making.
Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond their intended benefits. Environmental effects, including impacts to non-target species and the environment, were considered during recovery planning. The SEA is not a separate document, but is incorporated directly into the recovery strategy and is summarized here.
This recovery strategy will benefit the environment by reintroducing and promoting the recovery of the black-footed ferret in an area it had historically occupied. The recovery strategy will also have indirect positive effects. Potential black-tailed prairie dog (Special Concern) colony expansion will increase habitat for species such as the Burrowing Owl (Endangered) and swift fox (Endangered) and increase prey abundance for species such as the Golden Eagle and Ferruginous Hawk (Special Concern). Potential negative effects as a result of the recovery strategy include increased disease potential, decreases in habitat such as sagebrush communities, and destruction of invertebrate communities. The importance of these effects is unknown. There will be significant mortality of black-tailed prairie dogs (Special Concern) due to direct predation by black-footed ferrets and there is also potential for ferret predation on Burrowing Owls (Endangered) and Greater Sage-Grouse (Endangered). However, it is believed that ferrets do not have population level effects on these species in areas of the U.S.
Mitigation of the potential negative effects on species at risk will be addressed by working cooperatively with the affected species recovery teams on a regular basis, and monitoring of ferret activities, diet and habitat use, as well as population monitoring of other species at risk in the reintroduction area. Effects on other species at risk will be closely evaluated and management strategies for the ferrets will be modified if any detrimental effects are detected. Some examples of mitigation measures for other associated species include quarantine and vaccination to reduce the spread of disease, and avoiding the expansion of prairie dog colonies in areas where rare plants occur. Strategies to address potential negative effects will be developed prior to implementing recovery actions and will be included in the ferret action plan. Taking these mitigation measures into account, it is concluded that the plan will not entail any important negative effects.