So it (still) goes in in Nova Scotia in 2019
Bear River author/naturalist Scott Leslie was interviewed on CBC’s Information Morning NS today about his discovery of the Little Brown Bat at the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest (view NSFN Post July 17, 2019). An ‘abbreviated transcript’ of the interview is appended below.
Scott explained how he detected Little Brown Bat and how the Corbett Lake forest provides critical habitat for the bat.
While L&F Minister Iain Rankin put a temporary hold on logging following Scott’s earlier discovery that endangered Chimney Swifts nest in the forest, Scott is concerned that ‘after those birds raise their young and leave the forest… it will be heavily logged despite the fact that it is also home to the Little Brown Bat’.
The Little Brown Bat is a SAR (Species at Risk) federally and in NS, and you would think that would be enough to protect its habitat. However Scott was told that ‘the [federal] Species at Risk Act can only protect animals, in this case the bats, if they are on federal land, and of course this is not federal land.’
I was dumfounded by that statement, and asked Scott if he could forward the related correspondence, which he did – it’s attached below. Here, evidently, is the relevant section of the Act:
Measures to Protect Listed Wildlife Species
…Damage or destruction of residence
33 No person shall damage or destroy the residence of one or more individuals of a wildlife species that is listed as an endangered species or a threatened species, or that is listed as an extirpated species if a recovery strategy has recommended the reintroduction of the species into the wild in Canada.
Marginal note:Application — certain species in provinces
34 (1) With respect to individuals of a listed wildlife species that is not an aquatic species or a species of birds that are migratory birds protected by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, sections 32 and 33 do not apply in lands in a province that are not federal lands unless an order is made under subsection (2) to provide that they apply.
On the provincial side, Scott was told by Nova Scotia L&F that ” legally there is nothing they can do… the law only protects the caves that the bats roost in, they hibernate in these caves during the winter..as far as the critical habitat that is required the rest of the year, there is very little they can do.”
So where does this legalese leave this critically endangered species at the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest and the forest itself? It is important habitat for many species and as an Old Growth hardwood forest or at least possessing many features of Old Growth*, now so rare in NS and especially rare in the Annapolis Valley (view Post July 17, 2019).
*L&F has said the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest does not qualify as Old Growth, but has not issued a report as it did in relation to the Loon lake area Old Growth, so we do not know why it didn’t make the grade.
One would think that federal and provincial civil servants responsible for Species at Risk would on their own take initiatives to address issues of the sort Scott Leslie has raised – in this case, the lack of legal habitat protection for this critically endangered species for the eight or so months that it is not in hibernacula. However, there is no indication that is happening.
Indeed, the Auditor-General for NS noted on March 26, 2019, that zero of five of the recommendations from their 2016 audit of species at risk (under then DNR, now L&F) had been completed, those being
• establish recovery teams, and develop and review recovery and management plans for species at risk, as required under the Endangered Species Act
• implement a process for communicating with recovery teams, including the method of communication and response time. Natural Resources management should tell teams how they plan to address the concerns teams identify or why changes will not be made
• review all species listed in the Endangered Species Regulations and amend or develop appropriate practices, as guided by recovery plans, to protect their habitat
• create a comprehensive monitoring program for all species at risk and ensure monitoring activities are clearly communicated and completed as planned
• establish detailed action plans with measurable outcomes to implement its biodiversity strategy. Plans should specify what needs to be done, when, and expected results
These recommendations are directly pertinent to the Little Brown Bat and as Scott was told, there is no exception to the A-G’s critique when it comes to Little Brown Bat, i.e. there is no recovery team or recovery plan for Little Brown Bat at the provincial (NS) level.
So the Feds long ago kicked the ball to the province, and the province has done nothing.
In the meantime, the province is touting its proposed Biodiversity Act as the first of its kind in Canada. From my understanding of the purpose of the Act, it would be tailor-made to address precisely the issue identified through the interview with Scott Leslie, i.e. to enable legislation where exiting legislation fails to address critical biodiversity issues.* But that’s not likely to happen in time to save the habitat for Little Brown Bat at the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest if, as expected, logging resumes once the nesting season is over.
*Minister Rankin has even “pointed to bats as an example of a species that could have benefited from protection sooner before they reached a critical situation”, which I also heard from L&F staff at the recent consultations.
Not to mention that even if the Biodiversity Act were passed and some specific regulations to protect Little Brown Bat were contemplated, it would come under the aegis of Lands and Forestry. That’s the same department and the same minister who manage forestry on Crown lands and have stuck adamantly to their approval of WestFor’s plan to log the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood forest: the mounting evidence of its Old Growth features and importance to wildlife – and to local residents and the County – have garnered only a pause, not a cessation, of logging. A Conflict of Interest perhaps.
So it (still) goes in in Nova Scotia in 2019.
Related Posts on NSFN
– Scott Leslie’s “backgrounder” video on the Corbett-Lake Old Growth Forest, Little Brown Bat added to SAR residents 17July 2019
After viewing Scott Leslie’s Video, I had one big question: What DOES it take for a site to be protected as Old Growth in Nova Scotia?
– Nova Scotia’s Old Growth Ground Zero: the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest 17July2019
The Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest in Annapolis Co. is essentially Ground Zero in the struggle to save Nova Scotia’s Old Growth in 2019
Correspondence of Scott Leslie with Andrew Boyne, Head – Conservation Planning for Environment and Climate Change Canada
——— Original Message ———
From: SCOTT LESLIE
Sent: July 26, 2019 11:26 AM
To: Boyne, Andrew
Subject: urgent: bats at Corbett Lake Site Annapolis County
Dear Mr. Boyne,
I have recently in late June discovered what I believe are little brown bats at the threatened by logging Corbett-Dalhousie Lakes old growth site in Annapolis County. I used a Wildlife Acoustics bat detector and got several “hits” and recordings of the bats at the site. The auto ID function of the software with the detector eventually identified them as little brown myotis, after first saying they were eastern red bats (which are exceedingly rare here as you know). I spoke to someone (a younger women named Lori who called me back about my report) at the MTRI after reporting this to the batconservation.ca site. She said that the calls were most likely little brown bat, given the rarity of eastern red bats.
Anyway, endangered (SARA and provincially) little brown bats are very likely there. The habitat in the old growth of the site contains a lot of very large hollow trees which could quite possibly be maternal and roosting sites. Cutting of the site is imminent this coming fall (the Minister of LF announced that the cutting scheduled for summer would be postponed until the fall). I am very worried that logging the site would destroy important endangered species habitat (chimney swifts have also been repeatedly seen at the site). With the little brown myotis being so endangered (as you would be well aware) I feel that that CWS should in the very least investigate the situation with this species at Corbett Lake. I believe it is your responsibility to do so.
If you would like to hear one of the recordings I made of the bats at the site (I made three of them) please visit the NSForestnotes.ca site. Here is the link to the posting with the sound recording:
Please listen to the recording!
——— Original Message ———
Subject: RE: urgent: bats at Corbett Lake Site Annapolis County
From: “Boyne, Andrew
Date: 7/26/19 3:31 pm
To: Scott Leslie
Thank you very much for your email and your interest in the conservation of bats in Nova Scotia. The federal Species at Risk Act provides protection to federal species at risk (Migratory Birds and aquatic species under the Fisheries Act) everywhere, and all species at risk on federal land. The federal government relies on the provinces and territories to provide protection for species on non-federal land, which is the case in the situation you have outlined. The federal government does not have a regulatory role in the protection of bats in this instance.
I encourage you to reach out to the biodiversity program with the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry (902-679-6091) as they are the lead on the protection of bats on provincial crown and private land, and, as you point out, they are also responsible for managing Nova Scotia’s forests.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions or seek clarification.
Head, Conservation Planning / Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment and Climate Change Canada / Government of Canada
firstname.lastname@example.org / Tel: 902-426-1900 / Cell: 902-225-7563
Chef, Planification espèces sauvages / Service canadien de la faune
Environnement et Changement climatique Canada / Gouvernement du Canada
email@example.com / Tél. : 902-426-1900 / Tél. cell : 902-225-7563
Abbreviated Transcript for Information Morning Nova Scotia 7/31/2019: Protecting the Little Brown Bat (Audio)
“A naturalist is shocked that neither the federal nor provincial government plans to save a forest where the endangered Little Brown Bat likely nests and raises its young. Naturalist Scott Leslie fears the forest will be heavily logged.”
CBC: If you listen carefully you will hear the sounds of the Little Brown Bat recorded a few weeks ago on Scott Leslie’s’ Bat Detection Meter. [Audio of Little Brown Bat inserted]. That’ s the endangered Little Brown Bat.
Scott Leslie’s’ recorded the bat in a Crown forest between Dalhosuie and Corbett lakes in Annapolis Co., the same forest where earlier this month, the MInister of Lands and Forestry temporarily halted logging operations. The moves comes after Scott Leslie discovered that endangered Chimney Swifts nest in the forest and reported his findings to the province.
But after those birds raise their young and leave the forest, Scott fears it will be heavily logged despite the fact that it is also home to the Little Brown Bat. Scott leslie joins me on the line…. I have to ask you how does the Bat Detection Meter work?
Scott Leslie: It’s an ultrasonic microphone and software that is able to record the very high frequency calls that bats make. And then there is a conversion to a frequency we can hear as humans.
CBC: What is about the forest that makes it a good habitat for Little Brown Bat?
Scott Leslie: Primarily that it is an Old Growth forest. Bats, Chimney Swifts and all kinds of biodiversity depend on Old Growth forest, and in particular the bats need roosting trees which are big old dead standing hollow trees to spend the night in and also to raise their young.
CBC: And when you came across the bats, how many did you find?
Scott Leslie: Probably just a handful, maybe 3 ro 4 maybe 5….it’s not likely you would find more than that now because that bat has declined so much it is quite rare.
CBC: How significant is the discovery given that they are listed by the federal and provincial governments as endangered?
Scott Leslie: I guess it’s significant because the Little Brown Bat, which is a mammal, has a very slow reproductive rate, only 1 young every year…and it takes them a long slow recovery period for the population to bounce back, and this bat is down to just a few percent of what it once was even 9 years ago.
So having places like Corbett Lake Old Growth is very important because if you don’t have habitat for roosting where will they live and they are so close to extinction already.
CBC: You reported your bat discovery to Environment and Climate Change Canada. What was the response you received?
Scott Leslie: Basically I got..from them… the response was the SAR Act can only protect animals, in this case the bats, if they are on federal land, and of course this is not federal land, so it is pretty disappointing that the national endangered species act is so limited.
CBC: How about from the province?
Scott Leslie: I have reported on this both on the provincial bat reporting website, batconservation.ca, and also through several e-mails and phone calls to provincial officials starting a few weeks ago, and actually I just heard back from the province yesterday, from the Widllife Division.
CBC: What did you hear?
Scott Leslie: Basically they told me that legally there is nothing they can do… the law only protects the caves that the bats roost in, they hibernate in these caves during the winter..as far as the critical habitat that is required the rest of the year, there is very little they can do.
CBC: What to do you make of what you heard?
It is disappointing, especially disappointing as this little forest is only 20 ha, it’s that last really good habitat of its kind in the area, around those lakes, there has been a lot of cutting up here.. it’s also within Premier McNeil’s riding…so you know, it’s just disappointing.. because this is a a species that could end up being one of the first species to go extinct [in NS] since the Caribou went extinct over 100 years ago.
CBC: So the province told you they don’t have a recovery team or plan… why would that be so important?
Scott Leslie: A recovery plan is obviously very important for any endangered species but especially for a species such as bats, the bat species that are endangered in the province because as I mentioned earlier, the population can grow only very slowly where they have only one young every 12 months
So looking into the future and setting out a plan to protect habitat for them is extra important because it will take a lot of work to bring them back from the brink of extinction.
CBC: Scott Leslie, thanks for your time…. Scott Leslie is a naturalist and author in Bear River.