Species at Risk
A species is considered to be at risk when it or its habitat is in danger of becoming extinct. This means that it will no longer be found in the wild anywhere that it is normally found. If it is just missing from a portion of its range, it is considered to be extirpated from the area. The seriousness of the threat is usually characterized by other descriptors such as threatened, endangered or special concern. An endangered species is one that will most likely become extinct. Threatened species are at risk of becoming endangered. A special concern species is still considered to be vulnerable, but is not at as great a risk as threatened or endangered.
Tehotiiennawakon’s Environment Program has a long history of working on species at risk. Two staff members, Henry Lickers and Bob Stevenson, were instrumental in the development of the species at risk program for all of Canada. Henry worked on COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) and Bob worked on NACOSAR (National Aboriginal Committee on Species at Risk).
There has been a database set up within the Environment Program using Microsoft Access to aid in the identification of species at risk that could possibly occur within the territorial lands of Akwesasne. Information was gathered from the United States federal government species at risk program, from the states of New York and Vermont, The Canadian federal species at risk program and the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. From further investigation done by various staff members and from the field data of the Environmental Assessment Officers, we were able to estimate that there are around 57 possible species at risk just in the district of Tsisnaihne alone. Proper management of the areas and habitats where the species are located could play a critical role in the survival of these species.
Currently, Tehotiienawakon Environment Program has been approved for a three year species at risk project with funding from Environment Canada’s AFSAR (Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk) and from OPG (Ontario Power Generation). This funding will allow for staff and community volunteers to receive training in the identification of some target species (7 turtles, 2 birds and a frog). Once training is received staff, community volunteers and our partners will then be able to go into the field to identify critical habitat and location of the species. The locations will be mapped using GPS (Global Positioning System) hardware and software. The maps and the information collected from the field work will be used to develop a database that contains actual sightings and locations for the species that are being considered. All the information and research that is being done over this time period will enable the development of a multi-species, multi-habitat management plan. This plan could be adapted by other First Nations and organizations in the development of their multi-species and multi-habitat management plans. This will be the first instance of the development of this type of plan. Usually, a single species and single habitat are investigated for this type of funding.