Mr. Speaker, with regard to part (a), the black-tailed prairie dog, Cynomys ludovicianus, is listed as threatened on schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act, as recommended by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Its status is based on the threat of increased drought and sylvatic plague, which are expected to cause significant population declines if they occur frequently. Drought is expected to increase in frequency due to a changing climate. Although most of the Canadian population of the species is within Grasslands National Park, it is isolated and has no connectivity between or with other populations, all of which are in the United States. The national recovery of species at risk is determined based on whether population and distribution objectives are met as outlined in federal recovery strategies. The population and distribution objectives can be found in the Recovery Strategy and Action Plan for the Black-tailed Prairie Dog in Canada, found on the following web page: https://wildlife-species.canada.ca/species-risk-registry/virtual_sara/files/plans/Rsap-Btpd-v00-2021Aug-Eng1.pdf
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada status assessments are determined by using quantitative criteria that are based on International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List criteria. Reaching a particular population threshold alone will not reduce the level of risk for the black-tailed prairie dog in Canada in part because they are found in a single small area and are isolated from the nearest populations found in the United States, thus the entire Canadian population could be critically impacted by threats.
With regard to part (b), when the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, which is an arm’s length group of experts, assesses species in Canada, it examines neighbouring populations. It considers whether the other population can “rescue” the Canadian population. Rescue can only take place if individuals from the foreign population can join the Canadian one. In this case, the nearest United States black-tailed prairie dog colony was too far away to do so.
Canada applies the Species at Risk Act found at https://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/s-15.3/ with the goal of maintaining our country’s biodiversity, recognizing that the rate at which wildlife disappears from our planet will only be slowed if the world’s governments take responsibility for the species within their own borders.
With regard to part (c), yes, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and the federal government considered these things before identifying that this species’ status under schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act should be changed from special concern to threatened.
With regard to part (d), from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2023, approximately $129,000 was spent.
With regard to part (e), the Recovery Strategy and Action Plan for the Black-tailed Prairie Dog in Canada, posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry, found at https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/species-risk-public-registry.html in 2021, identifies the population and distribution objectives that will assist in the recovery of the species, and actions that can be taken to reach these objectives. A report on the progress towards meeting these objectives is required under section 46 of the Species at Risk Act and will be posted on the Species at Risk Registry in 2026.
With regard to part (f), progress towards the recovery of black-tailed prairie dogs within Grasslands National Park, and recovery measures that were implemented from 2016 to 2021, is outlined in the Implementation Report: Multi-species Action Plan for Grasslands National Park, found at https://wildlife-species.canada.ca/species-risk-registry/virtual_sara/files/Rprdi-PnpGnp-v00-2021Dec-Eng.pdf.
With regard to part (g)(i), Parks Canada is unable to comment on any adverse effects on private property in the vicinity of Grasslands National Park, in part because we do not have any information on the distribution or numbers of prairie dogs found outside the national park boundary.
With regard to part (g)(ii), Black-tailed prairie dogs are a keystone species in the prairie ecosystem. Their benefits to the ecosystem are numerous, and include aerating the soil, providing habitat and burrows for other species such as burrowing owls, endangered, and prairie rattlesnake, special concern. Their burrows provide refuge for birds, amphibians and small mammals from predators and extreme seasonal temperatures. Sustainable black-tailed prairie dog populations are also critical, as identified within the Recovery Strategy for the Black-footed Ferret in Canada, as a species that is currently extirpated from Canada, listed as endangered in the United States and classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Black-tailed prairie dogs are food for predators including coyotes, badgers, golden eagles, ferruginous hawks, and red-tailed hawks. Adverse impacts of black-tailed prairie dogs have not been extensively studied; however, the implementation of dusting colonies on a rotational basis to manage sylvatic plague can have negative impacts on local invertebrate and amphibian communities.