2024-2025 Program Guide: Habitat Stewardship Program for Aquatic Species at Risk
On this page
- 1 Background
- 2 Program objectives, expected results and priorities
- 3 Eligible recipients
- 4 Eligible species
- 5 Eligible activities
- 6 Project funding and eligible expenses
- 7 Consolidating projects and multi-year funding
- 8 Matching contributions
- 9 Other requirements
- 10 For accepted applications
- 11 How projects are reviewed
- 12 To apply
- Appendix 1: Regional coordinators
- Appendix 2: Regional priorities
Under the Nature Legacy initiative, announced in Budget 2018, the Government of Canada is transforming its approach to species at risk conservation and recovery by shifting to ecosystem-based, multispecies initiatives. This approach includes providing funding towards the protection and recovery of aquatic and terrestrial species at risk. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for aquatic species at risk and supports recovery of these species through various programs, including the Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP).
The HSP, established in 2000, provides funding for projects submitted by Canadians that contribute directly to the recovery objectives and population goals of species at risk. To ensure the HSP is able to achieve its mandate to "contribute to the recovery of endangered, threatened, and other species at risk by engaging Canadians from all walks of life in conservation actions to benefit wildlife”, DFO routinely adjusts the program’s priorities to best address emerging priorities related to aquatic species at risk across Canada.
HSP has 2 platforms for funding:
- Terrestrial Species at Risk Projects – Delivered by Environment and Climate Change Canada
- Aquatic Species at Risk Projects – Delivered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
This document provides general program information about the Habitat Stewardship Program for Aquatic Species at Risk, and information and requirements for making an aquatic Project Application to the HSP for the 2024-2025 funding cycle.
Proposals will be evaluated in the context of the regional and national funding priorities included in this document. Please contact your HSP Regional Coordinator (see Appendix 1) to learn more about specific regional information and priorities.
For general information about the HSP for aquatic species at risk, please consult the Program website.
2 Program objectives, expected results and priorities
The objective of the HSP for Aquatic Species at Risk is to support and promote the conservation and recovery of Aquatic Species at Risk and their habitats by engaging Canadians in projects that will result in tangible and measurable conservation benefits.
Proposed projects have to demonstrate how they align with the objective of the HSP. Further, the proposal has to describe through its own objectives, activities and anticipated outcomes, how it will achieve one or more of the following results:
- important habitatFootnote 1 for aquatic species at risk is improved and/or managed to meet their recovery needs
- threats to aquatic species at risk and/or their habitat are stopped, removed, and/or mitigated
- collaboration and partnerships support the conservation and recovery of aquatic species at risk
The national priorities for the HSP are projects that focus on the implementation of:
- priority activities described in federal recovery strategies, action plans, or management plans
- multiple-species and/or multi-partner projects
- activities that address threats described in federal SAR recovery documents or the committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessment reports
Projects will continue to be evaluated against regional priority species, areas and/or threats listed in Appendix 2. The majority of aquatic funds will go to projects that address these regional priorities.
3 Eligible recipients
Eligible recipients include:
- domestic not-for-profit organizations, such as charitable and volunteer organizations, professional associations, and non-governmental organizations
- domestic Indigenous organizations, governments, Individuals, boards, commissions, communities, associations and authorities, including:
- indigenous not-for-profit organizations
- District councils, Chiefs councils and Tribal councils
- indigenous research, academic and educational institutions
- indigenous for-profit organizations
- domestic research, academic and educational institutions
- canadian individuals
- domestic for-profit organizations, such as small businesses with less than 500 employees, companies, corporations, and industry associations
- local organizations such as community associations and groups, seniors’ and youth groups, and service clubs
- provincial, territorial, municipal and local governments and their agencies (e.g. Crown corporations)
Federal departments, agencies and federal Crown corporations are not eligible to receive HSP funds.
4 Eligible species
Only proposed projects targeting aquatic species at risk listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) or assessed as Endangered, Threatened and of Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) will be eligible for funding. Preference will be given to projects that target SAR listed on Schedule 1 of SARA.
For the most up-to-date list of species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA, as well as their recovery strategies, action plans and management plans, please consult the Species at Risk Public Registry.
5 Eligible activities
The following are the eligible HSP activity categories, for each you will find examples of potential activities as they pertain to SAR. Activities that fall outside of these categories are subject to approval. You should consult your HSP Regional Coordinator if you would like to undertake activities other than those listed below.
- Habitat Improvement: Enhancing or restoring habitat of SAR; changing land/water management or land/water use practices to benefit SAR and improve habitat quality.
- Restoration, enhancement and/or management of SAR habitat
- Removing or preventing the spreading of exotics/invasive species in the habitat of, in the immediate area of, and for the direct benefit of a known SAR
- Implementation of beneficial management practices or water use guidelines
- Human Impact Mitigation: Direct intervention for SAR under immediate threat from human activity or proactive/preventative activities.
- Prevention of damage to SAR habitats (e.g. educational signage)
- Prevention of harm to SAR (excluding disentanglement of marine mammals)
- Application of modified or new technology to prevent accidental harm (e.g., using modified harvesting methods to reduce incidental take of SAR)
- Program Planning and Development: Developing SAR conservation strategies, use guidelines/best practices, and planning the implementation of stewardship programs, including target audience engagement strategies.
- Development of SAR conservation strategies to improve habitat and reduce threats
- Planning of stewardship programs, including target audience engagement strategies
- Compilation and dissemination of resource use guidelines and beneficial management practices
- Surveys, Inventories and Monitoring: Activities such as identifying potential sites for habitat restoration; or assessing the presence of a SAR and its habitat in order to target, design and carry out a current (or future) stewardship project.
These activities will only be funded if they are part of a larger stewardship project that is clearly defined in the proposal and that will be implemented within the next 2 years.*
- Identifying potential sites for habitat restoration; includes mapping and analysis (needed to support SAR stewardship activities)
- Assessing the presence of SAR through surveying and/or monitoring
- Creation and/or maintenance of inventories or databases for habitat and species data
- Collection of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as part of a more comprehensive project incorporating collection of multiple types of knowledge (e.g., TEK, local knowledge, scientific data)
*Note: The Application Form enables you to demonstrate how your surveys, inventories and monitoring activities will lead to conservation of the species’ habitat within the two-year time frame.
- Project and Program Evaluation: Assess the social and biological results and effectiveness of stewardship activities.
- Conduct project or program results assessment(s)
- Outreach: Providing information to appropriate target audiences on specific actions to be taken to protect SAR; raising awareness about SAR conservation needs; educating resource users about alternative methods that minimize impacts on SAR and their habitat; promoting stewardship at the community level to improve attitudes and change behaviour.
- The activity should lead to direct SAR recovery action; general outreach or non-targeted activities are not eligible.*
- Development of targeted outreach materials emphasizing the importance of SAR and the benefits of the action to be undertaken
- Training of individuals/community members in stewardship practices related to SAR
- Informing and engaging community members/target audiences (e.g., land managers, fishers, resources users) about their role in SAR recovery
*Note: The Application Form enables you to demonstrate how your outreach activity will lead to on-the-ground recovery action.
- For species with draft or completed federal SAR recovery strategies, action plans or management plans, or COSEWIC assessment reports, activities must be closely linked to prescribed recovery actions or to threats as identified in COSEWIC assessment reports.
- Activities under the outreach category must clearly demonstrate that they are focused and targeted on achieving the goals of recovery for target SAR.
- The creation of promotional merchandise (such as hats or mugs) is not eligible for HSP funding.
- Any proposed outreach or awareness-building activity will need to be framed as a necessary component of a larger project plan, unless they are sufficiently targeted and well supported to stand alone. Project proposals will need to describe in detail how each outreach activity will lead to action in implementing on-the-ground species recovery and include a plan for measuring the implementation, either within the time frame of the project, or within a defined period afterward.
- Scientific research activities, captive breeding, captive rearing, fish hatcheries, aquaculture activities and extirpated species reintroductions, the development of federal SAR recovery strategies or action plans, including the identification of critical habitat (as required under SARA) are NOT eligible for HSP funding.
6 Project funding and eligible expenses
The HSP for Aquatic Species at Risk has an approximate annual national budget of $4M. Funding is variable and dependant on project activities. In an effort to promote collaboration and multi-year projects, the suggested minimum funding request to HSP is $25,000 (this amount may be spread over one or up to three years of a project). The Program does not have a maximum funding limit. However, typical HSP contributions can range from $25,000 to $100,000.
Please contact your HSP Regional Coordinator if you have questions on the minimum funding amounts.
Eligible costs include reasonable and properly itemized costs, directly related to the eligible projects/activities, for:
- salaries and wages and employer mandatory benefits
- professional and technical services
- training materials
- construction and related costs
- purchase or rental of machinery and equipment
- maintenance and repair
- purchase or rental of vehicles
- materials and supplies
- printing, publishing
- telecommunications, communications/network, data communication, image/video communications services
- postage, parcel post, courier services,
- rental of facilities
- travel, including accommodation, meals, and allowances, based on National Joint Council NJC Directive on Travel
- insurance expenses related to activities under the Agreement
- conferences, workshops and meetings
- monitoring and reporting
- hospitality and related expenses in compliance with the Directive on Travel, Hospitality, Conference and Event Expenditures
- further distribution of funding to an agency or a third party
- ceremonial costs including services, where the funding recipient is an Indigenous group that: because the group possesses Indigenous knowledge relevant to the initiative; or where the recipient provides services to support consultation on impacts on potential or established rights or title
- honoraria for Elders, or Indigenous knowledge holders in recognition of providing Indigenous knowledge or community knowledge relevant to the initiative
- any GST/HST that is not reimbursable by the Canada Revenue Agency and any PST not reimbursable by the provinces
- administrative overhead up to 10% of the overall program funding amount
Any other expenses are considered ineligible unless specifically approved in writing by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
Further disbursement of funding to final recipients
Those organizations wishing to coordinate work for a specific species or threats, or within a certain geographic area may wish to consider a further disbursement of project funds to partners or other qualified organizations/companies to undertake the work. A further disbursement project is one where a recipient distributes funds to third parties by means of their own competitive contribution-type program and agreements. However, when a recipient delegates authority or further distributes contribution funding to an agency or a third party (such as an authority, board, committee, or other entity authorized to act on behalf of the recipient), the recipient remains liable to the Department for the performance of its obligations under the funding agreement. Neither the objectives of the programs and services nor the expectations of transparent, fair and equitable services shall be compromised by any delegation or redistribution of contribution funding. Please contact your HSP Regional Coordinator for further details.
- GST/HST is an eligible project expenditure, therefore DFO may reimburse recipients for the taxes they paid while undertaking the activities of the agreement. The amount of DFO’s contribution includes the reimbursement for GST/HST. For example, if DFO’s contribution is $25,000, this $25,000 includes DFO’s reimbursement for all eligible expenditures including GST/HST. DFO will not reimburse the recipient $25,000 plus GST/HST; the $25,000 is all-inclusive.
- Costs, other than those identified herein, are ineligible unless specifically approved in writing by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans or his or her delegate at the time of project approval and are necessary for the successful completion of the project.
7 Consolidating projects and multi-year funding
If an applicant wishes to submit more than one project under the HSP, it is encouraged to consolidate multiple, small proposals on the same target species or in the same area into a single, large application that outlines the different priority activities.
Projects are administered at the regional scale. Applicants whose project crosses regional boundaries should identify a primary region based on where the majority of activities will take place.
Multi-year project proposals are encouraged because they consider the longer-term conservation outcome and, once approved, offer assurance of funding from one year to the next, provided the project remains on track.
Current recipients of HSP multi-year funding can apply to receive additional HSP funding to undertake new and additional activities as part of their current project. Contact your HSP Regional Coordinator for details.
8 Matching contributions
You must obtain contributions of non-federal support (cash and/or in-kind) to obtain HSP funds.
- Provincial agencies, non-governmental organizations, private landowners, the private sector, and you, the applicant, are all eligible sources of matching funds.
- For non-Indigenous groups and organizations, a minimum of 1:1 matching contributions (from non-federal sources) is required ($1 cash or in-kind non-federal match for $1 federal supportFootnote 2). However, preference will be given to projects with matching contributions in excess of 1:1 and to projects with higher cash-matching contributions in relation to in-kind contributions.
- For Indigenous groups and organizations, a minimum of twenty percent (20%) matching contributions (from non-federal sources) is required ($0.20 cash or in-kind non-federal match for $1.00 federal support).
- For multi-year projects, the program’s requirement for matching contributions is based on the ability of the applicant to obtain that support over the entire length of the project, and approval is not contingent on securement of all matching funds up front.Footnote 3
- Federal funds (e.g., EcoAction, Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk [AFSAR] and federal funds administered by third-party non-governmental organizations) are NOT eligible as matches for HSP funding.
- Please note that Band contributions are considered as eligible sources of matching contributions. The Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Ocean Management (AAROM) program contributions are also considered as eligible sources of matching contributions.
- All proposed contributions must be listed in your proposal. If your HSP application is successful, all confirmed contributions must be identified in the Contribution Agreement you will sign with DFO. If you are not sure where the funding will come from precisely at the time of application, you can specify “Anticipated funding from other project funders.”
- Examples of in-kind resources are equipment loans, donations of building materials and volunteer labour. In-kind costs should be associated only with the portion used in the project, not the total cost of the materials and supplies. For specifics on the eligibility of and limitations on in-kind resources, please contact your HSP Regional Coordinator (Appendix 1).
9 Other requirements
Funds cannot be used for activities on federal lands (e.g., National Parks, National Wildlife Areas); however, First Nation Reserve lands are considered eligible lands under the HSP .
Impact Assessment Act (S.C. 2019, c. 28, s. 1)
The Impact Assessment Act requires departments to determine whether the carrying-out of a project on federal lands (e.g., First Nation Reserve lands in the case of HSP) is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. Consult your HSP Regional Coordinator to help you evaluate whether the consideration of the environmental effects of a project may be required under the Impact Assessment Act.
Overlap with other federal funding programs
Any individual expense within a specific project can only be funded through one specific federal program. This does not preclude different federal funding program such as AFSAR, Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Fund, and EcoAction from supporting your initiative. However, it does mean that a project cannot have two separate funding programs funding the same expense (e.g., HSP and AFSAR funding the purchase of the same equipment).
10 For accepted applications
Once you have received confirmation of approval of your project, you will be required to submit additional information, including but not limited to the following:
Cash flow statement
You will be required to develop a detailed cash flow statement for all HSP expenditures that are part of the approved project.
The Contribution Agreement, between you or your organization and DFO, will specify project report deadlines and will include the required forms. You may be required to provide regular progress reports in addition to annual reports for multi-year projects as well as a final report at the end. These reports will describe your project revenue, expenses, and accomplishments of the project towards direct and intermediate outcomes.
Outcomes and accomplishments must be reported using the performance indicators identified in the Contribution Agreement. It is important to note that different projects may have different reporting requirements. Your HSP Regional Coordinator will advise you on specific reporting requirements.
Species at Risk survey data sharing
You will be required to provide species occurrence or habitat data collected using HSP funds to your provincial/territorial wildlife data repository centre and to DFO, if relevant to your project. Your HSP Regional Coordinator can inform you of the necessary procedures.
Intellectual property rights
Any intellectual property that you create as part of this project remains your property. However the Government of Canada retains the right to utilize the intellectual property for government, non-commercial purposes without cost.
You will be responsible for obtaining the appropriate permits associated with your project from relevant federal and/or provincial authorities (including those required under SARA, the Fisheries Act, and any other provincial wildlife acts that may apply) wherever your project triggers the need for a permit (e.g., it could impact SAR). For more information, please refer to DFO’s Permiting under SARA website.
As permits take time to arrange, you should address this need several months before the project start date to reduce delays once a funding announcement is made (consult your HSP Regional Coordinator (Appendix 1)).
You are responsible to provide HSP Regional Coordinators with copies of any document or material utilizing the Government of Canada (GC) identifier, Canada wordmark and/or acknowledgement statements prior to printing or distribution, for HSP Regional Coordinator approval of the use of said logos and/or acknowledgement statements. The HSP Regional Coordinator (Appendix 1) will need to be consulted prior to making any communications products such as publications, public information releases, advertising, promotional announcements, activities, speeches, lectures, interviews, ceremonies and websites. All such communications products originating from your project must acknowledge the GC’s contribution by displaying the GC identifier with the public acknowledgement text, along with the Canada wordmark.
For restoration projects with on-the-ground work, a sign must be placed at the Project site(s) acknowledging the funding provided by DFO.
The Official Languages Act (Part VII) requires that the Government of Canada promote both official languages and enhance the vitality of Official Language Minority Communities (OLMC) across Canada. It is recognized that projects or organizations funded by DFO through a grants and contributions program may:
- have an impact on OLMC
- provide potential opportunities to promote the use of both English and French
- make it possible to promote Canada’s bilingual nature.
Applicants whose project may be delivered in a geographic area with OLMCs or which includes any public events, signage, promotional or other communications may need to consider official language requirements, for example:
- offer materials produced with project fundsbrochures, kits, handouts, newsletters, reports, etc.) in both official languages
- have directional and educational signs produced in both official languages
- offer workshop facilitation in both official languages
Any cost related to official language translation is an eligible cost under the program.
Applicants should discuss any potential official language requirements and opportunities with their HSP Regional Coordinator.
11 How projects are reviewed
As the demand for funding from the HSP regularly exceeds the funds available, there is no guarantee that your project will be funded. Every effort will be made to provide you with the earliest possible notice once a decision has been made. Applicants are strongly encouraged to work with their HSP Regional Coordinators and submit an Expression of Interest (EOI), to ensure projects align with program requirements. In addition, applicants are encouraged to contact and involve Recovery Experts or to refer to Recovery Documents as early as possible in the planning stages of the project.
Regional Advisory Committees review project proposals based on a range of considerations:
- Program objectives:
- eligibility requirements for i) applicants, ii) activities, iii) expenses, iv) matching funds; and v) species
- alignment with regional priorities for the region where the work is to take place
- alignment with the program’s national priorities
- Quality criteria:
- links to conservation activities identified in recovery strategies/action plans for endangered or threatened species, or management plans for species of special concern, where these documents exist
- applicant’s ability to plan, manage and complete projects successfully (e.g., description of the issues and solutions to be implemented)
- appropriateness of budget and schedules. These must be realistic given the time frame and objectives of the project
- clarity, conciseness and quality of the application
- other funding sources (matching contributions) and the respective amounts or demonstration of the applicant’s ability to raise funds from non-federal sources
- implementation of evaluation and performance measures
- coordination with other habitat conservation programs, for both recovery actions and cost-efficiency
- other regional considerations
Proposal evaluation criteria
Eligible applications will be evaluated and prioritized using the following criteria:
- 60% for alignment with program objectives, including national and regional priorities, and biological value
- 40% for the organization’s capacity to implement and administer the project (managing, achieving objectives and results and meeting financial requirements)
The ability of applicants to complete all reporting and administration requirements under the HSP will be considered during the evaluation. To this end project evaluators will consider past performance in meeting reporting and administration deadlines under HSP or other DFO contribution programs. Inability to complete these reporting requirements may factor into an applicant not being selected for funding.
A high-quality project is one that:
- addresses and delivers stewardship directly related to the regional priorities
- addresses national priorities
- integrates with and supports other existing stewardship programs
- implements high-priority stewardship activities listed in federal SAR recovery strategies and action plans or threats identified in COSEWIC assessment reports
- addresses a regional priority species, threat or takes place in a regional priority area
- benefits multiple species, listed under SARA and/or assessed by COSEWIC
- was developed with the involvement of recovery expert(s) for the target SAR and/or with the understanding of recovery activities outlined in recovery documents
- for non-Indigenous groups and organizations, has secured a minimum of 1:1 matching contributions (from non-federal sources) ($1 cash or in-kind non-federal match for $1 federal support)
- for Indigenous groups and organizations, has secured a minimum of twenty percent (20%) matching contributions (from non-federal sources) ($0.20 cash or in-kind non-federal match for $1.00 federal support)
- has a proposal presented in a clear and logical manner
- has a well-developed workplan
- has a plan to measure project results
- demonstrates a high degree of local and regional support from a variety of partners
- involves individuals and communities with local experience/knowledge; and
- has a high likelihood of success based on applicant experience and realistic deliverables
12. To apply
The entire application process, from submission of an Expression of Interest to the signing of a legal Contribution Agreement, can take 6 months or more. This includes time for the review of expressions of interest, submission and assessment of full proposals, approvals, and negotiation of legal funding agreements. This process can be longer or shorter, depending on the number and complexity of applications received, the level of completeness of the application and/or proposal, and the timeliness of your responses to our requests for additional information. Provision of funding is processed upon a Contribution Agreement being signed by your organization and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).
See the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk 2024-2025 Call for Proposals for specific deadlines.
Expression of Interest
Prior to submitting a complete proposal to the HSP, applicants are encouraged to submit an Expression of interest (EOI). The EOI is not mandatory but will give you the opportunity to discuss and receive feedback on your project and to verify that it is aligned with national and regional priorities and program expected results.
This process will improve the quality of the proposal, but does NOT guarantee that the project will receive funding. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact their HSP Regional Coordinator during the EOI phase. All EOIs must be submitted by the EOI deadline, November 10, 2023 (closing at 11:59 pm for your region). Early submissions are encouraged.
To apply to the HSP, the Application Form can be downloaded from DFO’s HSP for Aquatic Species at Risk website. Should you have any difficulty downloading the application form, or wish to discuss your application please contact your HSP Regional Coordinator (Appendix 1). Completed applications must be submitted via email to the relevant HSP Regional Coordinator.
Please note that extensions to the application deadline will NOT be granted for any reason.
Due to Government of Canada policy, communication with applicants regarding proposal status during the project review and selection phase is prohibited until the final administrative approvals have been granted. All eligible applicants will receive an official funding decision notification letter, and negotiation of Contribution Agreements will follow with successful applicants.
Please see the following websites for additional information that may be useful for your application:
- Habitat Stewardship Program for Aquatic Species at Risk
- List of Species at Risk listed on Schedule 1 of SARA and/or not listed under SARA
- List of Species at Risk recovery strategies, action plans, and management plans
- COSEWIC Status Reports
- DFO’s SARA Permitting information
If you have any further questions, please contact your HSP Regional Coordinator (Appendix 1). Please note that HSP Regional Coordinators are only available to answer questions during regular business hours, local time.
Appendix 1: Regional coordinators
Newfoundland and LabradorLynette Mulley
Ontario and PrairieKristie Pearce
Appendix 2: Regional priorities
|Newfoundland and Labrador||
Ontario and Prairie
Ontario and Prairie
(Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta)
(Northwest Territories and Nunavut)
||All aquatic habitat (marine and freshwater) within DFO Pacific Region||
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