Kootenay Boundary Wildlife Habitat Features Order Frequently Asked Questions

The following information addresses common issues raised by forest and range practitioners concerning the Government Actions Regulation Order for the Kootenay Boundary region to identify wildlife habitat features (hereafter referred to as “the Order”).

  1. When does the Order take effect?
  2. Who will be affected by this Order?
  3. Will the Order apply to a person cutting firewood?
  4. Will the Order apply to permits in place before the Order was established?
  5. Does this Order apply to other industry sectors?
  6. What are forest or range agreement holders required to do under the Order?
  7. What does the phrase “…not damage or render ineffective a wildlife habitat feature” mean?
  8. What reporting requirements are associated with wildlife habitat features?
  9. Why is this Order necessary?
  10. How were the wildlife habitat features listed in the Order selected?
  11. Why are bat hibernacula and bat maternity roosts included as wildlife habitat features?
  12. Will the Order include more wildlife habitat features in the future?
  13. Where do I find location information for known wildlife habitat features?
  14. Under the Government Actions Regulation, the Minister may identify features for special management. What is meant by “special management”?
  15. Does the Order meet Government Actions Regulation tests for potential socio-economic impacts?
  16. Another act already provides special management practices that may protect a wildlife habitat feature in my cutting or range use area. Do I need to do anything more?
  17. Will I need to conduct special surveys or inventories to identify and manage these features?
  18. How do I determine which species of cavity user is associated with a nest tree?
  19. When managing forest and range activities around these features, what role does the Wildlife Habitat Features Field Guide play?
  20. How long must I protect wildlife habitat features under the Order?
  21. When protecting nests as wildlife habitat features, does overlap or redundancy occur between Wildlife Act and Forest and Range Practices Act requirements?
  22. How do Forest and Range Practice Act regulatory notices relate to identifying or managing wildlife habitat features?
  23. Will wildlife habitat features undergo monitoring?
  24. Are opportunities available for exemptions under the Order?

1. When will the Order take effect?

The Order takes effect on July 01, 2018. 

2. Who will be affected by this Order?

This Order applies to both Forest Act and Range Act agreement holders.

The following Forest Act agreements will be affected:

  • tree farm licences (private and Crown land)
  • community forest agreements (private and Crown land)
  • First Nations woodland licences (private and Crown land)
  • woodlot licences (private and Crown land)
  • forest licences
  • timber licences
  • community salvage licences
  • licences to cut
  • free use permits
  • Christmas tree permits
  • road permits
  • timber sale licences
  • forestry licences to cut

The following Range Act agreements will be affected:

  • grazing licences
  • grazing permits
  • hay cutting licences
  • hay cutting permits

The Order will also apply to forest and range practices carried out by the government on provincial Crown land.

3. Will the Order apply to a person cutting firewood?

The Order applies to people allowed to cut firewood under a free use permit or other Forest Act agreement.

4. Will the Order apply to permits in place before the Order was established?

The Order will not apply to some Forest Act permits if these were entered into before the Order takes effect. This includes cutting permits, road permits, timber sale licences without cutting permits, or forestry licences to cut issued by timber sales managers. Holders of minor tenures (see Forest Planning and Practices Regulation Section 1) entered into before the Order takes effect are also not affected (unless specified by the Minister).

The Order applies to all Range Act licence and permit holders regardless of when their agreements were entered into.

For further details, see Sections 2(2) and 2(3) of the Government Actions Regulation

5. Does this Order apply to other industry sectors?

Any legal land occupant who cuts trees as part of their exploration or development activities is covered by this Order. For example, a power producer with Land Act authority requires Forest Act consent to remove any timber (see FAQ#2). Ensuing forest activities must comply with all Forest and Range Practices Act regulatory requirements; this includes the requirement to not damage, or render ineffective, a wildlife habitat feature.

6. What are forest or range agreement holders required to do under the Order?

Forest and range activities must not damage or render ineffective a wildlife habitat feature. To do this, agreement holders must make themselves aware of known wildlife habitat features and identify new wildlife habitat features. They are also required to take measures to protect these features when carrying out routine forest or range activities. Locations of currently known wildlife habitat features are available through government web pages and mapping programs. New features will be identified when they are encountered during routine forest or range activities. A companion Field Guide (PDF) provides information on how to identify features and measures that could be used to not damage or render ineffective the wildlife habitat feature. Forest Act agreement holders must report the locations of any new features (see #8).

Some features may have sustained damage through previous forest or range activities, or are no longer fully functional. Any future forest or range practices should not cause further damage or render ineffective any newly identified feature.

7. What does the phrase “…not damage or render ineffective a wildlife habitat feature” mean? 

This means that any forest and range activities must not cause physical damage, loss of the feature itself, or the loss of its biological or ecological function. Thus, Forest Act and Range Act agreement holders must consider both the direct and indirect impacts of their activities. For example, a feature may cease to function without physically damaging it. This may happen when forest or range activities are located too close to the feature during the breeding season of the species of concern. The desired outcome is for the feature to remain intact and fully functional after activities are complete. A companion Field Guide (PDF) provides information about ways to minimize damage.

8. What reporting requirements are associated with wildlife habitat features?

Forest Act agreement holders are required to report locations of undocumented WHFs that are within or contiguous to a cutblock or road. Woodlot licence holders must report new WHFs by May 31st woodlot License Planning and Practices Regulation, Section 76(3)(d)). All other forest license and Forest Act agreement holders must report new WHFs by June 1st Forest Planning and Practices Regulation, Section 86(3)(b)). At this time, there are no reporting requirements for Range Act agreement holders.

For more information on how to report new wildlife habitat features, see data submission and viewing

9. Why is this Order necessary?

These important habitat features are not consistently protected by other acts or regulations. For example, the Wildlife Act protects a bird nest only while occupied. It does not protect the habitat necessary to maintain viable and functional nests. Creating a wildlife habitat area under the Forest and Range Practices Act involves a long approval process. In contrast, once a wildlife habitat feature is identified, the requirement to protect it is immediate. This greatly benefits sensitive wildlife species.

10. How were the wildlife habitat features listed in the Order selected?

The weblink Government Actions Regulation (Section 11) lists some features (e.g., Bald Eagle nests) that are widely recognized as not adequately protected by existing legal provisions. The Minister responsible for the Wildlife Act may identify the features listed in the regulation and/or “other localized features” as wildlife habitat features.  

The current Order includes “other localized features” with potential for damage by forest or range activities. Government biologists, species experts, and industry stakeholders consulted to select these features. Some are high priority features associated with species considered at risk. Some were selected because protecting the habitat feature would complement larger-scale conservation efforts. For all features included in the Order, existing measures in FRPA or other act or regulation do not provide the special management required to ensure their protection.  

11. Why are bat hibernacula and bat nursery roosts included as wildlife habitat features?

Bat hibernacula and nursery roosts (formerly referred to as maternity roosts) are relatively rare in most landscapes. These features are more and more important since the arrival of white-nose syndrome in North America. The conditions in hibernacula support the rapid growth and spread of this disease, which has up to 80% mortality rates. The Order provides an important tool to protect healthy populations of susceptible bat species. It also supports recovery of affected populations by limiting disturbance to hibernating bats and protecting a maximum number of nursery roosts.

12. Will the Order include more wildlife habitat features in the future?

More wildlife habitat features may be identified and added to the Order for the Kootenay Boundary region in the future. Wildlife habitat features may be identified in other regions of the province in the future. A future update to the Kootenay Boundary Order or a new order will require consultation with First Nations, Forest Act and Range Act agreement holders, government staff, and other stakeholders. Listing any new features will also involve standard regulatory tests.

13. Where do I find location information for known wildlife habitat features?

The locations and descriptions of known Wildlife Habitat Features is available as a data layer in Habitat Wizard, iMapBC, Mapview and the B.C. Data Catalogue.

Habitat Wizard is a map-based platform that allows users access to spatial information about wildlife habitat features and other fish, wildlife and ecosystems. iMapBC is a public mapping portal that allows users to view and analyze the thousands of geographic datasets stored in the B.C. Geographic Warehouse, upload their own map data and print or email the results of their work. Mapview is a web-based mapping and reporting tool that provides clients with access to maps and reports for various business areas, including Forest Stewardship, Genetic Resources, Vegetation, Silviculture and Forest Tenures. The B.C. Data Catalogue contains thousands of government datasets and is designed to help users find, access, explore and reuse this extensive collection of data. All ministries and some broader public sector agencies maintain data in the Catalogue. Habitat Wizard is the simplest, user-friendly option for people with limited experience with on-line mapping tools. Users with more experience in on-line mapping may prefer one of the other options.

Forest Act and Range Act agreement holders and their professionals can use these sources to access and retrieve data related to their operations. Forest Act agreement holders are required by regulation to report new features and can do this by adding new information to the Wildlife Habitat Features database. View instructions for submitting and retrieving WHF data.

14. Under the Government Actions Regulation, the Minister may identify features for special management. What is meant by “special management”?

“Special management” is an action required to conserve or protect a resource value. For example, limiting activity in riparian management areas protects water or fish values; retaining wildlife trees preserves stand-level biodiversity. These and other special management tools in the Forest and Range Practices Act may provide some protection for wildlife habitat features.

Other acts and regulations also offer some protection for habitat features. For example, the Wildlife Act also offers some protection to bird nests, although this is restricted to the breeding season for most species.

The current options for special management may be inadequate to protect a resource value. In this case, designation as a wildlife habitat feature may be required. It may also be required when the resource value is deemed at risk or of special habitat importance. For example, special management to conserve water values within a riparian management area may also protect an Interior Western Screech-Owl nest from damage; however, this management is unlikely to provide fully functioning Screech-Owl habitat. Identifying an Interior Western Screech-Owl nest as a wildlife habitat feature can provide the additional protection required.

The Minister considers the following questions to establish whether special management is required to protect a certain feature.

  • Do provisions for protection of other values under the Forest and Range Practices Act also provide the special management necessary to conserve the feature?
  • Do other acts or regulations conserve the feature?
  • Do existing government actions provide the special management for this feature?

15. Does the Order meet Government Actions Regulation tests for socio-economic impacts?

The social and economic impacts of the Order are considered during the review and consultation process with Forest Act and Range Act agreement holders and stakeholders. Before it takes effect, the Minister considers information from agreement holders about how the Order may:

  • unduly reduce their timber supply,
  • affect their delivered wood costs, or
  • affect their ability to exercise rights under the agreement.

In terms of timber supply and delivered wood costs, it is expected that most impacts from WHFs can be met within stand-level biodiversity requirements in the Forest and Range Practices Act. That is, by incorporating features within stand-level requirements such as wildlife tree patches or riparian management areas, additional impacts of protecting the WHF will be negligible.

For example, if a proposed cutblock contains a Bald Eagle nest in a wildlife tree patch, a nearby old growth management area may provide sufficient habitat to maintain the effectiveness of the nest. In another example, general wildlife measures associated with a Lewis’s Woodpecker wildlife habitat area near a cutblock may protect a Lewis’s Woodpecker nest found near the cutblock.

Monitoring the actual impact of feature protection on timber supply and delivered wood costs is important. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy will work with Forest Act agreement holders to track these impacts associated with this Order. The ministry also wants to hear from any Forest Act or Range Act agreement holder who believes their ability to exercise rights under their agreement have been impacted by the Order. If major impacts are proven, then an amendment to the Order may be necessary to ensure that regulatory tests are met.

16. Another act already requires special management practices that may protect a wildlife habitat feature in my cutting or range use area. Do I need to do anything more?

When a provision under the Forest and Range Practices Act or another act requires special management that effectively protects the feature from being damaged or rendered ineffective by your planned activities, no other management is required.  Forest Act agreement holders must report the locations of any new features (see #8). Adding the feature to the wildlife habitat database identifies it for protection over the long term, even if the special management provided by the other means changes over time, leaving the habitat feature at risk.

For example, a nest of an Osprey is currently protected by a lakeshore management objective under a lakeshore order in your agreement area. However, this objective may later be deemed unnecessary and the lakeshore order removed, leaving the Osprey nest at risk of being damaged or becoming ineffective. Therefore, to ensure the Osprey nest is protected over the long term, it is still subject to reporting requirements –the Osprey nest in the database will be subject to requirements to not damage or render ineffective in the future, should the other special management activities at the site change.

17. Will I need to conduct special surveys or inventories to identify and manage these features?

Special surveys and intensive inventories are not required to manage these features. Only those features readily identified during the normal course of forest and range activities (e.g., road and cutblock layout, range inspections, wildlife tree patch layout) require management. Each feature is defined and described in the Order. The companion Field Guide (PDF) also provides material to help identify most features reliably.

Occasionally, it may be difficult to determine whether suspected features meet the definition. For example, the degree of use of a mineral lick may be uncertain, or an unoccupied cavity nest is spotted outside the usual breeding time. When any doubt exists, the precautionary principle is applied. Ask the following questions:

  • Is the wildlife species known to occur in the local or regional area?
  • Is the feature in functioning condition and located in suitable habitat?
  • Is there evidence of past use?
  • Is the feature naturally occurring?

When these questions are met with positive responses, it is reasonable to assume the feature meets its definition. If greater certainty is required, then a qualified professional should assess the feature.

Forest and range practitioners (or qualified professionals, if required) will thus determine the most appropriate actions and practices to adequately protect the feature, based on professional opinion and best available information. Identifying features in the field, seeking additional specialized advice, and determining how best to protect them are all areas of professional reliance and due diligence.

18. How do I determine which species of cavity user is associated with a nest tree?

The most difficult features to clearly identify are those related to cavity-nesting birds. This includes the nests of the Flammulated Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Lewis’s Woodpecker, and Williamson’s Sapsucker. These birds may only be around during the breeding season, but their nests persist and require protection for several years.

To make decisions about these features, you can consult the companion Field Guide (PDF) and ask the questions outlined in FAQ#17. To get more detailed information on these species, use the BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer

“Species at risk training” can also help field staff, especially timber cruising and layout/engineering crews, to recognize suspected features or identify wildlife species. If possible, this training would take place before forestry activities start.

19. When managing forest and range activities around these features, what role does the Wildlife Habitat Features Field Guide play?

Forest Act and Range Act agreement holders (and their professionals) are responsible to research and select best practices to protect any wildlife habitat features. The Field Guide (PDF) provides information that can help practitioners when selecting protective measures. This document has no legal status. Other science-based material may also be used.  

20. How long must I protect wildlife habitat features under the Order?

A feature must be protected for as long as it meets the prescribed definition. This length of time will depend on the type of feature, its biological function and condition, and evidence of past use. For example, features such as decayed cavity nest trees are relatively short lived, whereas a hot spring may persist for ever. Consult the Field Guide (PDF) and other current scientific information for estimates of longevity of features.

21. When protecting nests as wildlife habitat features, does overlap or redundancy occur between Wildlife Act and Forest and Range Practices Act requirements?

No, the Wildlife Act does not provide the required “special management” for nests. Section 34 of the Wildlife Act applies only to the nests of an Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Gyrfalcon, Osprey, Heron, or Burrowing Owl. It also protects the nests of all birds when occupied by a bird or its eggs. However, this act does not protect any attributes critical to the biological function of a feature or the physical attributes that make it functionally effective or enduring. It also offers no protection for the habitat surrounding nests.

The timing and nature of practices taking place around a feature could have major effects on its functioning condition. For example, removing all forest around a tree that contains a raptor nest will, in most cases, render the nest ineffective. The resulting increased exposure to predators and weather leads to a high risk of fledgling mortality. This removal also reduces opportunities for young birds to practice short hop-flights between tree canopies or structures typically found close to a nest tree.

22. How do Forest and Range Practices Act regulatory notices relate to identifying or managing wildlife habitat features?

When the Forest and Range Practices Act first took effect, special notices were established to protect the habitat for some at-risk species (see Forest Planning and Practices Regulation, Section 7; Woodlot Licence Planning and Practices Regulation, Section 9). Although these notices triggered a planning requirement to protect habitat, they do not provide the special management necessary to protect wildlife habitat features.

23. Will wildlife habitat features undergo monitoring?

When enforcement staff conduct routine inspections of forest and range activities, they will assess compliance for wildlife habitat features.

Forest Act and Range Act agreement holders may decide to monitor individual wildlife habitat features within their tenures. If a feature no longer meets its definition, then the agreement holder is no longer required to protect it. For example, a nest and its supporting structure may no longer be occupied by the listed bird species or even capable of holding the birds’ eggs or offspring.

In the future, effectiveness monitoring may be used to:

  • determine whether current forest and range activities are protecting wildlife habitat features;
  • identify issues related to implementation of the wildlife habitat feature program; or
  • identify changes to wildlife habitat feature policies and legislation.

24. Are opportunities available for exemptions under the Order?

Various Forest and Range Practices Act provisions allow Forest Act and Range Act agreement holders to seek exemptions from the requirement to protect a wildlife habitat feature. Before providing an exemption, the decision maker must be satisfied that compliance with the Order is not realistic. This will depend on the circumstances or conditions related to the area in which the feature occurs. The exemption request must include a rationale describing the nature of the problem and any options that might minimize the impacts to the wildlife habitat feature.  The decision maker may attach conditions to an exemption.

A discussion between the agreement holder and regional staff must precede formal requests for exemptions. Please contact:

Ecosystems Program
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Suite 401 - 333 Victoria Street, Nelson BC V1L 4K3
Front Desk: 250-354-6333