Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has said that “These unique species of birds require mature and old-growth forest areas for breeding, and with their numbers declining, we need to do more to help them recover. These implementation plans will include habitat protection, species inventory and monitoring,”
Northern goshawks are large hawks that usually build their nests in large trees in mature or old-growth forests along B.C.’s coast. A pair of goshawks will use the same breeding area year after year, but may make new nests as part of their courtship rituals. Marbled murrelets are the only coastal seabirds that nest in forested areas, usually on mossy platforms high in old-growth trees.
“B.C. has the opportunity to be a leader in Canada with an effective and innovative approach to protecting and recovering species at risk,” Heyman said. “Protecting these two bird species is an initial step in a renewed species-at-risk program that will include broad consultations with British Columbians and new legislation in the weeks and months to come.”
The additional habitat protection measures enabled by each species recovery implementation plan build on protection already provided by wildlife habitat areas, old-growth management areas, parks and protected areas, as well as conservation measures.
There are only an estimated 1,100 to 1,200 coastal northern goshawks in B.C. Up to 30% of these may be non-breeding adults. The plan is intended to ensure that the population can recover through management of priority breeding areas across their range, combined with landscape-level management to ensure ongoing and future habitat.
There are an estimated 680 to 760 home ranges of northern goshawks that have been modelled to exist on B.C.’s coast, with 240 of those ranges estimated to be currently protected. The goal of the plan is to protect a further 168 breeding areas with 200-hectare reserves over the next five to seven years.
There are an estimated 72,000 to 125,000 marbled murrelets in coastal B.C., but their populations are declining, particularly on east Vancouver Island and the southern mainland coast. Habitat loss has been estimated at over 20% for the past three generations.
Marbled murrelets are managed on the basis of maintaining enough suitable nesting habitat to sustain their populations, whereas northern goshawks are managed on a home-range basis with a focus on protecting breeding areas. For marbled murrelets, over 750,000 hectares of suitable habitat is currently protected and the recovery plan will protect an additional 70,000 hectares of murrelet nesting habitat on southern Vancouver Island and the southern mainland coast.
In addition to increasing protected areas where the birds breed, the Province intends to conduct more research and monitoring to improve understanding of goshawk foraging habitat and how B.C.’s existing conservation efforts contribute to maintaining this essential function.
Protecting forested breeding areas for both these species will help other coastal species at risk, and also benefit old-growth biodiversity conservation and eco-tourism.
The recovery implementation plans were developed by ministry staff with input from First Nations, environmental groups and forest licensees.