Species At Risk

Overall Benefit

What is Overall Benefit?

Providing an overall benefit to a species means undertaking actions that contribute to improving the circumstances for the species specified in the permit. Overall benefit is more than no net loss or an exchange of like-for-like. Overall benefit is grounded in the protection and recovery of the species at risk and must include more than steps to minimize adverse effects of the activity on the protected species or habitats.

Guiding Principles

The following principles help assess whether an overall benefit will be achieved for a species at risk and may help you develop your overall benefit plan for a species at risk:

  • Overall benefit will be scaled and assessed on a contextual basis (e.g. species by species and activity by activity).
  • Overall benefit must be achieved within a reasonable time.
  • Benefits are outcome-oriented (and linked to the protection and recovery of the species).
  • Outcomes should involve consideration of where the greatest overall benefit can be achieved for the species.
  • Proposed actions should be based on the best available scientific information.
  • Proposed actions should involve consideration of ecological function. Note: Plants and animals depend on certain physical conditions (e.g., water temperature, soil type) and ecological processes (e.g., nutrient cycling, predator-prey relationships, water flow) for their survival. Together those physical conditions and ecological processes make up ecological function.
  • Assessment of overall benefit will involve the consideration of relevant uncertainties and risks (e.g., variability of ecological processes, level of understanding of the species, impacts of activities, mitigation measures and overall benefit actions such as habitat creation).

For more information please read the Endangered Species Act Submission Standards for Activity Review and 17(2)(c). Overall Benefit Permits (pdf)

How do I achieve overall benefit?

Achieving an overall benefit to a species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) may involve providing the species with a range of benefits, including:

  • increasing the number of individuals of the species living in the wild and capable of reproducing
  • increasing the distribution of the species within its natural range
  • increasing the viability or resilience of existing populations of the species
  • slowing or reversing population declines by addressing key threats to the species’ survival
  • increasing the quality or amount of habitat for the species

Activities such as filling information gaps, education and outreach may, under certain circumstances, contribute to an overall benefit plan for a species at risk. However, alone they are unlikely to meet the overall benefit requirement.

Examples of potential overall benefit actions:

  • Modifying existing storm ponds and outflows to improve water quality for an at-risk fish or mussel
  • Installing permanent fences and underpasses along an existing stretch of highway to prevent future deaths of at-risk turtles along that highway
  • Removing artificial barriers from streams to improve up/downstream movement of at-risk fish
  • Undertaking steps to restore quality at-risk bird habitat in a degraded, abandoned field

The Endangered Species Act


Contact your local ministry office


Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.