Species At Risk

Step-by-step guide to applying for an overall benefit permit

Follow the steps outlined below and use the tools and guides provided to easily navigate through the process to seek an overall benefit permit under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Preliminary Screening


The local Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) office is your primary contact if you want to find out whether your activity is likely to need a permit under the ESA. Contact your local office to discuss the main purpose, general nature and location of your activity and whether there are any protected species at risk or habitats at or near the location in question. If protected species or their habitats are known to be present, ways to avoid adverse effects on the species or its habitat can be discussed at this time.

At this stage, MNR may be able to advise you that you can proceed with your activity without an authorization under the ESA. Otherwise, MNR will advise you to proceed to Phase 1.

Phase 1 – Information Gathering


The purpose of this phase is to gather the information you need to submit to the MNR to inform the Ministry’s assessments regarding:

  • whether any species at risk or their habitats exist at or near the location of your activity
  • what the likely effects of your activity may be on these species and habitats, and
  • whether it is advisable for you to apply for an overall benefit permit under the ESA before undertaking your activity.

You should submit this information to the local MNR office using the Information Gathering Form(pdf). A guide is available to provide greater assistance.

Once this form has been submitted to the local office, MNR will notify you if additional information is required or if the form is deemed complete.

Phase 2 – Activity Review and Assessment


MNR district staff will review the completed Information Gathering Form to determine whether any species at risk or protected habitats are present at or near the location of your planned activity, and assess the potential effects of the activity on those species and habitats.

Once this assessment is complete, MNR will notify you whether your activity is likely to negatively affect one or more species at risk or their habitat. If your activity is not likely to adversely affect species at risk or their habitat, you won’t need an ESA permit. However, if your activity is likely to adversely affect species at risk or their habitat, it is still possible to consider avoidance alternatives.

Consideration of Avoidance Alternatives


As part of the overall benefit permit process, you are required to consider reasonable alternatives for your activity, including alternatives that would not have any adverse effects on species at risk or their habitats. Alternative approaches to your activity can include modifying where, when or how you perform your activity.

Avoidance alternatives should be documented and submitted to the local MNR office using the Avoidance Alternatives Form(pdf). A guide(pdf) is also available to help you complete this form.

MNR will review the form and notify you if one or more of the alternatives will avoid any adverse effects on species at risk or their habitat. If you choose to proceed with an MNR-approved avoidance alternative, you will not need an ESA permit. Otherwise, you may choose to apply for a permit and proceed to Phase 3.

Phase 3 – Permit Application and Assessment


You now complete the Overall Benefit Permit Application Form(pdf). A guide(pdf) is available to help you complete the form. Once completed, submit it to the local MNR office.

MNR will post a notice about the proposed permit on the Environmental Registry and the Ministry’s website for public comment.

Once your permit application is received, MNR will identify any additional environmental assessment and consultation responsibilities (e.g., Aboriginal consultation) that are needed to meet the permitting requirements.

Once the measures proposed in the permit application (i.e. measures to minimize adverse effects to protected species and habitat, actions to achieve an overall benefit for species at risk) have been agreed to in principle by you and MNR, the Ministry will assess the completeness of the overall benefit permit submission package. Review the submission checklist to find out what is needed for your permit submission.

Once your submission is complete, MNR will post the details of the proposed permit conditions on the Ministry’s Species at Risk website. This posting will include a summary of the proposed activity, as well as proposed measures to minimize adverse effects and achieve an overall benefit for the species.

Phase 4 – Permit Drafting


MNR will finalize the proposed permit conditions and ensure that any Aboriginal consultation and Environmental Assessment requirements are met before seeking the permit decision.

Phase 5 – Permit Decision


Your permit application will be provided for a decision on whether to issue the permit. The permit may only be issued if the requirements of the ESA are met.

If it is approved, you will receive a signed copy of your permit; otherwise, you will be informed of the decision in writing. Notice of the Ministry’s decision, including how public input was considered, will be provided on the Environmental Registry and on the Ministry’s website.

There are no formal processes to appeal the decision regarding your permit. However, if your application is denied, you may choose to revise your permit application to meet the requirements for an overall benefit permit and submit a new application for consideration.

Phase 6 – Permit Implementation


To perform the authorized activity, you must have your signed permit in hand. It is also your responsibility to ensure that you have all other authorizations (e.g., from all relevant agencies, levels of government, land owners) before beginning the activity.

Under the ESA, it is an offence to contravene any part of your overall benefit permit. If you do so, you may be prosecuted. If you use a third party such as a contractor to meet the conditions of the permit, you are still responsible for ensuring the conditions are met.

How long will it take to get my permit?


The Ministry has set a three-month service standard for permitting decisions, which begins when your submission is deemed successfully completed at the end of Phase 3 of the permit process.

In some cases more time may be needed for you and MNR to complete consultation and environmental assessment requirements and refine the proposed permit conditions before seeking the permit decision. MNR will notify you once your submission is complete and will inform you of any additional consultation or Environmental Assessment requirements that may limit the Ministry’s ability to issue a decision within three months.


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.