What is safe harbour habitat

Safe harbour habitat is:

  • created (versus naturally existing habitat)
  • enhanced (for Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark only)
  • identified as such in a permit or agreement with the Ministry of Natural Resources:
    • what area will be treated as safe harbour habitat
    • how long it must be maintained

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has prepared a document that outlines the approach and considerations for establishing a safe harbour instrument. View Safe Harbour Habitat under the Endangered Species Act.

The law

Ontario’s Endangered Species Act protects endangered or threatened species — animals and plants that are in decline and disappearing from the province.

You cannot generally damage or destroy the habitat of endangered or threatened species.

Under certain permits and agreements, you may be required to create new habitat or enhance existing habitat for endangered or threatened species.

A permit or agreement may designate areas of habitat as safe harbour habitat.

You don’t need a permit to damage or destroy safe harbour habitat, if you follow certain rules.

Source Law

This is a summary of the provincial laws. You can find a complete set of provincial rules related to this activity in:

  • Endangered Species Act, 2007
  • Ontario Regulation 242/08 (general)

The rules

You must:

  • ensure that all of the conditions under the permit or agreement have been met (e.g. the habitat has existed long enough to help protect or recover the species)
  • register the activity and the safe harbour habitat with the Ministry of Natural Resources adn Forestry (before the work)
  • minimize the adverse effects  on the species while removing the habitat (e.g. avoid activities during nesting season)
  • develop a report describing:
    • how you removed the habitat
    • the steps you took to minimize effects on the species

What happens if another species moves into the safe harbour habitat?

How to register

Step 1: Download the Natural Resources Registration Guide

  • print a copy or
  • open the guide in a new window or tab

Natural Resources Registration Guide

Step 2: Create a ONe-key ID and Natural Resources client profile

You need a ONe-key ID and a Natural Resources client profile to register online. ONe-key is a secure account that gives you online access to Ontario government programs and services.

Once you have a ONe-key ID, you will be asked to create either an individual or business profile for Natural Resources registrations. Create:

  • business profile to register business activities if you are a(n):
    • business
    • non-profit organization
    • municipality
    • government agency
    • ministry
    • authorized representative registering activities on behalf of any of the above.
  • an individual profile to register non-business activities

Open a new window or tab to:

Create a business profile
Create an individual profile

If you already have a ONe-key ID:

  • sign in to ONe-key
  • confirm your Natural Resources profile

Open a new window or tab to:

Sign in as a returning business
Sign in as a returning individual

Step 3: Register an activity

  • select My Services from the main menu
    • if you are an authorized representative, identify the business you are representing
  • click on Create New Registration
  •  select Notice of Activity and Other Notices under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) from the registry options
  • select Safe harbour - Activities in created or enhanced habitat
  • register the activity
  • submit the registration

Step 4: Receive confirmation

  • receive an official Confirmation of Registration by email
    • By law, the regulation requires you to keep contact information up-to-date should the Ministry need to contact you
    • By law, the regulation requires you to submit requested documents within 14 days of a request from the Ministry using the contact information you provide
  • keep a copy as proof of registration
  • registration is free

If you need assistance to register your activity, please call 1-800-387-7011

If you can’t apply online:

  • download the registration form and user guide
  • print, complete and mail the form
  • wait for confirmation

Notice of Activity Form - Safe Harbour

Minimize effects on a species

You must take steps to minimize effects on a species when removing habitat:

  • avoid activities during sensitive periods (e.g. hibernation or reproduction seasons)
  • prevent an animal from entering the work area (e.g. put up a fence)
  • give the species adequate time to leave the area, before starting work
  • protect plants where possible or relocate them to a safe area
  • get advice/help before you move a plant or animal
  • only move a plant or animal if it will minimize effects on it

Reporting process

You must prepare a report that:

  • says how damaging or destroying the habitat affected species for which it was created and other species at risk that used it
  • describes the steps taken to minimize effects on the species
  • includes the start and end dates of work

You must submit the report — within 90 days of the work.

You must also keep the report for 5 years and give a copy within 14 days to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, if asked.

Identify a species at risk

If you are unsure about a certain species — and would like help identifying or confirming what it is — you can see photos and get more information on the Endangered Species website.

Get more details about a species