The Definition of ‘Habitat’

There are different definitions of ‘habitat’ at both the federal and provincial levels. This affects the protections available for species and their respective habitats.

The federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) defines habitat as, “(a) in respect of aquatic species, spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply, migration and any other areas on which aquatic species depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes, or areas where aquatic species formerly occurred and have the potential to be reintroduced; and (b) in respect of other wildlife species, the area or type of site where an individual or wildlife species naturally occurs or depends on directly or indirectly in order to carry out its life processes or formerly occurred and has the potential to be reintroduced.” [1]

These are fairly broad definitions that would encompass a wide area of use by species in Canada.

Notably, the Albertan Wildlife Act does not specifically define what “habitat” means, however, it does reference habitat numerous times throughout the Act. This is a significant issue because it is estimated that the degradation of a species’ natural habitat is responsible for the endangerment of more than 75% of species listed on the national Species at Risk list. This lack of definition contributes to the inability to police and protect habitats for species that are classified as being at risk. [2]

<< Categories of Species at Risk

A Brief History of Species at Risk or Habitat Law in Canada >>

[1] Species at Risk Act, SC 2002, c 29, s 2(1).

[2] Monique Passelac-Ross, “Overview of Provincial Wildlife Laws” Canadian Institute of Resources Law – Canadian Wildlife Law Project Paper #3 (July 2006) at 24 online: