The Habitat and Biodiversity Assessment Tool (HBAT) is the centerpiece of the Nature Fund Project. Initially developed in Alberta, this online tool enables interested agricultural producers to integrate the needs of multiple native species in the management of their land. Under the leadership of the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association (CFGA), the HBAT is being adapted and customized for use in provinces across Canada as a source of conservation information for all of those interested in habitat stewardship.
Taking place over several phases, the CFGA Nature Fund Project is being delivered in as many provincial jurisdictions as technically feasible and will potentially be applicable to all Canadian agricultural lands.
The HBAT has shown promise as a cost-effective means of helping producers become more aware of practices they can undertake, or may already be doing, to help native species. It achieves this by using information on species and habitat at the farm level to determine the conservation measures that a given producer can undertake to maintain or improve species’ habitats.
Once developed, the tool will help producers identify habitats present on their farms worth a closer look for conservation to support enhanced biodiversity on their operations. It will also provide some guidance on best management practices relevant to the habitats they may be stewarding.
The main input required by producers is their land location and some land cover information. The output is a producer-friendly report on what practices are relevant on the farm for conserving habitat and which conservation programs are available to support action.
The tool is specifically designed as an extension-and-awareness approach that is based on the potential for species to occur in the area and avoids releasing sensitive information about actual species-at-risk observations. If producers are interested in more detail, the tool provides contact information for provincial experts from collaborating conservation organizations.