Updates to conservation statuses in progress in Canada

Thank you Carrie and Allison for trying. Not being sarcastic - I suspect you find this nearly as frustrating as I do.

Looks like my cynicism back in March was justified.

I’m assuming the agreement between iNat, NatureServe and the CDCs (quite understandably) did not take into account the possibility of bad actors, and that if a CDC (or more likely just one person higher-up at the CDC) decides to be ridiculous there is nothing anyone can do about it until at least sometime in 2020.

It takes some serious gall to agree to a process which involves considering requests and then decide not to consider any requests. Would like to hear the justification for that one! Nice loophole they’ve found where considering a request means copy and pasting the same sentence regardless of context. At least those Monarch butterflies will be safe from poachers :roll_eyes:


Email from @allisonsw_nsc 12 Aug 2019 (bolding mine):

I have updated the spreadsheet with responses. There were a few fungi that I searched the location and were in Ontario that they didn’t give an answer for, so I’ve emailed them to update me on those. Saskatchewan has decided that all fungi/lichens they are willing to have “open”. If you could please take a look at the spreadsheet and then make the changes that would be great. Ontario has a curator on staff so they make all their own changes but for the other jurisdictions you will have to open up the ones they have agreed to have open. Please let me know once you have done that.

I don’t have time to do this, so if someone else can check the spreadsheet to see if the geoprivacy statuses of all of the hundreds of taxa have been updated on iNat appropriately, please do…

I have updated the spreadsheet with a comment from me that some will remain obscured until such time as a curator can change it. It is not 100s it is only for Saskatchewan, the monarch, the turtle and then all the fungi.

My comment above refers to all of the taxa, not just the August 2019 updates. Helpfully the iNat staff made it much easier now that the geoprivacy status displays on the taxon page without needing to edit it.

  1. I’ve gone through some of the species and checked, and have indicated as such in the spreadsheet (column N). Will try to get to others as I have time.

  2. Many species seem to have conservation statuses set for the single-point place Labrador. I’m guessing this is an old holdover of statuses that were already there? In many cases species have statuses for both “Labrador” and for the actual province of Newfoundland and Labrador. (e.g. https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/4657-Falco-rusticolus). Is there some way these extraneous statuses for a single-point place can be removed en masse? Right now they are doing nothing except indicating that species are being obscured when they actually aren’t. Ultimately not a big deal though.

  3. Note that the Atlantic CDC response to a request to unobscure Double-crested Cormorant, which is not a legally listed species in Newfoundland and Labrador, was “Atlantic Canada is not opening geoprivacy for any provincial or federal legally listed species (which is what should be obscured now)”. Seems pretty clear that they didn’t even look at the requests?

Is there a cascading delete on the database ? The Labrador single point place is actually editable, which means as curators we can delete it. Just not sure if deleting the place would actually then auto delete the conservation status records ?


I should note there is a very large (almost 2000 item) checklist associated with that single point place though which suggests someone tried to import a Labrador (or perhaps a NL & Labrador) checklist and associated it to the wrong thing.

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Would want confirmation that those statuses are indeed erroneous before taking such a step.

I’m not quite sure why they would do it, but NatureServe does actually list Newfoundland and Labrador and Labrador separately in their listings. That being said, these ones are not having any impact because they are associated with the single point place.

There is yet another place in the database called Labrador which is actually basically the mainland, which these could be associated with, but I know of no way to move them other than manually one at a time (and that is assuming we want to maintain separate states between the whole province and just Labrador).

There are only about 400 records on the whole site from Labrador, I can’t see anything yet that is recorded, listed as obscured in ‘Labrador’ and open in ‘Newfoundland and Labrador’, there are a few listed as obscured in both. But I can’t say I have spot checked every record.

Here’s proof these records are having no impact:

The species is listed as obscured in the Labrador single point place (with nothing entered for the whole province), yet the record is open. Deleting them would not open anything not already open, it’s just a question if you want to recreate them properly.

I just looked into this a bit. The statuses associated with the single point Labrador are old (from 2015). I just tried merging the point place with a community-created Labrador place with a boundary, and when that happens the place name disappears, just like what @bouteloua previously reported here:

Looks like there was an error during import of these Canadian NatureServe statuses; I’ve seen several of these missing en.places_names:


Though confusing, I don’t think these are high priority corrections because the updates done this year were applied to Newfoundland and Labrador (the provincial standard place). As you come across them, they can be deleted for clarity. I’m leaving the Gyrfalcon one for the time being since it’s the example. Though I guess for posterity, here are some screen shots of the confusing statuses and an explanation (probably for my future self) of what happens here:

“Labrador, NF, CA” is a single point with no boundary so no obscuration is happening. https://www.inaturalist.org/places/78565

If I experimentally merge the place with “Labrador, NF”, the change to the place does not propagate to the conservation status.


Thanks, sounds good, will just delete when I find them.

In response to a request for reasoning for obscuration of some spp. in Atlantic Canada, from Sean Blaney (Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre or AC CDC, sean.blaney@accdc.ca, on 15 Aug 2019):

I’ll give a general overview here. AC CDC is a non-governmental organization and has no direct regulatory authority over any species. We work closely in partnership with provincial Departments of Natural Resources or their equivalents in our region to help fulfill their mandates, and in advocating for obscuring legally listed species records I am representing the opinion that I know those departments would have if they were involved in the discussions. I do not necessarily hold the same opinions very strongly. The thinking of DNRs is driven largely by potential landowner issues – landowners who are surprised and unhappy about limitations on land use that might result because of the presence of Species at Risk on their properties. It’s not necessarily a strong argument.

I don’t care too much about Peltigera hydrothyria and Sclerophora peronella.
Phalacrocoras auratus – is subject to persecution by fishermen at colonial nesting sites.
Pannaria lurida – don’t have a strong opinion on this one.


Sean Blaney: The thinking of DNRs is driven largely by potential landowner issues – landowners who are surprised and unhappy about limitations on land use that might result because of the presence of Species at Risk on their properties

Can someone clarify what they think this means for me. Obscuring or not has no impact on if the the location is recorded, it simply controls who can see it. If a listed species is recorded on private property, the location is in the database. It sounds more like they are looking for a system whereby no information on listed species on private property is recorded at all ? Or is it something else ?

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yeah that’s an odd one. I don’t think trespassing is common with iNat, but if so, i am assuming the trespassing laws would be more relevant than what happens here and the person doing it would be ‘telling on themselves’ in a not very smart way anyway. And I don’t know how the laws work there but in many places the landowner is responsible for not killing an endangered species anyway and them not knowing about it may not shield them from that.

It also sounds like the person making the decision isn’t the person who should be.

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That explanation is a complete non-starter when the CDC is already collecting exact locations of rare species (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/rare-species-of-nova-scotia) and presumably passing them along to the government agencies who actually enforce endangered species legislation. Don’t really see what additional issues there could be from the general public also seeing locations?

In any case I do sympathize, it’s a bit silly that the costs of endangered species legislation fall primarily on a minority of landowners. But it really isn’t the responsibility of iNat or its users to allow landowners to break the law. There IS the concern of blowback from overzealous legislation leading landowners to kill endangered species, and if that is seen to be a serious risk that would be a legitimate reason to obscure. But that doesn’t apply to something like Monarch, and it’s irrelevant anyways when the CDC is still collecting exact locations from iNat.

yeah the odd result is that if that scenario occurs most of the landowners themselves wouldn’t know about the species people saw there. Which maybe is the point, hiding data? For sure the regulatory system has its downsides but like you said, not really relevant to iNat

I noticed today that Virginia Flower Flies (Milesia virginiensis) have just been obscured in Ontario. I’m reasonably certain they weren’t obscured 10 days ago (the last time I identified one in Ontario). I checked the spreadsheet, and there’s no entry for it. I checked the link on the status tab of the taxon page, and it goes to a NatureServe page which does NOT list it as S3 in Ontario. So, I’m confused. Can curators see when this change was made, and/or by whom?

There is no curator listed as having ever changed the species.

Note that the species is listed as S3 in NHIC’s species lists, even on the copy I have on my computer that is maybe a year old. Seems that Natureserve is out of date.

I also see there’s no curator listed as the last editor for Milesia virginiensis. I just checked an export of all conservation statuses done in May and it’s in there, with the addition date of March 7, 2019. I think it was added in the first round of updates (when new species were added to the list of obscured species). I don’t think that that round of updates shows the taxon edit date or editor, probably since it was done directly to the database.

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Thanks. I’m still confused, since I’m 90% certain the last three or four I identified in Ontario weren’t obscured, but at least it’s clearer that the origin of the change is probably NatureServe.