Risky Business 

Under the Harper government, Canada's species at risk are at greater risk than ever

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF ECOJUSTICE BY URSUS PHOTOGRAPHY - at risk Four environmental groups are fighting to protect the habitat of Pacific humpback whales and other species at risk.
  • Photo courtesy of EcoJustice By Ursus Photography
  • at risk Four environmental groups are fighting to protect the habitat of Pacific humpback whales and other species at risk.

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New Brunswick's bat population, in fact, fell from 10,000 to only a few hundred over 24 months, and there's fear the disease could spread west. Nova Scotia's government requested emergency assessment of the bats last year after the disease surfaced in that province, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Although COSEWIC recommended in February that all three species be listed as endangered, nothing has happened since, highlighting issues around implementation. "There's no legislative requirement to actually do anything in the end," said Eric Taylor, a professor of zoology at the University of British Columbia and one of dozens of COSEWIC members who met last week to review the status of 42 species. The process takes time and money, he said, and then falls victim to government "stalling." Some think such stalling might is illegal.

In September, Ecojustice — a non-profit environmental law group representing the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace Canada, the Sierra Club and Wildsight — filed the latest in a string of SARA lawsuits in Vancouver in a bid to force the feds to implement existing habitat protections available under the legislation part of the recovery strategies for Pacific humpback whale, Nechako white sturgeon, marbled murrelet and southern mountain caribou — endangered or threatened species that will be impacted by the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

While these four species are of special concern (there are many other less-endangered species that will be adversely affected) to the coalition with environmental review of the pipeline currently underway, a couple hundred species across Canada languish in the same limbo: listed, but with no recovery strategies finalized despite a legal obligation to do so. The groups say Environment Minister Peter Kent's ongoing refusal to implement finalized recovery strategies violates SARA

"The recovery strategies for these species are at least three years past the mandatory, statutory deadline set out in the (act)," EcoJustice lawyer Sean Nixon told the Victoria Times Colonist. "This isn't just a technical breach of the law. The federal government's delay in completing recovery strategies is further endangering species that are already endangered or threatened."

The 87 recovery strategies that are currently more than five years overdue directly undermine the environmental assessment process and aid in fast-tracking regulatory approvals at the expense of wildlife. "While the federal government is dithering about whether and how to protect critical habitat, industrial development marches on," said Nixon. "By the time recovery strategies are actually completed, by the time critical habitat is identified and protected, our options are closed. We already have a pipeline... that punches through the critical habitat of whales... of southern mountain caribou."

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