Canadian Species at Risk Gain Legal Protection

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, December 13, 2002 (ENS) - The Species at Risk Act received Royal Assent Thursday, bringing to a close a nine year legislative process to protect the more than 400 species at risk in Canada and their critical habitat. The new legislation will come into force in 2003.

fox

The swift fox which once roamed the Prairies in large numbers, is at risk of extinction. (Photo courtesy Government of Alberta)
The burrowing owl, the white sturgeon, the tiger salamander, the whooping crane, the piping plover, the swift fox, the Plains grizzly bear, the black-footed ferret, the Eskimo curlew - are a few of the Canadian species at risk of extinction that are supposed to benefit from the provisions of the Species at Risk Act.

"Protecting species at risk is a shared responsibility of all governments in Canada," said Environment Minister David Anderson. "This Act ensures the federal responsibility is met, and it also helps to fulfill some of Canada's international obligations under the Biodiversity Convention."

The new law provides for the scientific assessment and listing of species, for species recovery, for protection of critical habitat, for compensation, for permits and for enforcement.

Anderson linked the passage of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and the government of Canada's overall environmental agenda. "SARA complements many other environmental initiatives," he said. "For instance, our actions on climate change also protect species and their habitats we know climate change affects the forests and waters that support species."

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) welcomed passage of the legislation. "After nine years of intense debate, it is good news that Canada now has a federal law to protect species at risk," said Stephen Hazell, CPAWS national executive director.

"Amendments to Bill C-5, the Species at Risk Act passed by the House of Commons in June and by the Senate earlier this week makes the law just good enough for the wilderness protection community to support," said Hazell.

The Canadian Nature Federation said the new law means that species such as the humpback whale, the swift fox and the American pine marten will have some legal protection across Canada.

"The federal government has finally taken some responsibility for protecting species at risk and their habitats," said Laura Telford, manager of the Canadian Nature Federation's Endangered Species campaign. "It's been too long in coming, but we commend them for their effort and perseverance in bringing this bill to law. Now let's get on with the business of protecting wildlife."

whale

Humpback whale breaches in Canadian waters. (Photo courtesy NOAA)
For North Pacific humpback whales, limited breeding areas and human disturbance threaten their survival, says the Canadian Nature Federation. Ivory gulls breed on permanent pack ice in northern Canada, but low flying aircraft force these gulls to abandon their nests. The Newfoundland population of the American pine marten has suffered loss and fragmentation of habitat.

Under Canadian law, federal and provincial governments share responsibility for protecting species and habitats. While most provincial jurisdictions have already created their own species at risk legislation, all previous attempts at passing federal legislation have failed.

Robert Thibault, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, said, "We have devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to getting it right. It was well worth the effort, since the Act now enjoys broad support among Canadians. I would like to thank all of the individuals and organizations that have contributed to our Species at Risk Act as a truly national solution."

Canadian Nature Federation on Species at Risk: http://www.cnf.ca/species/species_risk.html

Environment Canada Species at Risk site: http://www.speciesatrisk.gc.ca/species/links_e.cfm

To read about the history of the Species at Risk Act visit: http://www.speciesatrisk.gc.ca/species/media/index_e.cfm