Ottawa to step up monitoring of threatened species habitat on provincial land

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OTTAWA — An environmental group is declaring victory after the federal government agreed to increase its oversight of habitat for threatened species on provincial land.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society will withdraw legal action against Ottawa after federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna made the promise, said society director Eric Hebert-Daly.

“We’ve settled out of court,” he said Tuesday. “We feel this is a very good result.”

In April 2017, the group filed a request for judicial review over what it said was McKenna’s failure to follow the rules of the federal Species At Risk Act.

That law obliges the federal government to file periodic reports on how well the provinces are preserving critical habitat of threatened species on provincial Crown land.

The request pointed out that the report on caribou was 4 1/2 years late.

Last week, it was finally released. It found significant gaps in provincial protections and also concluded that provincial regulatory bodies weren’t even being required to follow the Species At Risk Act.

Tuesday’s announcement means similar reports will now be prepared for 150 different species where critical habitat has been identified on provincial land. Those reports are expected by June 2019.

“We are committed to fulfilling our responsibilities under the Species at Risk Act and we will work closely with partners to track efforts to protect habitat and promote the recovery of species at risk,” McKenna said in a release.

Hebert-Daly said the federal move means the act will finally be fully implemented. He said the federal reviews will let the provinces know where they have to step up conservation efforts.

“It gives them ample warning,” he said.

“They get time to see where the gaps are. They get time to identify how to fix those gaps. It allows time for discussion and dialogue to go forward.”

Also last week, McKenna issued an imminent threat finding for 10 caribou herds in British Columbia and Alberta. That finding is a preliminary move before the federal cabinet is able to step in and order conservation actions.

Hebert-Daly said the habitat reports are not necessarily part of that process.

“There are going to be times when the minister has to step in and do (emergency protection orders.)

“(But) these reports are not that. They’re intended to be the ways in which jurisdictions across the country are able to work together to find solutions.”

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton.

 

Follow him on Twitter at @row1960

The Canadian Press