Decline of Greater sage-grouse populations in Canada demanded federal emergency order.
In 2012, Ecojustice helped four conservation groups take the federal Minister of the Environment to Federal Court over his continued failure to fulfill his duties under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and protect Canada’s endangered greater sage-grouse. The groups sought a court order to force the minister to recommend that Cabinet make an emergency order under SARA to protect the iconic Prairie bird and its habitat.
After nearly two years of legal wrangling by Ecojustice lawyers, the federal government finally issued an emergency order for the sage-grouse in 2013.
Then, the City of Medicine Hat and an oil and gas company launched a legal challenge of the federal emergency order and a challenge to the SARA provisions that allowed the government to issue the order in the first place, arguing that they were outside the jurisdiction of Parliament and therefore unconstitutional. (City of Medicine Hat et a.l v Attorney General of Canada et al.)
Ecojustice lawyers, on behalf of Alberta Wilderness Association, Wilderness Committee, Nature Saskatchewan and Nature Canada — intervened in this subsequent case to support the federal government’s position that the emergency order (and the provisions of SARA on which it relies) should stand.
In July 2020, the main parties in this case reached a settlement agreement and both the City of Medicine Hat and the oil and gas company discontinued their case. As a result, there are no longer any remaining constitutional challenges to emergency order protections under SARA.
This is good news for the sage grouse – it means their federal protections will remain in place – and for at-risk species across Canada.