Ecojustice Blog – Nature Posted on March 21, 2013 (updated: February 17, 2015)

Minister Kent misses deadline to respond to sage-grouse petition

Kimberly Shearon headshotKimberly ShearonStaff

The Greater sage-grouse, known for its unique mating dance, is on the verge of extinction in Canada.

That why Ecojustice — on behalf of an international coalition of 12 conservations groups — sent a petition to Environment Minister Peter Kent in November, demanding that he take immediate action to protect these birds.

The Minister had until Jan. 16 to respond to the petition. That deadline has now passed, leaving us no choice but to consider further legal action to save these birds.

Listed as an ‘endangered’ species under the Species at Risk Act, the sage-grouse could become extinct in Canada within the next 10 years. Nearly 90 per cent of Canada’s sage-grouse population died off between 1988 and 2006, and Alberta’s population — estimated at around 30 birds — could be wiped out as early as next year.

Without meaningful protection, the sage-grouse will disappear completely from Canada.

Scientists say the rapid encroachment of oil, gas and other development on the areas where sage-grouse spend the winter, breed, nest and raise their young is the leading factor in the species’ extreme population drop. ­To learn more, read our sage-grouse backgrounder.

The sage-grouse are highly sensitive to habitat disturbance. Research shows that, when confronted with oil and gas development, sage-grouse abandon their leks (central courting and breeding grounds) and other crucial habitats, which reduces their ability to survive.

Once found across the country, the sage-grouse is now only found in parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where provincial laws are not protecting their habitat from threats posed by oil, gas and other industrial development, which is why federal action is needed.

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