For the second time in the past month we’re celebrating a major victory for endangered species, as the courts have come down hard on the federal government in our most recent win.

In a landmark court battle that will have implications for all of Canada’s 585 imperiled species, the federal government will be forced to identify critical habitat for the endangered greater sage-grouse. It’s a stunning win for the flamboyant prairie bird, which will disappear from Alberta in as little as 6 years unless it receives the protection it needs.

Our own executive director summed it up best,

“This decision confirms our view that the Ministry of the Environment is routinely breaking the law with species on the brink of extinction,” said Ecojustice executive director Devon Page who brought the case forward. “We won’t go away – if they continue to ignore the law, we will continue to hammer them in the courts.”

Despite amply available research, and the presence of known nesting grounds frequented by the bird watching public, the government had been arguing that they couldn’t protect key habitat for the sage-grouse because it did not know where to find it. The judge flatly disagreed,

The judge stated it was “unreasonable” for the government to claim it couldn’t identify breeding grounds, known as leks, when knowledge of their locations was “notorious.”

Once wide-spread across the Prairies, Alberta Fish and Wildlife counted just 66 males in the spring of 2009, a 20% decrease in just one year. With this win, and new protections, the sage-grouse can begin to recover its numbers and survive in the decades to come.