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Nova Scotia moose

Photo by Bryn Pinzgauer via Flickr

press release

Nova Scotia government must answer for years of inaction in court

September 23, 2019

Failure to follow the law has dire consequences for species-at-risk, environmental groups say

HALIFAX, N.S., September 23, 2019 – The Nova Scotia government will have to answer for years of failing to protect endangered species in the province today, as Ecojustice heads to court on behalf of their client, East Coast Environmental Law.

The groups have intervened in a judicial review of Nova Scotia Minister of Lands and Forestry’s failure to uphold mandatory duties to protect species-at-risk under the province’s Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Despite repeated calls to follow its own law from environmental groups and the province’s auditor general, Nova Scotia has dragged its feet on complying with timelines and milestones set out by the ESA.

James Gunvaldsen Klaassen, Ecojustice lawyer said:

“Nova Scotia’s Endangered Species Act is the law, not a set of vague or voluntarily guidelines, and the government must follow it.

“The ESA clearly establishes what the government needs to do to stop the decline and promote the recovery of some of our province’s most iconic and important animals, plants, and birds.

“In the midst of the global biodiversity crisis, species protection should be a top priority for the Nova Scotia government. We’re going to court to ensure the government steps up and addresses its own failings when it comes to species-at-risk.”

Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director of East Coast Environmental Law said:

“The protection provided by the province’s Endangered Species Act is the bare minimum and there is little else in place to protect biodiversity in Nova Scotia.

“We were disappointed in 2015 when our research revealed so many failures by government to comply with their own law; we were shocked to see virtually no progress almost 5 years later in 2019.

“We are in court today because continuing with the status quo is not an option.”


Indifference to the law has had real consequences for biodiversity in Nova Scotia. Species the province has failed to protect include:

Ram’s head lady slipper

Listed as endangered in 2007. Eleven years later, it is still waiting for a recovery plan.

Moose (mainland Nova Scotia population)

Listed as endangered in 2003. A recovery team was appointed in 2004, and a recovery plan was completed in 2007. A mandatory five-year review was meant to happen 2012, but has yet to commence. The population’s recovery plan fails to identify areas for designation as core habitat.

Eastern wood pewee

This forest songbird was listed as vulnerable in 2013. Its management plan was due in 2016, but has not yet been prepared.


The Nova Scotia government has a long history of inaction on endangered species.


Ecojustice is Canada’s largest environmental law charity. Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.

East Coast Environmental Law responds to community inquiries, carries out legal and policy research and presents educational resources and opportunities to increase public awareness of environmental laws in Atlantic Canada. Our objective is to build capacity in the public and among legal practitioners so that we can work together to ensure that environmental laws are effectively used and strengthened.