VANCOUVER – Environmental groups today issued a letter that puts the governments of British Columbia and Canada on legal notice that recovery strategies for 43 endangered and threatened species in BC must immediately be rewritten. The recovery strategies failed to identify known critical habitat–the habitat that species require to survive and recover. Among the numerous BC endangered species that have been deprived of critical habitat protection is the Vancouver Island marmot, also known as Muk Muk, the cyber-mascot for the Olympic Winter Games.
The letter was prompted by a recent Federal Court victory and a startling document obtained through Access to Information. The BC government document reveals that critical habitat identification “appeared to be obvious” for dozens of BC’s endangered species including the Vancouver Island marmot, white sturgeon, Oregon spotted frog, marbled murrelet and southern mountain woodland caribou. However, this science, at government’s fingertips for two years, is still not being used to protect these species, even though required by law.
“When the British Columbia government refuses to identify the critical habitat of the Vancouver Island marmot, an Olympic mascot, you know you have a problem,” said Gwen Barlee Policy Director for the Wilderness Committee. “The government has the science but refuses to act on it!”
86 % of BC species at risk need habitat protection in order to survive and recover. It is also required by law that this critical habitat be identified, under the federal Species at Risk Act. The legal obligation has been confirmed in recent court rulings, including a decision about the Nooksack dace ruling that failure to identify known critical habitat was unlawful.
In BC, environmental groups have obtained copies of policy directives from the provincial government that tell recovery teams to not identify critical habitat for BC’s terrestrial species. To date, only two BC species have had critical habitat identified without environmentalists taking legal action. Astoundingly, in total, 88 percent of recovery strategies for BC species do not identify any critical habitat.
“After two successful court cases, we have no qualms about returning to court to force protection for BC’s species at risk if the BC government continues to block those protections,” said Devon Page, Ecojustice Executive Director. “BC must stop stalling and release legal recovery strategies for the dozens of at-risk species currently stuck in limbo.”