Posted on January 13, 2010 (updated: January 13, 2010)

New research finds B.C.’s wildlife in serious peril

More than 1,300 plants and wildlife are at risk of disappearing from B.C., yet only five per cent of them receive any kind of protection under provincial laws, says a new study released today by the David Suzuki Foundation and Sierra Legal.

“Canada’s most biologically rich province faces a serious biodiversity crisis,” says Dr. Faisal Moola, report co-author and the David Suzuki Foundation’s director of science. “B.C. has already lost 49 known species and subspecies, like the western pond turtle and the Greater Sage Grouse, in a less than a century and a half. This will continue to happen unless adequate legal protection is put in place.”

Rich Wildlife, Poor Protection, which also appears next week in the scientific journal Biodiversity, examines the more than 3,600 terrestrial and freshwater species that call B.C. home. The report uses government data to analyze the levels of endangerment across all major wildlife groups, such as mammals, birds, frogs and fish. Among its findings, the study reports 67 per cent of all reptiles and turtles are at risk of local extinction from the province. Meanwhile, 17 per cent of the province’s birds, including the critically imperiled Northern Spotted Owl, are also at risk of disappearing.

“Species like the mountain caribou are more than just icons for the province. By protecting species and their habitat, we can also protect the health of our ecosystems and the direct benefits they provide for all of us, such as clean air and clean water,” says Dr. Moola.

Of the hundreds of species at risk identified in the report, only 68, less than 5 per cent, are protected under B.C. laws. Though the province hosts 76 per cent of Canada’s bird species, 70 per cent of Canada’s freshwater fish species, and 66 per cent of Canada’s butterflies, it is one of only two provinces without endangered species legislation to protect its wildlife.

“B.C. can be distinguished in Canada for both its biological richness and for the sorry state of its laws to protect this incredible natural legacy,” says report co-author and Sierra Legal lawyer, Devon Page. “To address increasing extinction and ensure that our plants and animals are preserved for future generations, we must, as Ontario has recently done, pass a strong law to protect species and their habitat.”

Hailed by leading Ontario environmental groups, Ontario’s new Endangered Species Act balances a strong, science-based approach to protecting endangered plants and animals with the flexibility needed to address socio-economic concerns. Rich Wildlife concludes with a call to create a similarly strong endangered species law in B.C. that will prioritize the protection of species and their habitats.

The release of the report coincides with the David Suzuki Foundation’s new “Keep B.C. biologically rich” campaign.

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