A coalition of environmental groups today served Federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose with a petition giving her 60 days to step in to protect two endangered plants in Alberta or face a lawsuit. Alberta Wilderness Association, Federation of Alberta Naturalists, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Sierra Club of Canada and Nature Canada, represented by Sierra Legal Defence Fund, are threatening the suit to test the federal government’s intention to protect Canada’s endangered wildlife.
“When Canadians were assured by the federal government that the Species at Risk Act would protect all of Canada’s endangered plants and animals, were they being told the truth?” asked Rachel Plotkin of Sierra Club. “This case will reveal the answer.”
The Species at Risk Act, while a national law, does not apply in the provinces unless the federal cabinet orders it to, which it will do only on the recommendation of the Federal Environment Minister if she considers provincial laws inadequate. But Minister Ambrose has failed to make such a recommendation for Alberta despite the fact that the province has no endangered species legislation and does not protect national endangered species.
To test the government’s commitment to protecting all of Canada’s endangered species, the groups are asking Rona Ambrose to recommend protection for the tiny cryptanthe and small-flowered sand verbena. These plants, though at immediate risk of extinction, have small populations and small footprints making them an easy choice for protection.
“This is the lowest we can set the bar in terms of having the federal government protect endangered species in Canada,” said Sierra Legal Lawyer Devon Page. “If the feds refuse to protect the tiny cryptanthe and small-flowered sand verbena, the Species at Risk Act might as well be used as a doodle pad.”
The decline of these species is in part due to degradation of the natural prairie region of Alberta of which most has been lost due to agriculture, industry and urbanization.
“The lack of government vision and action to protect Alberta’s natural heritage and wild species is appalling,” said Helene Walsh with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society- Edmonton.
“Given its wealth, lack of endangered species protection and the loss of prairie land, Alberta is a key province for this legal test,” said Cliff Wallis of Alberta Wilderness Association and Nature Canada. “We think it tells you something when the richest province does the least for endangered species.”