Posted on July 4, 2011 (updated: July 4, 2011)

Species at Risk Task Force report misses the mark

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The B.C. government’s Species at Risk Task Force report makes weak recommendations that fall far short of the legal protection needed by B.C.’s 1,900 at risk species, Ecojustice, Sierra Club BC and the Wilderness Committee said today.

The groups called on the provincial government to stop wasting time and introduce a strong endangered species law to protect B.C.’s species at risk and the habitats and ecosystems they depend on. B.C. and Alberta are the only provinces in Canada with no endangered species legislation.

“We were pleased to see the Task Force recognizes endangered species in B.C. are in deep trouble, but we are disappointed that instead of calling for a law they recommend tinkering with B.C.’s antiquated patchwork of existing regulations. Endangered species in B.C. need real action – and they need it now,” said Gwen Barlee, policy director with the Wilderness Committee.

The 34-page report takes pains to point out the threats to wildlife at risk in B.C. and the difficulties in managing growing numbers of endangered species. Highlighted concerns include climate change, degraded ecosystems, limitations to current conservation approaches and difficulties in protecting species on private land. Surprisingly, the report does not call for a stand-alone endangered species law.

The Species at Risk Task Force was struck in June 2010 with a mandate to provide recommendations to government for the protection and recovery of species at risk in B.C. The Task Force submitted the report to the provincial government in December 2010.

“This report has some good stuff in it but it gets weak in the knees on real recommendations and I worry that the government will use it to avoid doing right by our wildlife,” said Ecojustice executive director, Devon Page. “The government must stop wasting time and pass a law that protects wildlife and land and water they need to survive.”

B.C. has more than 1,900 species at risk, including grizzly bears, spotted owls, phantom orchids, Vancouver Island marmots and killer whales. B.C. is home to 75 per cent of Canada’s bird species, 70 per cent of its freshwater fish species and 66 per cent of its butterfly species. Currently, 87 per cent of species at risk in B.C. don’t receive any protection under either provincial or federal laws.

“The recommendations in the report could be a welcome complement to an endangered species law but on their own, without that clear commitment, they simply won’t protect or recover endangered wildlife in B.C.,” said George Heyman, executive director of Sierra Club BC.

“It’s too little, too late for endangered species. If B.C.’s government uses this report to distract from and delay long-needed legislation it will be a damaging result.”


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