Nature conservation organizations welcome federal government’s overtures to protect endangered species, caution more details needed

OTTAWA (September 17, 2013) ― Nature Canada and numerous other nature conservation organizations joined together this afternoon to welcome news that the federal government intends to introduce an Emergency Protection Order to help save the prairie-dwelling Greater Sage-Grouse species of bird.

“Some of the key specifics of the order are still unknown at this time, so we’re going to have to wait and see all the details before we know what it will mean for this iconic at-risk species,” said Ian Davidson, Executive Director of Nature Canada. Davidson continued, “Even so, we’re treating this as a very positive development and these overtures from Minister Aglukkaq are warmly welcomed by Nature Canada and many others in the larger nature conservation community across Canada.”

The announcement today is also newsworthy insofar as creates a significant precedent for species at risk. Minister Aglukkaq’s announcement marks the first time that this specific provision in the Species at Risk Act has been used. “This makes the Act a stronger piece of legislation and responds to Canadians’ concern for our most threatened species,” said Davidson.

Since 2008, Nature Canada experts have actively engaged in public and private consultations on conservation and recovery of the Greater Sage-Grouse. Earlier this year, Nature Canada joined local conservation groups and industry stakeholders in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan to create a Sage-Grouse partnership in support of ranchers and their stewardship of the birds’ habitat. Nature Canada, the Alberta Wilderness Association and Nature Saskatchewan have been working with these local stakeholders to ensure that government-managed grasslands remain public lands under the care of ranchers and First Nations rather than be sold off to private interests.

In recent decades, the Greater Sage-Grouse population has plummeted at an alarming rate and is in danger of being extirpated entirely from the Canadian wild. According to data from the Species at Risk Public Registry, the total population fell from 777 in 1996 to just 450 in 2006. Data suggest that, since 1988, the total Greater Sage-Grouse population has plummeted by between 88 and 98 per cent.

While many in the nature conservation community welcome these overtures, conservation groups are still urging caution over this afternoon’s news. “The emergency order needs to immediately halt oil and gas development in critical habitat for sage grouse, work to eliminate structures that are adversely affecting sage grouse, and collaborate with ranchers on grassland stewardship,” said Cliff Wallis, Vice-President of the Alberta Wilderness Association. “Obviously new money will be needed to fund implementation of the order,” Wallis concluded.

Related Information:

Endangered Species Spotlight: Greater Sage-Grouse: http://naturecanada.ca/what-we-do/NatureVoice/endangered-species/know-our-species-sagegrouse/

Federal Government Must Prevent Extinction of Sage-Grouse in Canada: http://naturecanada.ca/federal-government-must-prevent-extinction-of-sage-grouse-in-canada-2/

State of Canada’s Birds report: http://www.stateofcanadasbirds.org/

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Paul Jorgenson, Senior Communications Manager, 613-562-3447 ext. 248, pjorgenson@naturecanada.ca

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