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Get to know our Endangered Species
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Get to know our Endangered Species

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] How much do you know about the species at risk in Canada? Species at risk are species whose members are declining and at risk of extinction. This often happens due to a number of factors like environmental or human-induced changes to their habitats. Once the species are listed on the Federal Species at Risk list, they are under legal protection in hopes to both conserve and recover the species. Currently there are over 300 wild plants and animals protected by the Species at Risk Act (SARA)! There are several profiles of species at risk on our website with the basic "need to know" facts and the various ways in which you can help. Recently, we have just added to 2 more species profiles: Sei Whale and Common Nighthawk. [separator headline="h3" title="Sei Whale"] [caption id="attachment_24861" align="alignright" width="300"]A photo of a Sei Whale mother and her calf A photo of a Sei Whale mother and her calf[/caption] Many people haven’t heard of a Sei Whale before but it is actually the 3rd largest baleen whale in the world! Their average length is about 15 meters which is approximately 50 feet! The Pacific population of this species is listed as Endangered and is found off the coast of British Columbia. The Sei Whale has been impacted through human activity over the years, such as noise pollution and human sourced pollution like contaminated run-off. There are however, many ways in which Canada is working towards protecting the species and many ways that you can help them too! There are volunteer monitoring programs in place, and we have a few tips on just how you can help to protect the Sei Whales. Read more here. [separator headline="h3" title="Common Nighthawk"] [caption id="attachment_24723" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of a Common NIghthawk Image of a Common NIghthawk[/caption] The Common Nighthawk is listed as Threatened and they are found in Canada during the warmer months. The habitats this species calls home are generally grasslands, sand-dunes, riverbanks and marshes! Why is it at risk? There are two main factors: habitat loss and agricultural development. Due to this, monitoring has concluded that their population has been dropping over the past few years. But, there are ways that you can help this species! Be sure to report any sightings of the Common Nighthawk in our NatureHood App as it helps reveal patterns that can aid local scientists in their work to protect the species. Read more facts and learn other ways in which you can help this species here! Wild plants and animals give humans so much – from food and medicine, to healthy ecosystems and spiritual nourishment. Wild species clean the air and water, nourish the soil, maintain the carbon balance in the atmosphere, remove pollutants and prevent waste accumulation. The benefits, what some call ecosystem services, are essential to human life on this planet and every species plays some kind of essential role in an ecosystem.

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Protecting Canada’s Fish and Wildlife Habitat
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Protecting Canada’s Fish and Wildlife Habitat

[one_half] [caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] The new Liberal government has promised to strengthen environmental protection provisions removed from the Fisheries Act  by the previous government. Nature Canada is pleased to endorse several key amendments proposed by Prof. Martin Olszynski to protect fish habitat across Canada. Nature Canada thinks that wildlife habitat needs more protection as well. That is why we are also proposing amendments to the Canada Wildlife Act to protect National Wildlife Areas from oil and gas and mining exploration and development. Now we just need Parliament to get to work! [/one_half] [one_half_last][box style="1"]Summary of Key Environmental Law Changes Since 2011, the federal government has made the following changes:

  • Replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act with the weaker CEAA 2012, which scrapped over 3,000 environmental reviews, limits what gets considered in assessments and restricts the public’s right to participate.
  • Gutted the Fisheries Act by weakening fish habitat protection, removing protection over some fish species and broadening government’s powers to allow harm to fish and fish habitat.
  • Handed environmental oversight of major energy and pipeline projects to the National Energy Board.
  • Amended the Species at Risk Act by removing mandatory time limits on permits allowing impacts to threatened and endangered species.[/box]
Edited from the Canada's Track Record on Environmental Laws 2011-2015 Document by West Coast Environmental Law and the Quebec Environmental Law Centre. [/one_half_last] Email Signup

Scientific committee fingers climate change in latest species at risk assessments
Polar bear by Regehr Eric, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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Scientific committee fingers climate change in latest species at risk assessments

Alex MacDonald, click for contact informationAfter an unexpected delay earlier this month, the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada, or COSEWIC, released its latest assessments of the status of species threatened with extinction in Canada. COSEWIC's assessments provide the scientific basis for the listing of species under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), and for this reason they are often called "recommendations". The Committee, which is made up of scientists and wildlife experts from academia, the private sector, NGOs and government representatives, assessed the status of 19 species at its late November meeting here in Ottawa. Of the species reviewed, 4 were assessed as Endangered (e.g., Nuttall's Sheep Moth) , 9 as Threatened (e.g., Gray Fox, Louisiana Waterthrush),  and 5 as Special Concern (e.g., Flooded Jellyskin lichen). A British Columbia plant species, Giant Helleborine, was reassessed as Not at Risk. COSEWIC's report includes 'positive' news for 6 species that were reassessed as being in a lower risk category, including the Peary Caribou, found in Canada’s High Arctic, being downlisted from Endangered (assessed in 2004) to Threatened status, and the Lake Erie Watersnake going from Endangered (assessed in 2006) to Special Concern. But downlisting doesn't mean that the threats have disappeared, nor does it rule out the role of citizens in the conservation and stewardship of a species. In fact in some cases it is the very involvement of Canadians, through actions like expanded survey efforts, that sheds light on previously unknown occurrences or populations of a species at risk – thereby helping COSEWIC better understand its status in Canada. Image of a glacierWhile Canada's growing number of species at risk is newsworthy enough, the biggest and most timely news in COSEWIC's recommendations is the "recurring theme" among the species assessed: climate change. And climate change is not only a direct threat to some of these and other species at risk — COSEWIC notes that in some cases it is actually compounding the intensity of threats they already face, such as degrading wetland habitats or allowing destructive invasive species to expand farther northward over time. The delay in COSEWIC's climate change-linked release proved to be heraldic given the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, also known as COP21. Canada has shown ambitious leadership during these climate talks, widely considered to global leaders' last chance to get the planet on a 'reasonable' trajectory with respect to future climate impacts. Indeed, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced during COP21 meetings on Sunday night that Canada would support a goal of just 1.5° C of future global warming coming out of the Paris Agreement. That support sends a strong signal that Canada is taking climate change seriously. This couldn't come at a better time, because it is almost too late. Ladybug on red maple leafI congratulate COSEWIC for using its latest species assessment report to draw attention to climate change*. At very least it importantly provides context and immediate relevance to what could be pessimistically dismissed as the 'routine', semiannual work of COSEWIC. But in the bigger picture this approach demonstrates how the effects of climate change have far-reaching policy and legal implications. On that note Nature Canada and other environmental groups recently issued a joint letter calling on the new federal government to provide better support to COSEWIC in carrying out its scientific responsibilities.  As well, we are asking that the government fill vacancies on COSEWIC’s Species Specialist Subcommittees, and reinstate its former policy of authorizing COSEWIC to recommend new COSEWIC members to the government. Action on these matters would support the renewed federal focus on the role of science in decision making. [caption id="attachment_24207" align="alignleft" width="300"]Peary Caribou standing on the frozen tundra; barren ground caribou; Arctic Peary Caribou, now considered "Threatened" in Canada based on COSEWIC's latest assessment.[/caption] Now that COSEWIC has delivered its species status assessments to Minister McKenna, a 'legal clock' has begun ticking down on an official response: a Response Statement must be published on the SARA Public Registry within 90 days. The Minister's Statement must indicate how she/he will respond to each species' assessment and how consultations with the affected governments and parties will be undertaken for each species; for example, the January 2015 Plains Bison Response Statement is available here. Once this indefinite consultation period has ended for each species, the Minister then presents COSEWIC's assessments, and her/his recommendations regarding them, to Cabinet and the Prime Minister, who then have nine months to decide to:

  1. Add the species to the 'official' list of species at risk in Schedule 1 of the SARA (this triggers legal protections);
  2. Decide not to add the species to the official list; or,
  3. Send a species assessment back to COSEWIC for more information or reconsideration.
You can find the detailed version of COSEWIC's November 2015 Wildlife Species Assessments here, including the rationale for the status assigned to each species. And once again, the Committee's latest press release entitled "Climate Change Matters for Species at Risk" can be found here. I encourage you to have a look at the release, which captures the cautious optimism of what may come out of COP21 Paris on Dec 11th while adding an important reminder that conserving our "species at risk and rich and valuable biodiversity" depends on all of us.
*In the interests of full disclosure, Nature Canada is one of the original NGO partners, including WWF Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation, that helped to establish COSEWIC. In recognition of this history, Nature Canada and the other groups have standing "Observer" status at the Committee's meetings. We do not participate in discussions or decision making at the meetings.
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Saved by Popular Demand?
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Saved by Popular Demand?

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and Legal Counsel[/caption] A new day may have dawned for Canada’s species at risk. Nature Canada is very pleased that Prime Minister Trudeau  has directed Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, to “enhance protection of Canada’s endangered species” as a top priority. Implementing the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) is critical to this work. Last week, Nature Canada and seven other nature groups wrote a joint letter to Minister McKenna outlining some of the pressing shortcomings in implementing SARA including:

  • Clearing up the backlog of  scientifically assessed species at risk  not yet declared to be legally at risk
  • Getting caught up in preparing Recovery Strategies for threatened and endangered species
  • Better supporting the work of  COSEWIC, the scientific advisory committee on species at riskImage of Barn Swallow
The previous federal government fell behind badly in legally listing species recommended for at risk status by COSEWIC. The backlog goes back four years, and includes more than 100 species, including Barn and Bank Swallows and the western Grizzly Bear population. Preparing recovery strategies for endangered, threatened and extirpated species at risk—including identification of critical habitat--is another priority. The preparation of recovery strategies needs to be an objective, scientific exercise to identify broad strategies to ensure species’ survival and recovery. You can save endangered and threatened species by encouraging the Minister and the new government to act by Popular Demand!

Here's how you can help today:

Please consider signing Nature Canada’s petition requesting that the Minister immediately list the Barn and Bank Swallows as threatened.

Learn More Here:

To learn more about protecting endangered species, check out these news articles from the Ottawa Citizen: Triage in the wild: Is it time to choose which species live and which die out? Canada, once a global leader in conservation, is among the world’s biggest cheapskates when it comes to spending to save disappearing wildlife. To learn more about biodiversity targets, click here. Email Signup

International Day of Biological Diversity
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International Day of Biological Diversity

[caption id="attachment_16443" align="alignleft" width="150"]Eleanor Fast Eleanor Fast
Executive Director[/caption] Today is International Day for Biological Diversity, an opportunity for everyone around the world to focus on the incredible diversity of species on earth and our interconnectedness with them. At Nature Canada, we focus on protecting Canadian wildlife, but everyday our work shows us the truly international nature of biodiversity, and the importance of worldwide efforts to protect it. For example, protecting the Monarch butterfly cannot be achieved simply by actions in Canada, although they are important. We need coordinated action across the Monarch’s migration route, with Mexico and the United States. Our work in protecting migratory birds, such as the Canada Warbler, Purple Martin and Red Knot similarly depend on international collaboration throughout their entire range. May is a special month for Nature Canada members as we celebrate International Migratory Bird Day with events across the country. Next year, 2016, will be particularly special as we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Convention. Plant milkweed to protect monarch butterfliesThe Migratory Birds Convention is a great example of countries working together to protect wildlife, and Nature Canada was pleased to see the importance of these types of agreements recognized in the recent signing of a trilateral agreement with Mexico and the US to protect bats, as well as the commitment of the leaders of the three countries to protect monarchs. We look forward to seeing Canada match funding commitments from other countries to give teeth to these recent agreements and allow the urgent action needed to protect these species before it is too late. canada-warbler-2015North American collaboration is an important focus for Canada in wildlife conservation, but so much more is possible. On this United Nations International Day of Biodiversity let’s remember than the UN’s Office of the Convention on Biological Diversity is located right here in Canada, in Montreal. That gives us a special relationship with United Nations efforts to protect biodiversity, yet Canada has not signed the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. Canada has all the ingredients to be leading the world on issues of biodiversity – majestic wild spaces and awe-inspiring wildlife, strong legislation in the Species at Risk Act (SARA), a recent re-commitment to biodiversity goals and targets, international agreements to protect wildlife, and neighbours who have put money on the table. But as a country we need to step up and do more to preserve habitats in Canada and around the world for our treasured biodiversity.

Myotis Bat Emergency Listing
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Myotis Bat Emergency Listing

Alex 242x242 with title The Government of Canada recently added 3 bat species to Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), otherwise known as the official national list of wildlife species at risk. The three bat species – the Little Brown Myotis, Tri-coloured Bat, and Northern Myotis - are now under federal protection because of White-nose Syndrome (WNS), an epidemic that is decimating North American bat populations. White-nose syndrome is a fungal infection of the skin that expresses itself as white fuzzy growths on the nose, mouth, ears, and wings of a bat – hence its name. The fungus, called Pseudogymnoascus destructans, is actually best suited to grow in cool environments such as winter bat caves - called hibernacula. Once infected, the fungus causes the bats to awaken from their hibernation more easily, significantly depleting their built-up energy stores. This exhaustion of fat stores results in the bats starving to death because they run out of energy before they are able to feed again in the spring. This disease has killed up to 90% of some regions’ bat populations throughout northeastern North America. The Little Brown Myotis, Northern Myotis, and Tri-coloured Bat were once very common but with the spread of WNS, they are now considered endangered at a national level. Some provinces, including Ontario, have also listed these species as endangered under provincial species at risk legislation. In February 2012, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) conducted an emergency assessment on the three bat species to determine if their official legal status should be upgraded to “endangered”. Following COSEWIC’s recommendation that the Environment Minister issue an Emergency Order to protect the imperiled bats, the Government of Canada finally added the species to Schedule 1 of SARA on November 26, 2014 – 2 years following COSEWIC’s recommendation. WNS first appeared in New York State in 2006 and has since spread into Canada and throughout the United States. Today, White-nose Syndrome has been confirmed in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I, Ontario, and Quebec, as well as 25 US states. [caption id="attachment_19027" align="alignright" width="186"]Myotis Bat Little Brown Myotis (iStock)
Photo by US Fish & Wildlife Service[/caption] Fortunately, the fungus has not (yet) appeared in any other Canadian provinces, but nevertheless it continues to spread between bat hibernacula within the 5 eastern provinces where it has been confirmed. There is no cure for this fungal infection and in an effort to stem the spread of this lethal infection, provinces are closing bat caves to the public (including climbers) as the disease is thought to be spread in part by humans. Humans cannot contract the disease. In Canada, federal land accounts for on average just 5% of the total area of each province, meaning that provincial governments have a significant role in conserving these misunderstood and under-appreciated species. Some provinces committed to giving these species protection as soon as the full impact of WNS started to become known. However other provinces, such as PEI, have not yet given their affected bat species protection, further jeopardizing local populations of these important animals. Because there is no known cure, there is not much we can do in terms of saving the bats that have contracted WNS. But we can help by preventing the spread of the disease. Humans are suspected of being capable of spreading WNS spores on clothing and gear, so avoid going into caves that have bats in them. If you need to go into a bat cave – and you have appropriate permission to do so – be sure to disinfect all of your clothing and gear before and after you entering the cave. This will ensure that humans do not spread the disease. [caption id="attachment_19028" align="alignleft" width="247"]Bat with white-nose syndrome  -- Photo by US Fish & Wildlife Service Bat with White-nose Syndrome
Photo by US Fish & Wildlife Service[/caption] One of the most important things we can do is to get over the stigma that bats are harmful animals. Bats – even the species that feed on blood – are harmless to humans. While bats are capable of carrying rabies, the US Centers for Disease Control reports that less than 6% of all tested bats actually carry the disease – that is, VERY FEW bats actually carry rabies. More importantly, bats eat the insects that plague our crops, forests and us – thereby saving famers, governments and homeowners millions of dollars in pesticides and pest control each year. A single bat can eat over 1,000 small flying insects in just one hour. Just think of what a camping trip or evening on the lake might be like without any bats around… Perhaps once we have overcome the ‘evil’ brand we have placed on bats, we can help restore and maintain their populations, and accept bats as ‘friend’ instead of ‘foe’. And stay tuned to Nature Canada’s NatureHood program to learn how we’ll be engaging people in bat monitoring through our seasonal NatureBlitz events!

Kids make movie about local species at risk
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Kids make movie about local species at risk

When children from Ottawa elementary schools were asked to name a species at risk most answered with 'polar bear!'. Endangered bird species that nest or roost in Ottawa were rarely mentioned. Hoping to bring greater awareness to local species at risk, Nature Canada's NatureHood team paid visits to over a dozen Ottawa-area schools, meeting with 700 children in kindergarten through to grade seven. Staff gave presentations about four of Ottawa's species at risk - chimney swift, bobolink, barn swallow and monarch butterfly - and introduced simple actions that could be taken to help protect the species, ranging from keeping cats indoors to installing a bird feeder. The children were also invited to participate in the making of a unique video about the species. Made from the compilation of colourful drawings made by the children, the movie will depict scenes from an average day in the life of all four species. Below is a selection of drawings that caught our eye. Stay tuned for the video! [caption id="attachment_17768" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Chimney swifts roost inside a brick chimney. Chimney swifts climb a brick chimney.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_17771" align="aligncenter" width="960"]A bobolink in flight A bobolink in flight[/caption] [caption id="attachment_17769" align="aligncenter" width="960"]A barn swallow flying over a farmer's field. A barn swallow flying over a farmer's field.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_17767" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Chimney swifts entering and leaving a chimney. Chimney swifts entering and leaving a chimney.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_17772" align="aligncenter" width="960"]A barn swallow with its young. A barn swallow with its young.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_17773" align="aligncenter" width="960"]A chimney swift in flight. A chimney swift in flight.[/caption]

Why is downgraded protection for BC’s Humpback Whales an extra special concern?
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Why is downgraded protection for BC’s Humpback Whales an extra special concern?

On April 19th the federal government published an order to down-list, or downgrade protection of, the North Pacific Humpback Whale population under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA). The order was published in Canada Gazette Part I, where proposed regulations gestate and briefly undergo consultation before becoming official under Gazette Part II. Until May 17th Canadians are invited to share their comments on this order here. But enough of the Civics lesson, why did this happen and what does it mean? [caption id="attachment_11066" align="alignleft" width="300"]Two North Pacific humpback whales cresting out of the water. Nature Canada, British Columbia Two North Pacific Humpback Whales off the BC coast.[/caption] It all began back in 2011 when Canada’s premier independent scientific advisory body on the state of wildlife, called COSEWIC or the Committee for the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, assessed the available data for the North Pacific population of the Humpback Whale, found along the entire British Columbia coast and into northwest Alaska.  Based largely on an estimated increase of more than 50% in the North Pacific Humpback population over the last 64.5 years, COSEWIC determined that the species’ abundance has improved sufficiently to have its legal status downgraded from “threatened” to “special concern” under SARA. Despite what may appear to be semantics, this change has legal significance in that species that are listed as “threatened” or “endangered” under SARA receive full protection under the general prohibitions of the Act as well as legal protection of their critical habitat. The Act still applies to species of “special concern” of course, but they do not enjoy the same degree of protection as the more ‘at-risk’ species listed. Whatever this change entails, we mustn't overlook the fact that COSEWIC doesn’t make such recommendations lightly. In recommending this down-listing to government, COSEWIC was careful to note that the North Pacific Humpback population is still not in the clear and coupled with the threats it still faces, cannot be considered a “recovered” population that’s free from risk. Therefore, it still warrants the federal government’s attention under SARA, and the science firmly supports that approach. [caption id="attachment_11067" align="alignright" width="375"]North Pacific Humpback Whale (iStock) North Pacific Humpback Whale off the Alaskan coast[/caption] But what about the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline? The Trans Mountain Pipeline? New oil tanker traffic up and down Canada’s west coast? What could these new developments, and the threats they could bring, mean for the North Pacific Humpback Whale? Surely they won’t be beneficial and with reduced protections for this population under SARA, there’s a narrower scope of potential impacts on the species and its habitat to be considered, mitigated or avoided altogether. Some critics say the government’s timing for this Order, whether it’s based on scientific advice or not, is suspect given the proposed mega-projects along the west coast. I would offer this perspective, however: the timing of this order is troubling because it demands that government keep a close eye on a species that’s not yet in the clear, and that may face new threats, all in the midst of significant government downsizing and loss of science capacity. Simply put, you can’t respond to changes in populations that you don’t monitor, and you don’t monitor without people. The timing of this government Order is unfortunate because it signals a loss of scientific and monitoring capacity for the species at the very time when threats to North Pacific Humpback Whales from ship strikes and tanker oil spills are very likely to increase. So that, in my view, is what this seemingly semantic change could mean for North Pacific population of Canada’s Humpback Whales.

Do you love endangered species?
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Do you love endangered species?

[two_third] In a national poll marking the tenth anniversary of Canada’s Species at Risk Act, Canadians expressed overwhelming support for strong efforts that protect wildlife, the environment, and our economy, and for the federal government to lead those efforts. We agree. And if you love endangered species too, I encourage you to tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper today, by writing a letter. Think of it as a Valentine's Day card on behalf of Canada's wildlife. Canada’s plant and animal species are the basic building blocks for the natural systems we rely on to provide us with clean water, clean air, productive soil, pollination, food, pest and disease control and carbon storage. Our long-term health depends on maintaining a diversity of species and healthy ecosystems. As the federal government considers changes to the Species at Risk Act, here’s our vision for protecting endangered wildlife in Canada: • Conservation first, then sustainable development. Preserve adequate habitat through a network of interconnected protected areas before development takes place, so our wildlife have the space they need to survive. • Strong federal commitment is absolutely essential to identify the wildlife species that need help; restrict activities that threaten or kill them; protect their habitat; and take active steps to help them recover. And we need to do this for all species at risk within our borders. • Deciding whether a species is at risk, and preparing recovery plans to save those species, should be science-based, not based on politics, or socioeconomic considerations. These principles must be maintained if we are going to prevent extinctions and spur recovery. • Endangered species and people are better off when we feel connected to nature – celebrating its wonder, understanding its complexity and protecting it for future generations. The Species at Risk Act is one of Canada’s most important federal environmental laws. Protecting our wildlife does not require a new Act; it does require a federal government committed to fully implementing the existing one. If you believe in these principles for effective protection of our most vulnerable species, please share your opinions with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister Peter Kent.  Send a letter today. [/two_third] [one_third_last] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="320"]Red-headed woodpecker Red-headed woodpecker. Photo by Matt Ward.[/caption] [/one_third_last]

Pitting the Environment Against the Economy is Bad Business, Bad Politics
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Pitting the Environment Against the Economy is Bad Business, Bad Politics

/* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Helvetica","sans-serif"; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:EN-CA;} The following opinion piece was written by Devon Page, Executive Director of Ecojustice, and Ian Davidson, Executive Director of Nature Canada. It originally appeared on iPolitics on December 31.

We must choose between a healthy environment and a strong economy. That’s the flawed lens through which we’ve been conditioned to view the challenges Canada faces when it comes to industrial development, protecting the well-being of our communities and preserving our natural heritage.
Over the last several months, the federal government has used this narrative to rationalize its efforts – largely represented by the last two budget bills, C-38 and C-45 – to dismantle some of Canada’s most important and long-standing environmental laws.
But in reality, the environment vs. economy debate is a false dichotomy. When it comes to the environment and economy, there is no either-or; without one, you can’t have the other. A healthy environment supports a sustainable economy and vice-versa. And according to a recent public opinion poll, you don’t have to be an economist or an environmentalist to agree.
Eighty-five per cent of Canadians believe diverse and abundant populations of wildlife play a crucial role in supporting the country’s economy and health, according to a national poll conducted by Ipsos Reid for Ecojustice, Nature Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation. The poll examined Canadian attitudes around endangered species and the federal government’s responsibility to protect them. When asked what should have a greater influence on decisions regarding species at risk in Canada, over three in four said scientific advice should take precedence; many, however, said economic considerations should also carry weight. 
The message from Canadians is clear: It’s about balance, supporting the delicate relationship between economic growth and preserving the ecosystems that sustain this growth and that, perhaps more importantly, sustain us and other species. Healthy and intact ecosystems supply our drinking water, enrich our soil and regulate the climate, providing the clean air, water and land we all need to survive. They are also important drivers of our economy, supporting heartbeat industries like forestry, fishing, agriculture and tourism.
Canadians have also made it clear that they expect the federal government to make sure we achieve this balance. When asked who has the greatest responsibility for ensuring the survival and recovery of Canada’s species at risk, over half of respondents pointed to the federal government over its provincial and territorial counterparts, industry or environmental groups. Unfortunately, the poll also revealed that three in five Canadians feel the federal government isn’t living up to this responsibility and should strengthen and better enforce Canada’s endangered species laws.
This overwhelming support for strong laws that protect wildlife and the environment (and in turn, our economy) and for governments that implement and enforce them is something the federal environment minister should consider as he contemplates changing the Species at Risk Act to make it more “efficient.”
In the space of seven months the federal government has deregulated some of the country’s most important environmental protection laws, burying deep cuts to landmark legislation like the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act in a pair of omnibus budget bills supposedly aimed at bolstering economic growth. One of the last laws left standing is the Species at Risk Act, which not only protects endangered wildlife but also the ecosystems that they (and we) depend on. More than 500 species — from British Columbia’s resident killer whale to Quebec’s harlequin duck — are currently listed under the act.
While we all seem to agree that Canada can and must do a better job of protecting endangered species, recent research conducted by Ecojustice – and now public opinion – tell us that the way to start is by dropping the environment vs. the economy fallacy and letting science guide us.
Science has long shown that the environment and the economy are interdependent. And in the case of protecting Canada’s species at risk, it provides a clear roadmap of what we must do to ensure their survival and recovery: Identify the plants and animals that need help; restrict activities that threaten or kill them; protect their habitat; and take active steps to help them recover. And we need to do this for all species at risk within our borders, regardless of whether they also live in the United States (incidentally, more than three-quarters of Canadians agree with the science on this). 
It’s time for the federal government to follow the science, show some leadership and fulfill its responsibilities under Canada’s endangered species law. Making sure we take care of endangered species and the air, water and land we all need isn’t just good for business. It’s common sense.

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