Wildlife Wednesday: Federal Species at Risk Act

Wildlife Wednesday: Federal Species at Risk Act

Today is the 10th anniversary of Canada’s Species at Risk Act. This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the Act, and how we can improve.

Today (December 12, 2012) is the 10th anniversary of Canada’s federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). For those who aren’t familiar with the Act, it was put in place to help identify species that need protecting, and then protect our shared wildlife. The government receives recommendations from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), which it is supposed to follow.

For conservationists and environmentalists, this is a time to reflect on the past 10 years, learn from the mistakes and shortcomings of SARA, and decide how we will grow, improve, and move forward.

What’s happened in the past 10 years?
Many species have been added to the list. There are now 668 wildlife species considered to be at risk, in different categories. Some species have been taken off the list, but there’s a lot more work to be done.

How can we improve in protecting wildlife?
According to the COSEWIC, we can be doing a lot more to protect our precious Canadian wildlife. As noted in recent news sources, the committee says that SARA is helpful when the protections are actually applied, but that this doesn’t always happen due to time and money constraints, and subsequent government “stalling.”

Recently, the environmental group Ecojustice rated Canadian provinces and territories on how they protect Canada’s at-risk wildlife, based on the following four points:

  1. Identify species that need help.
  2. Don’t kill them.
  3. Help them recover.
  4. Give them a home.

Here’s how we stack up

British Columbia: F

Alberta: F

Saskatchewan: F

Manitoba: C-

Ontario: C+

Quebec: C-

New Brunswick D+

Prince Edward Island: D

Nova Scotia: C

Newfoundland and Labrador: C-

Yukon: F

Northwest Territories: D+

Nunavut: C-

And the Government of Canada? They get a C-.

Along with the federal government not always following COSEWIC’s recommendations, the David Suzuki Foundation offers some additional critiques of SARA:

  • if listing an animal has “social, economic or political impacts” (such as impacting the fishing industry) it can be left off the list
  • the government doesn’t have to list an animal (for instance, the polar bear has been recommended to be listed as endangered numerous times, but each time was denied)
  • in many cases, an animal’s crucial habitat is not defined, and thus cannot be enforced in a recovery strategy
  • SARA refers to federal land only (as opposed to provincial or private), leaving most land exempted (and although there is a “safety net” clause allowing provincial land to be included, this clause has never been utilized)

Learn more
To learn more about the Species at Risk Act, check out these organizations:

  • David Suzuki Foundation
  • Ecojustice

You can also read up on why bats are of particular concern in Canada. Plus, keep your eyes peeled for the February issue of alive, in which you’ll find an article all about Canada’s endangered species.

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