lack of action by government officials causes delay in protection for threatened species and their habitat
While 67 species have been recommended for listing under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) since January 2011, no decisions have been taken regarding any of them.
Dr. Sarah Otto, director of the Biodiversity Research Centre at the University of British Columbia, believes the government is intentionally holding up the listing process: “The intention of the law is to get species listed without delay. I think somewhere along the line, the government found a way of not moving.”
A listing by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), a government-appointed expert panel, is a necessary first step for the government to move to protect a threatened species and its habitat. Under the law, the Environment Minister presents those recommendations to cabinet. The government then has nine months to decide whether a species should be listed. If no decision is issued, the law specifies that the listing should occur automatically. There is no limit to how long the Environment Minister can take to table recommendations from the committee.
According to the government web site, “SARA separates the scientific assessment process from the listing decision. This approach ensures that scientists can provide fully independent recommendations, and that decisions affecting Canadians are made by elected officials who can be held accountable for those decisions.”
Jirina Vlk, a spokeswoman for Environment Canada, maintains the delays are reasonable. But Jeremy Kerr, a conservation biologist and professor at the University of Ottawa, disagrees. “This is not about taking extra time to contemplate the status of species – it’s a comprehensive across-the-board failure to permit a clearly defined process to proceed.”
A recent study published in the open-access journal PLOS One showed that out of 369 listed Canadian species assessed more than once, only 52 per cent showed any improvement in status.