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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Canada's Endangered Species Law under Scrutiny

International Commission asked to review Canada’s failure to enforce endangered species law

A coalition of Canadian and American environmental groups has filed a formal complaint to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America (CEC), alleging that Canada is failing to enforce its Species at Risk Act.

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Vancouver, BC Oct 11, 2006

A coalition of Canadian and American environmental groups has filed a formal complaint to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America (CEC), alleging that Canada is failing to enforce its Species at Risk Act.

Environmental groups in the U.S. participated in the complaint: "From where we're standing, it looks like trade agreements are failing the environment," said Joe Scott of Conservation Northwest. "Most Americans see Canada as a vast wilderness teaming with wildlife, but unless Canada protects its wild areas and wildlife, this perspective is going to change," he stated.

The CEC is an international organization created by Canada, Mexico and the United States under a side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Canada's failure to protect species at risk has international significance, as many species migrate to the U.S., Mexico and other countries.

The groups allege that failure by the federal government to enforce the Species at Risk Act has led to delays in listing critically endangered species, denial of listing for some species scientifically proven to be at risk, failure to identify and protect habitat needed for survival and recovery and a complete lack of protection for species at risk in some provinces.

These failures significantly jeopardize the potential of the Act to recover endangered species, instead leading to an increased risk of extinction for Canadian wildlife at risk.   Below are two clear examples of these failures:

Northern spotted owls in British Columbia have plummeted to a mere 17 birds. Logging and a lack of protected reserves have pushed spotted owls into a few pockets of old-growth rainforest in southwestern British Columbia – which are still open to logging. In contrast, the United States has a network of protected reserves to help recover the northern spotted owl and is currently developing a recovery plan under the Endangered Species Act, a law that has helped several species return from the brink of extinction. Earlier this year, environmental groups petitioned Canada's Minister of the Environment, Rona Ambrose, to intervene under the Species at Risk Act and protect Canada’s remaining owls. Ambrose recently rejected the petition, stating that the owls don't face a threat to their survival in Canada.

Mountain Caribou are one of the most endangered mammals in North America, and are listed as "threatened" under the Species at Risk Act, yet the Canadian government has not protected mountain caribou habitat.

The petition comes on the eve of a Ministers’ meeting in Yellowknife where species at risk will be addressed. The groups are concerned that the federal and provincial governments of Canada are moving towards weakening, not strengthening, implementation of the Act.

Sierra Legal submitted the complaint on behalf of the Sierra Club (U.S. and Canada), Nature Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, Conservation Northwest, Environmental Defence Canada, BC Nature (formerly Federation of BC Naturalists), Federation of Alberta Naturalists, the Natural History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nature Nova Scotia, ForestEthics, Ontario Nature, Nature Quebec, and Western Canada Wilderness Committee. The groups are seeking a response from Canada to their allegations and, ultimately, a report from the Secretariat that spotlights Canada's failure to effectively protect endangered wildlife.

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