News Room

BC’s Refusal to protect endangered species prompts Auditor General complaint

Nov 26. 08

Victoria, BC – The Province is breaking federal laws and wasting taxpayers’ dollars by tossing out the research of
its own scientists and failing to protect valuable endangered species and their habitats. This squandering of public
resources is documented in internal government records according to a complaint submitted to the BC Auditor
General.
Acting on behalf of the Wilderness Committee, the Environmental Law Centre and Ecojustice filed a submission
Tuesday (November 25) with the BC Auditor General requesting an investigation of the provincial government’s
failure to identify and protect the critical habitat of endangered species as required by the federal Species at Risk
Act.
An agreement between BC and Canada obligates both levels of government to jointly implement key provisions of
the federal government’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) -- and to prepare recovery strategies for at-risk species that
identify critical habitat “to the extent possible, based on the best available information.”
“In fact, it’s doing just the opposite,” says Tim Thielmann of the UVic Environmental Law Centre. “Internal
government documents show that BC officials have actually ripped out the mapping data that pin-points critical
habitat in recovery strategies.”
The submission includes British Columbia government documents obtained through Freedom of Information
requests that reveal the provincial government doesn’t identify critical habitat even when the exact location of such
habitat is known down to the square centimetre.
BC has over 1600 species at risk, and is one of only two provinces in Canada with no provincial endangered
species legislation. Over 85 per cent of endangered species in BC are at risk because of the loss and degradation of
their habitat.
“Since most Species at Risk Act protective measures only apply after critical habitat is designated, the refusal to
identify this habitat transforms the Act into a paper tiger and leaves species out in the cold,” added Susan Pinkus,
staff scientist at Ecojustice.
The province’s refusal to identify habitat jeopardizes some of BC’s most endangered species such as northern
spotted owl, grizzly bear, mountain caribou, American badger, northern goshawk, coastal tailed frog, monarch
butterfly, wolverine and Vancouver Island marmot.
“There are about 90 Vancouver Island marmots alive in the wild. Scientists know precisely where their burrows
and habitat are. But the BC government chose to put politics ahead of science, and refused to identify the marmot’s
habitat,” said Gwen Barlee, policy director with the Wilderness Committee.
The Request urges the Auditor General to investigate whether BC’s failure to identify critical habitat and protect
endangered species is a breach of its statutory duty to manage public resources “economically, efficiently, and
effectively.”

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