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Scientists urge Premier to improve species protection

Sep 28. 10

A group of 35 high-profile environmental scientists, invited by Simon Fraser University
biologist Arne Mooers, has written to B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell asking for effective
legislation to improve the protection of B.C.'s species at risk.

The scientists are raising an alarm that more than one in three of the nearly 4,000 species
assessed by the province is under threat in B.C., which does not have a species protection

“These scientists are members of the prestigious Royal Society and holders of relevant
Research Chairs at universities province-wide,” says Mooers. “You might call them
extra-credible. If they are concerned, we all should be concerned.”

The letter follows a report (
released last week highlighting the inadequate patchwork of laws and policies in B.C. for
protecting the 1,900 species at risk of extinction or extirpation.

It also pointed out that while several neighbouring jurisdictions in the U.S. have strong
species protection laws, B.C. stands out as one of only two provinces in Canada without
endangered species legislation. The other is Alberta.

The scientists acknowledge the fact that the province has committed both internationally
and nationally to protecting biodiversity, and was actively engaged in negotiations for
the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“Canada was the first major industrialized country to ratify the Convention, and is
required to develop legal provisions for the protection of threatened species and
populations,” notes Mooers. “The UN has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity.
Because much of B.C. is owned by the citizens of the province, B.C. must have effective

The scientists commend the government for the recent establishment of new parks and
protected areas, but they don’t believe parks provide adequate protection.
“I doubt that we can outright protect a great deal more of the province. What we can do,
however, is manage what we have better,” says Royal Society of Canada Fellow John
Borden, an SFU professor emeritus and professional forester.

Prof. Sally Otto, Director of the Biodiversity Research Center at UBC and another Royal
Society fellow, agrees: “Islands of protection for endangered species in B.C. will not turn
the rising tide of risk. We need to protect endangered wildlife province-wide.”

A task force to investigate what such legislation might look like has been struck by the
government. However the senior academics note that the panel is decidedly nontechnical
in nature, and they emphasize that “the final legislation must be firmly
grounded on sound science in order to achieve the goal of protecting species at risk.”

“We are lucky to live on one of the world's richest and most beautiful estates,” says Prof.
Brad Anholt, Canada Research Chair in Ecology at the University of Victoria. “We dare
not lose this treasure simply because we fell asleep and let the house burn down.”

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