WCELA AND THE B.C. ENDANGERED SPECIES COALITION
West Coast Environmental Law Association acts as counsel to the B.C. Endangered Species Coalition, an umbrella group of environmental and naturalist organizations in B.C. who seek to improve the legal protection for endangered and vulnerable species in the province. A list of the member groups of the Coalition is attached to this submission.
The Coalition has four broad goals for improving legal protection for endangered species. These goals refer to a proposed provincial Endangered Species Act.
1. The Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks must have the power to grant protection to wild, native, endangered, threatened or vulnerable species.1
The current provincial statute dealing with endangered and threatened species allows only non-fish, vertebrate species to be designated as "endangered" or "threatened". Plants, invertebrates and fish are not included in existing endangered or threatened species protection.
2. The new endangered species law should automatically protect the habitat of endangered or threatened species.
Destruction of habitat is probably the chief threat to most endangered or threatened species, and once a species has been designated, its habitat should receive automatic protection. The current B.C. law does not permit this to occur.
3. Statutory reform should be implemented to ensure that all biologically endangered, threatened and vulnerable species receive designation through the advice of an Endangered Species Scientific Advisory Board. This Advisory Board would make public recommendations regarding the designation of species and of specific protected habitat zones, and also regarding legislative reform, policy reform, and other actions that the government can take to protect endangered, threatened and vulnerable species.
All species that are truly endangered, threatened or vulnerable should be properly protected by law. Under the present B.C. Wildlife Act, the decision to designate a species as endangered or threatened is the absolute and confidential discretion of Cabinet. One way to encourage the government to make endangered species decisions based on the actual biological vulnerability of a species is to establish an Endangered Species Scientific Advisory Board. All decisions should be made public and subject to public scrutiny and debate.
4. The provincial government should:
- devote sufficient resources both financial and human to endangered species recovery, protection of fish, wildlife and their habitats, and conservation of biological diversity;
- be bound, by law, to ensure that actions it authorizes, funds or carries out do not jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered, threatened or vulnerable species; and
- conduct a comprehensive review of its legislation and policy to determine ways in which biological diversity can be promoted.
2. THE PROPOSAL
The federal government has released a discussion document outlining a proposed national approach to endangered species conservation at a national level. The document, A National Approach to Endangered Species Conservation in Canada, (the "National Approach") was prepared by a Committee of federal, provincial and territorial wildlife officials. It has been presented for public comment and consultation. The comments that follow have been prepared in response to the discussion document.
3. ORGANIZATION OF COMMENTS
This paper has been divided into sections commenting on the National Approach and providing other suggestions for addressing endangered species issues. The paper begins with a statement of support for the work of the Canadian Endangered Species Coalition. This is followed by a discussion of a critical problem: the proposed legislation gives too much discretion to each jurisdiction. The issues of species loss in B.C. and deficiencies with the current B.C. Wildlife Act are then presented and are followed by a discussion of the listing process, response actions, habitat management, the need for a strong federal role, legislation and other ways to improve endangered species conservation in Canada.