Lawsuit: Endangered species along Northern Gateway route
Sierra Club BC, along with four other conservation groups, is taking the federal government to court over its failure to protect four iconic endangered species along the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker shipping route. The lawsuit, announced by Ecojustice on September 26, claims that the federal government's continued failure to implement the Species at Risk Act (SARA) is threatening endangered wildlife along the proposed route.
The lawsuit challenges the federal government’s multi-year delays in producing recovery strategies for four species that would be affected by the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway project — the Pacific Humpback Whale, Nechako White Sturgeon, Marbled Murrelet and Southern Mountain Caribou. The habitat for all four species, which lies along the proposed pipeline and shipping route, would be impacted by the construction and operation of the Northern Gateway pipeline.
The recovery strategy for each of these species is at least three years overdue.
“While failing to meet its legal responsibility under the Species at Risk Act, our government has nevertheless found plenty of time and resources to vigorously promote the Enbridge pipeline proposal,” said George Heyman, executive director of Sierra Club BC. “All of the species that are listed in this case are unique and irreplaceable. The federal government should be giving these species a fighting chance to survive, instead of fast-tracking environmental assessments of large scale projects in the absence of important information.”
Loss of habitat is the key cause of decline for more than 80 per cent of Canada’s species at risk. In order to survive and recover, at-risk animals and plants need protection of their critical habitat. After a species has been listed under SARA, the federal government is required by law to produce a recovery strategy that identifies the species’ critical habitat based on the best available scientific information and Aboriginal traditional knowledge.
“Delay threatens the survival of our endangered wildlife. That's why the deadlines in SARA for producing recovery strategies are mandatory,” said Sean Nixon, staff lawyer with Ecojustice. “SARA is a good law that could help endangered species recover. The real problem is that the federal government won’t implement it.”
The groups seek a court order to force the federal government to release recovery strategies for the four species that are the subject of this litigation. These recovery strategies are an important first step in ensuring these endangered species have their habitat protected.