Species at Risk History
|March 2013||Environment Canada proposed a new hunt of sandhill cranes in Alberta. AWA writes in opposition to the hunt "Although AWA has no objection to hunting when it is demonstrably sustainable, there is a reasonable doubt that this would in fact be the case with sandhill cranes, and so AWA does not support the proposed crane hunt."
Objections to the proposed hunt include the continuing vulnerability of crane habitat in Alberta, and the risk of incidental killing of endangered whooping cranes by mistake.
|2011|| May 6, the seven organizations in the Suffield Coalition write to Environment Canada about the proposed changes to the Recovery Strategy for Sprague's pipit. Once again, the strategy fails to adequately recognize critical habitat for the species. Though the strategy recognizes critical habitat on federal land in the Suffield National Wildlife Area, it fails to do so on any provincial land, even though Sprague's pipits have been mapped here for many years.
|2010||September1, the seven organizations in the Suffield Coalition write to
federal Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, to express concern about the
Department’s failure to identify critical habitat for Burrowing Owl
within CFB Suffield National Wildlife Area. A revised proposed recovery
strategy once again failed to identify critical habitat for Burrowing
Owl in accordance with the Species at Risk Act.
"There is no scientific basis for the conspicuous exclusions of habitat biologically critical for Burrowing Owls from the current critical habitat designation for Burrowing Owl," says the Coalition. "While the recovery strategy identifies critical habitat in land currently under federal jurisdiction... the valuable habitat within CFB Suffield NWA is overlooked and the occurrence of the species within the Suffield block is misrepresented.
"It appears that the exclusion of this biologically critical habitat from the identification of critical habitat for Burrowing Owl is not based on scientific considerations as required by SARA. Information is clearly available to identify critical habitat within CFB Suffield National Wildlife Area and such habitat should be identified in the recovery strategy."
In August 2010, Ecojustice, on behalf of AWA, Pembina Institute and Sierra Club Prairie Chapter, petition federal Minister of the Environment, Jim Prentice, to adopt emergency measures under the federal Species at Risk Act to protect caribou herds in northeastern Alberta. Their letter calls for a halt to further industrial activity in caribou ranges until a recovery plan and habitat protection measures — mandated by species legislation — are in place.
The letter supports a demand made by local First Nations in July, when the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Enoch Cree Nation, Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation and Athabascan Chipewyan First Nation demanded that the minister provide emergency protection for herds on their traditional lands.
|2009||Environmentalists celebrate the first decisive victory for endangered species since the unveiling of Canada’s Species at Risk Act in 2003. On July 9 a federal court judge in Vancouver ruled that the federal Minister of the Environment, Jim Prentice, broke the law by refusing to identify critical habitat in a recovery plan for the endangered greater sage-grouse. The judge agreed with the environmental groups that it was “unreasonable” for the government to claim it couldn’t identify breeding grounds when knowledge of their locations was “notorious.”
Only 66 male sage-grouse counted on leks in Alberta.
|2008||Lawsuit filed by Ecojustice on behalf of Alberta Wilderness Association, Federation of Alberta Naturalists, Grasslands Naturalists, Nature Saskatchewan and Wilderness Committee. Lawsuit accuses the federal Minister for the Environment of failing to identify critical habitat for sage-grouse, despite having ample evidence to do so. “Protecting habitat is the most important thing we can do to help the recovery of species at risk – and for the sage-grouse this needs to be done now,” said Mark Boyce, Professor of Biology at the University of Alberta and author of a study pinpointing the habitat of the grouse. “Unfortunately, as with other endangered species, Environment Canada has chosen not to identify critical habitat in the sage-grouse strategy, despite having ample scientific information to do so.” This is widely seen as a test case for the 2003 Species at Risk Act.
Only 84 male sage-grouse counted on leks in Alberta.
|2007||February: The federal government responds to
the 2006 CEC petition, claiming that SARA is a “new and complex” piece of
legislation, that the case of the spotted owl is currently before the
courts, and that the spotted owl case will affect the outcome of woodland
caribou recovery. They go on to claim that the completion of “only 23 out of
133 recovery strategies” is a “broad based allegation” that “should not be
The CEC is now reviewing the federal government’s response to the 2006 petition.
|2006||Four species are added to the provincial
endangered species list: burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk, short-horned
lizard and mountain plover.
A coalition of environmental groups submits a formal petition to the Commission on Environmental Cooperation, a component of the NAFTA process that was setup to hold member countries accountable to domestic environmental legislation. Although the premise behind the CEC is to protect other countries from unfair trade conditions, and the CEC itself cannot legally force governments to act, action by the CEC can be politically “motivating” for national governments. The petition highlights the plight of BC’s spotted owl and Alberta’s woodland caribou as species that have not been adequately protected by provincial efforts. The petition states (p. 1):
“This submission asserts, for the purposes of Articles 14 and 15 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), the failure of the Canadian federal government to effectively enforce the Species at Risk Act (SARA) with respect to at least 197 of the 529 species identified as at risk in Canada, so as to frustrate the Act’s purpose: preventing wildlife species from becoming extirpated or becoming extinct and providing for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity. More particularly, as set out below, the Submitters allege that Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency, the Minister of the Environment and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are failing to enforce the SARA with regard to Listing, Recovery Planning, and national enforcement through the ‘Safety Net and Emergency Orders.’”
Under provisions in the CEC, private citizens can submit petitions for formal review by the CEC, which would then request a response by the domestic government in question.
Encana proposes the expansion of industrial development into the CFB Suffield National Wildlife Area (NWA). The environmental review process will test the strength of SARA to protect endangered species on federal land, as the area contains 14 federally listed At Risk species. There are also 78 species listed in a 2000 provincial assessment as At Risk or Sensitive in the NWA.
|2004||Under Alberta’s Wildlife Act, Alberta
lists 6 endangered species, 7 threatened species, and 15 species with “other
forms of proposed protection.”
The federal government releases a discussion paper on the critical habitat provisions in SARA.
|2003||COSEWIC’s mandate is broadened to include
arthropods (e.g., invertebrate animals).
AWA reports that non-target endangered species are being trapped in coyote leg snares. Spokespersons from the province claim that stopping the trapping will not be possible as it will set a “precedent.”
The federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) comes into effect. The Act is highly controversial, most notably for its emphasis on non-regulatory approaches to habitat protection. The Act explicitly applies to federal land and vaguely implicates provincial land through a “safety net” clause (Section 61). This clause is supposed to ensure that provinces adhere to recovery plans through a last-resort measure; however, this implementation of this clause is under the discretion of the federal Minister.
|2002||Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist E. O. Wilson estimates that if current rates of human destruction of the biosphere continue, one-half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in 100 years.|
|2000||Minister Gary Mar announces $4.7M in funding for endangered species recovery in Alberta.|
|1999||Optimism grows as newly appointed Environment
Minister Gary Mar sets up a scientific advisory committee on endangered
species in Alberta, replacing former minister Ty Lund’s dismal performance
in endangered species protection.
The World Wildlife Fund gives Alberta a “D-” on endangered species protection.
Minister of Environment Gary Mar continues to deflect
provincial responsibility for protecting endangered species while at the
same time suggesting that federal interference in provincial legislation
will not be necessary.
|1998||New Democrats introduce a private members’
Bill (#237), the Endangered Species and Habitats Protection Act,
which would establish a scientific panel to determine the status of species
and the identification of critical habitat for listed species.
The World Wildlife Fund gives Alberta an “F” on endangered species protection.
Efforts to protect species habitat are further eroded by the Special Places 2000 program, which establishes “protected areas” that allow industrial development.
There is a public demonstration on the front steps of the legislature to demand the government adopt the proposed endangered species bill (Bill 237).
The Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) is formed by the federal government. The CESCC comprises provincial and federal political leaders in charge of wildlife management. The CESCC is expected to coordinate and determine the “most effective” course of action to protect species. This committee is essentially the political wing of the federal listing process that “interprets” the scientific work of COSEWIC as it applies to endangered species protection.
The federally appointed Task Force on Federal Endangered Species Conservation submits its final report with recommendations to strengthen proposed endangered species legislation.
|1996||The federal government announces it will
create new endangered species legislation.
In a Calgary Herald article (May 9), Premier Klein is accused of breaking his promise made in 1995 to protect endangered species.
Amendments in Alberta’s Wildlife Act (Bill 42) fail to address endangered species habitat protection and simply ban hunting of endangered species. They also establish the Endangered Species Conservation Committee to address “input” into the recovery process.
Alberta, along with other provinces, agrees in principle to “The Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.” The Accord outlines commitments to designate species at risk, protect their habitats and develop recovery plans. The first 5 points of the Accord state:
|1995||Premier Ralph Klein publicly commits to
introducing endangered species legislation. According to the transcripts of
the meeting, the Premier promises to protect habitat through legislation.
Environmentalists applaud the commitment.
The provincial “Environmental Protection Report” states that 25% of wildlife populations in Alberta are at risk of extinction.
Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba all have some form of dedicated endangered species legislation by 1995.
Ministers from provincial and federal governments meet to discuss a national policy on endangered species protection.
The Canadian Wildlife Service organizes public workshops on proposed federal endangered species legislation.
|1994||COSEWIC’s mandate is broadened to include mollusks, butterflies/moths, lichens and mosses.|
|1992||After public consultation, the opposition New
Democratic Party in Alberta drafts endangered species legislation, the
Endangered Species and Endangered Spaces Act, with provisions to protect
species habitat. On another bill, the opposition asks the province to pass
legislation consistent with the Canada’s signing of the CITES treaty, which
would make it illegal to buy and sell goods made of endangered species. The
bill is rejected.
At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Canada and 189 other nations sign the Convention on Biological Diversity, with the following goals:
|1987||The greater prairie chicken becomes extinct in Canada.|
|1986||A workshop on endangered species in the
Prairie Provinces is convened by biologists and government officials. Four
hundred people participate and over 4600 members of the public visit the
displays at the conference.
The Banff long-nosed dace becomes extinct.
|1985||Provincial Fish and Wildlife Division releases “A Policy for the Management of Threatened Wildlife in Alberta,” which establishes a status designation and management priority system. Nine species of birds and mammals are designated as endangered, threatened or vulnerable. “Peripheral” species are excluded from direct management intervention. Some notable peripheral species named in this document include Ord’s kangaroo rat and the short-horned lizard.|
|1982||A feature article in the Calgary Herald (March 27) claims that only two endangered species in Alberta receive protection: the white pelican and the double-crested cormorant. The article reports that there may be as few as 20 breeding pairs of peregrine falcons in the province and that no one in the provincial government has been assigned to endangered species management.|
|1981||The Convention on Biological Diversity is first proposed at an IUCN meeting (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). The treaty is to be completed by, and come into effect in 1992.|
|1978||COSEWIC produces its first status reports.|
|1977||The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is created based on the work of the 1976 conference.|
|1976||Federal, territorial and provincial ministers meet at a conference to discuss the creation of a scientifically based official status designation system for at-risk species.|
|1975||Biologists transfer whooping crane eggs from
Wood Buffalo National Park to Idaho to be raised by sandhill cranes.
Canada signs and ratifies the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species treaty (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora, which aims to prohibit the trade of rare and endangered wildlife. The government of Alberta, which has the jurisdictional duty to protect wildlife in the province, enacts corresponding CITES legislation 17 years later.
|1974||A provincial government report lists six
species as Endangered: wood bison, whooping crane, peregrine falcon, painted
turtle, short-horned lizard and western hognose snake. The report cites
habitat loss as the major factor affecting species loss. The report also
claims that the provincial Wildlife Act protects almost all mammal
and bird species in Alberta; however, there are no provisions in the
Wildlife Act to address Endangered or other at-risk species.
The black-footed ferret is extirpated in Alberta.
|Pre-1900||Alberta loses the plains grizzly and plains wolf populations to over hunting and habitat loss.|