Canada Proposes Wildlife Law with Weak Teeth Scientists Say Law Does Little to Protect Habitat of Wildlife

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Canada is the second-largest country on earth, and a proud exporter to the world of minerals, oil, and lumber since its early days. But that history has also etched a ragged trail across its vast and varied ecosystem.

Some 62 animals and plants - from the Acadian flycatcher to the large whorled pagonia - are considered endangered. And now, a quarter century after the US passed its Endangered Species Act, Canada is considering its own law. But there is a problem: Hundreds of scientists say the proposed law will not work.

"If passed in its current form, this law will do a poor job protecting animals," says David Schindler, a professor at the University of Alberta at Edmonton renowned for his pioneering work on acid rain. He and 299 Canadian scientists earlier this month signed a blunt letter warning Prime Minister Jean Chretien that the proposed act is far too weak to adequately protect 254 "at risk" species in Canada. While Canada's proposed law might have a name similar to the US Endangered Species Act, it does not have the same teeth to protect wildlife habitat, the scientists and environmentalists say. As currently conceived, the law would apply only to a limited number of species: those living on federal lands - which are just 5 percent of Canada - aquatic species, and migratory birds. On provincial land, the federal law would still impose stiff fines for killing an endangered animal, but would not protect the land animals live on. "The Canadian Act is much weaker and narrower than US law," says Stuart Elgie, a lawyer with the Sierra Legal Defense Fund in Toronto. "The US Endangered Species Act applies to all endangered species and their habitats. Canada's law would only apply to 40 percent of endangered species and the habitats of 30 percent of endangered species. …