Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Federal Ministers Took Action on Endangered Species Due to Lawsuit: Lawyer

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Federal Ministers Took Action on Endangered Species Due to Lawsuit: Lawyer

Article excerpt

Ottawa acted on endangered species due to lawsuit

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VANCOUVER - The federal ministers responsible for protecting endangered species took action on four critically threatened species because they were facing court action, their lawyer told a Federal Court judge on Thursday.

Since the Federal Court lawsuit was filed by a coalition of environmental groups more than a year ago, the fisheries and environment ministers have posted a final recovery strategy for Pacific humpback whales and draft strategies for marbled murrelet and Nechako white sturgeon.

A commitment was made to the court that a draft plan for the fourth and final species named in the court action, the southern mountain caribou, will be posted by Jan. 17.

"It is not a comfortable position for the minister to be sued and to have me writing letters saying, 'Now listen, you have to do something about this file or there could be some serious consequences,'" Brian McLaughlin told the court.

"The reason why these were put on top of the file was because of this litigation."

The groups launched the court action because the final recovery strategies required under the Species At Risk Act were between four and six years overdue.

They say there are 167 federally recognized endangered and threatened species in the same legal limbo, and they're asking Judge Anne MacTavish to order Ottawa to publish final recovery strategies, as required under the law.

The problem, McLaughlin told the court, is the "huge backlog."

"The government has made some progress in whittling it down, but it's still unacceptably high and it exposes the minister to being pulled into court to justify on a species-by-species basis why the ministers have failed to post recovery strategies," he admitted.

But the ministers did not commit to the court to meeting a 90-day timeline set out in the legislation for turning their draft recovery plans into final recovery strategies, with all the protections those offer. …

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