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CPAWS drops lawsuit, Ottawa agrees to report on critical habitat protection

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 5/11/2018 7:55:00 AM

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) has withdrawn a Federal Court application seeking judicial review of federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna’s actions to protect the critical habitat of boreal caribou.

The judicial application, filed April 20, 2017, centred around section 63 of the Species at Risk Act. It requires that the minister report on the unprotected critical habitat of any listed species within 180 days of the publication of a recovery strategy or action plan, and to continue to report every 180 days until all identified critical habitat has been protected. The requirement has not routinely been met.

When CPAWS launched its action in April 2017, it said it was focussing on boreal caribou because the caribou’s critical habitat spanned nine provinces and territories from Labrador to Yukon.

However, CPAWS also stated that its objective was not a court victory, but a plan that would better protect the critical habitat of species at risk. That’s what it got. CPAWS and McKenna have agreed that Ottawa will track and report on unprotected critical habitat on non-federal lands within 180 days of it being identified. The federal government has also committed to addressing other Species at Risk Act reporting requirements.

"This agreement moves us one step closer to addressing the biggest current threat to species in Canada, the destruction of critical habitat,” said CPAWS National Executive Director Éric Hébert-Daly in a release.

Change is already evident. Environment and Climate Change Canada has released its first report under section 63 on the protection of critical habitat for boreal caribou. That report will be updated every 180 days, according to the government.

As to critical habitat for other species, Environment and Climate Change Canada promises that by June 2019 it will report on the protection of critical habitat for approximately 150 terrestrial species. Reporting will continue every 180 days until the minister is satisfied that sufficient measures are in place.

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