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Endangered species: A fine balance

The Labrador duck is long gone and the wild Vancouver Island marmot is struggling to bounce back, but the whooping crane, the swift fox and the bison are actually making comebacks. With more than 30 species already gone and over 400 species of plants and animals at risk, Canada is starting to get serious about protecting its endangered species. Let's hope it's not too late.

Developing legislation to protect endangered species is tricky business. The government must consider the interests and concerns of both environmentalists and landowners. One goal is to discourage a practice found in the United States known as "shoot, shovel and shut up" where property owners kill endangered species found on their land in order to avoid the strict regulations protecting its habitat. CBC Radio's Connie Watson reports on the "fine balance" Environment Minister David Anderson must strike when developing a protection strategy. 
• Canada signed the international Convention on Biological Diversity at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, committing to develop legislative protection for threatened species.
• In 1996 Bill C-65, the Canada Endangered Species Protection Act, was tabled but died when the general election was called for June 1997.
• Bill C-33, The Species at Risk Act, was tabled in April 2000 but died when a general election was called for November of that year.

• Bill C-5, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was tabled in 2001 and died in September 2002, but was finally passed in October of that year, and assented to in December.
• SARA was proclaimed in June 2003, finally creating federal legislation to prevent wildlife species from becoming extinct, and to provide for the recovery of those at risk.

• David Anderson, federal minister of environment from August 1999 – July 2004, was instrumental in getting SARA enacted into law.
• According to his website, Mr. Anderson was the first Canadian ever elected as president of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme, the leading international forum for governments to address current and emerging environmental issues.

• Endangered species habitat in Canada is routinely fragmented or destroyed in the pursuit of commercial interests such as logging, mining, fishing and urban development. In 1991 Tory backbencher Bob Wenman introduced a private member's bill designed to legally protect these areas. CBC Television's Eve Savory reported that the bill was unlikely to pass as constitutional proposals at the time favoured increasing provincial authority over environment and wildlife rather than developing federal laws.

• Not everyone thinks that increased regulation is the best way to protect endangered species. Laura Jones of the Fraser Institute is a proponent of free market environmentalism and author of Crying Wolf? Public Policy on Endangered Species in Canada(1999). She believes that market incentives rather than government intervention is the key to protecting the environment.
Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: Dec. 17, 1999
Reporter: Connie Watson
Duration: 2:29

Last updated: February 16, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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