Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia natural resources minister says species-at-risk work under review

Nova Scotia Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines says he's already taking action after the province's auditor general pointed out deficiencies in the department's approach to protecting species at risk.

Auditor general says department lax in protecting as many as 60 threatened species

The piping plover has been listed as endangered since 2000. (Gordon Court)

Nova Scotia Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines says he's already taking action after the province's auditor general pointed out deficiencies in the department's approach to protecting species at risk.

Hines told CBC Cape Breton's Information Morning that the auditor general has helped refocus the department's work.

"This is not an audit of how you spend your money, but how you spend your time," said Hines. "For that, we're appreciative because we've got lots of priorities and sometimes inordinate amounts of time can be spent on things that are at the expense of other things, such as the species-at-risk issue."

Auditor General Michael Pickup last week urged the department to create a comprehensive monitoring, and made five recommendations to improve protection for the province's 60 species at risk.

Poor communication

Pickup pointed out a lack of communication, both between divisions within Natural Resources and between the department and outside conservation agencies.

"The challenge in government is to make sure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing," said Hines, who said a review is underway to improve "lateral" communications.

The review will also seek to learn why no one from DNR responded to a 2014 letter from a recovery team created to execute a plan to restore a particular population. The team was concerned that certain forestry practices were harming the species, and asked for changes to those practices. Their letter was never acknowledged.

"We're going to review that process, look at our lines of communication and see how that could happen in the first place," said Hines. "That's much too long a lag time and really unacceptable in terms of being able to respond to the concerns."

Hines says some department employees have already been reassigned duties related to species at risk, but he did not indicate whether he had set deadlines for improvements to be made.

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton

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