Feds sued for ‘delaying’ wildlife protection
Humpback whale. (PHOTO WHIT WELLES WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The federal government has been unlawfully shirking its own laws regarding wildlife conservation and its actions could help the Northern Gateway pipeline get approval, a coalition of environmental groups alleged in court Wednesday.
In federal court in Vancouver the group, consisting of the Wilderness Committee, Wildsight, Sierra Legal Club B.C., Greenpeace Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice opened their case against the federal ministries of the environment and fisheries and oceans.
The environmental groups argue the federal government has been “chronically delaying” recovery strategies for four endangered species in need of immediate protection.
They want the court to order the plans developed and finalized as soon as possible, requiring them to be referenced in considerations for development, such as pipelines, and help protect a further 160 species.
Devon Page of Ecojustice said the delays go against the government’s own legislation by violating the Species at Risk Act.
“Failure to produce the recovery strategies means the government doesn’t have to protect their critical habitat,” Page told reporters outside court.
Page said that without the plans being in place, the government doesn’t have to consider protecting the species when weighing the risks of the proposed Northern Gateway project.
In court, lawyers for the group said if a citizen doesn’t pay their taxes excuses aren’t accepted, adding that the government should not be held to a different standard of the law.
The groups are concerned about the Pacific humpback whale, Nechako white sturgeon, marbled murrelet and southern mountain caribou.
Recovery strategies for three of the species have been proposed, but not finalized and the groups argue that’s due to unlawful behaviour on the government’s part, not incompetence.
The hearing is expected to take two days.