Groups demand New Brunswick government take action to protect vulnerable species

Indigenous and environmental groups criticize government’s neglect of provincial Species at Risk Act

Traditional territory of the Wabanaki Peoples/Fredericton – In a demand letter sent to Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development Mike Holland, prominent Indigenous and environmental groups are threatening litigation over New Brunswick’s failure to protect endangered species.

The Government of New Brunswick has demonstrated an ongoing failure to meet its obligations under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). First introduced in 2012 as a replacement for the previous Endangered Species Act, it governs the protection of species at risk in the province.

The Minister has failed to respond adequately to a letter sent by several prominent Indigenous and environmental groups in November 2020, demanding the government deliver a concrete plan for how the Act will be fully implemented. A report by East Coast Environmental Law, sent to the Minister a month prior, demonstrated that for many species at risk listed under the Act, even simple, preliminary steps towards protection have not been taken.

Today’s letter, sent by Ecojustice on behalf of the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council, Nature NB, WWF-Canada, the Nature Trust of New Brunswick, and the Conservation Council of New Brunswick outlines specific demands and timelines that the Minister must meet to come into compliance with the Act. The letter stipulates that failure to respond to or implement the demands in full by the stated deadlines may result in litigation to enforce the law.

Sarah McDonald, Ecojustice lawyer said:

“The Government of New Brunswick has neglected its responsibilities under the province’s Species at Risk Act, leaving many vulnerable species without adequate protection in the province.

“The lack of enforcement of the Act raises numerous concerns, particularly given the ongoing, rapid and widespread loss of biodiversity in Canada and around the world.
“Ecojustice and our clients hope Minister Holland will respond to the demands and properly implement the Act’s requirements by the stated deadlines.”

Patricia Saulis, Executive Director, Maliseet Nation Conservation Council said:

“On behalf of our relations in the natural world, MNCC is looking forward to working with our partners on improving the fate of those we need to take care of – the 4 legged, the finned, the winged, the crawlers, the plants, trees and waters. We seek to honor our role as caretakers, stewards and helpers to our environment and with this action, to reaffirm our goal of restoring health and balance.”

Lois Corbett, Executive Director, Conservation Council of New Brunswick said:

“Far too many species important to New Brunswickers have been left unprotected in our woods and waters for far too long. Everything from the small Eastern wood pewee to the iconic Canada lynx are increasingly threatened by habitat loss due to forestry management and other causes. If the Minister wants to be true to the law, we need to see recovery assessments written and new regulations passed.”

Vanessa Roy-McDougall, Executive Director, Nature NB said:

“Plant and animal species are the foundation of a healthy ecosystem. When a species becomes endangered, it is a clear sign that the entire ecosystem is in trouble. The Government of New Brunswick needs to step up now to protect at risk species in the province, so we can preserve our rich natural heritage for generations to come.”

Emily Giles, Senior Specialist, Species, WWF-Canada, said:

“WWF-Canada has identified New Brunswick as a priority area for conservation in Canada, due to the large number of species at risk and important habitats that can be found in the Wolastoq, or Saint John River, watershed. With increasing human pressure on the landscape, it is critically important that species at risk receive protection from the province now.

“Without action, our research has shown that dozens of species – including the shortnose sturgeon and Furbish’s lousewort, which are unique to New Brunswick and not found anywhere else in the country – are likely to disappear from the region within the next 25 years.”

Renata Woodward, Chief Executive Officer, Nature Trust of New Brunswick said:

“Conserving ecologically significant land needed by Species at Risk (SAR) and helping private landowners to preserve SAR habitat on their land is a top priority for the Nature Trust of New Brunswick. It is crucial for the Government of New Brunswick to take responsibility for protecting Species at Risk and to fulfill the actions outlined in the Act. We stand ready to do our part in SAR conservation.”

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Background

The vast majority of at-risk species listed under the SARA have been left without the Act’s legal protection since the Act first came into force in 2013. Protection assessments have not been prepared for nearly two-thirds of the 88 species listed as extirpated, endangered, or threatened, meaning they do not currently benefit from basic prohibitions against being killed, harmed or harassed.

For example, Atlantic salmon (Outer Bay of Fundy population) are listed as endangered under the SARA and face threats from aquaculture, dams, and changes in the marine environment due to climate change. The letter demands that a feasibility of recovery assessment be prepared and posted to the species at risk public registry (as required by the Act) within 180 days.

Who we are

Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.

The Maliseet Nation Conservation Council (MNCC) works with and supports the Wolastoqey First Nations of New Brunswick. The MNCC promotes and advances Wolastoqiyik co-management of the Saint John River (Wolastoq) watershed and ecosystem through conservation, and stewardship, education and respect for the traditional knowledge of their communities and ancestors, for present and future generations.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick, established in 1969, remains the province’s leading public advocate for environmental protection, working to find practical solutions to help families and citizens, educators, governments and businesses protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the precious marine ecosystem and the land, including the forest, that support us. From its early days the Conservation Council has stood up for species’ habitat protection, including supporting the Endangered Spaces Campaign of over 25 years ago, publishing critical works on the state of the Acadian forest—including wildlife in each ecoregion where the provincial government allocates timber allotments—and more recently pressing for more action to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

Nature NB is a non-profit, charitable organization whose mission is to celebrate, conserve, and protect New Brunswick’s natural heritage, through education, networking, and collaboration. In addition to encouraging a better understanding of the natural environment and awakening concern for our province’s natural heritage, Nature NB recognizes the importance of preserving and maintaining that natural heritage and has been working to protect species at risk for over 30 years.

World Wildlife Fund Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.

Established in 1987, the Nature Trust of New Brunswick is a charitable land conservation organization dedicated to preserving the province’s ecologically significant landscapes. To date, the Nature Trust has conserved over 9,000 acres in 67 beautiful and diverse nature preserves in New Brunswick. Our mission is to conserve areas in New Brunswick that are ecologically significant, to establish nature preserves that remain protected forever, to steward the preserves through a network of volunteers and supporters, and to engage with the public on the importance of land conservation, New Brunswick’s natural heritage, biodiversity, and species at risk.

For media inquiries: 

Zoryana Cherwick, Communications Specialist | Ecojustice 1-800-926-7744 ext. 277, zcherwick@ecojustice.ca

Patricia Saulis, Executive Director | Maliseet Nation Conservation Council (506) 472-8803, psaulis2@yahoo.ca

Jon MacNeill, Communications Director | Conservation Council of New Brunswick 506-238-3539, jon.macneill@conservationcouncil.ca

Vanessa Roy-McDougall, Executive Director | Nature NB 506-459-4209, executive.director@naturenb.ca

Rebecca Spring, Senior Communications Manager | WWF Canada rspring@wwfcanada.org

Kelsey Hogan, Acting Communications Coordinator | Nature Trust of New Brunswick 709-640-9447, kelsey.hogan@ntnb.org

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