Leading environmental groups call for immediate action as N.B. Government neglects legal duty to protect species at risk

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

Leading environmental and Indigenous groups in New Brunswick have let the provincial government know they are ready to go to court if the government continues to neglect its legal duties under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

On May 19, EcoJustice sent a demand letter to the Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development Mike Holland on behalf of the Conservation Council, Mailseet Nation Conservation Council, Nature NB, the Nature Trust of New Brunswick, and WWF-Canada, threatening litigation over his department’s failure to protect endangered species.

In November 2020, the groups sent a letter outlining concerns that the department was not in compliance with SARA legislation (formerly the Endangered Species Act). We received no response.

Piping plover

The Act includes ensuring the protection of endangered or threatened species such as the Canada lynx, bank swallow, Eastern wood-peewee, piping plover, Atlantic salmon, wood turtle, and horned grebe. 

The department’s failings were detailed in a report published September 2020 by East Coast Environmental Law.

Protected On Paper Only: An Evaluation of New Brunswick’s Legal Obligations under the Species at Risk Act, identified serious government negligence, including:

  • The Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development has failed to uphold a legal duty to ensure the most basic steps to assess, manage and recover species at risk are completed;
  • Failure to follow processes designed to protect many of New Brunswick’s most at-risk species; and
  • New Brunswick’s public registry for species at risk is seven years out of date, hindering New Brunswickers’ ability to hold the government to account for protecting both iconic species and species important to a healthy ecosystem. 
Canada lynx

Introduced in 2012, SARA is quite simple. 

The Minister had a duty to set up a scientist advisory committee—which, after nearly 10 years, was established recently. 

The Minister was also required to have his or her department draw up protection plans for the species listed as extirpated (five species in N.B.), endangered (39 species), threatened (20 species), and of special concern (25 species). As of September 2020, of the 88 species listed in these categories, only four have received recovery assessments, three have provincial recovery strategies and none have received protection assessment as required by law. 

In our demand letter sent to Minister Holland this week, we urge that there is no time to waste in protecting the unique, culturally significant and cherished species at risk in New Brunswick from the increasing threats of the biodiversity crisis, climate change, and ongoing industrial activity, particularly by forestry companies on Crown land.

The letter outlines specific demands and timelines that the Minister must meet to come into compliance with the Act and says that failure to respond to or implement the demands in full by the stated deadlines may result in litigation to enforce the law. Read the full letter here.

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Share this article with your friends and family on social media and call or email your local Member of the Legislative Assembly to tell them you want the government to get to work protecting New Brunswick’s endangered species before it’s too late!

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