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VANCOUVER - Environmentalists welcome a new Private Members Bill (Bill M2: Species Protection Act) that will be introduced into the British Columbia Legislature today by New Democrat MLA Rob Fleming. If passed, the Bill would provide much needed legal tools to ensure that B.C.'s threatened wildlife, like grizzly bears and burrowing owls, are finally protected.

The proposed endangered species law comes at a crucial moment for B.C.'s globally renowned but increasingly embattled wildlife. The province is home to 76 per cent of Canada's bird species, 70 per cent of its freshwater fish species, and thousands of other animals and plants. However, scientists believe that much of the province's wildlife and ecosystems are in dire straits. According to the government's Conservation Data Centre, more than 1,600 plants and animals are now declining or at risk of disappearing from the province yet B.C., along with Alberta, is one of the only provinces in Canada that currently lacks a law to protect them or their habitat.

"British Columbia is blessed with a richness of plants and animals that is on par with the Galapagos, the Serengeti and other extraordinary places on our planet. But with this richness comes responsibility and a strong endangered species law to protect wildlife and their habitat is urgently needed," said Dr. Faisal Moola, the David Suzuki Foundation's Director of Science.

The NDP's proposed Species at Risk Protection Act includes the basic components of such a law, such as scientific assessment of which species are at risk, legal listing, protections against killing individuals of the species and protection of their habitat, and the development of recovery strategies to determine what actions are needed for a species' survival and recovery. It also offers a balanced approach to protecting endangered wildlife by encouraging voluntary stewardship activities and by allowing for socioeconomic considerations to be taken into account when government decides what elements of a recovery strategy to implement.

"The NDP's proposed Species at Risk Protection Act includes the best practices from decades of experience with endangered species laws in other jurisdictions. Species protection must be a non-partisan issue and we hope that all members of the legislature will take a serious look at this Private Member's Bill," said Keith Ferguson, Staff Lawyer for Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund).

Public polling has shown that almost 90 per cent of British Columbians care deeply about endangered wildlife and believe that the province needs to enact a strong law to recover species at risk, and to prevent species from becoming at risk in the first place.

While the bill works its way through the legislative process, the current Liberal government is expected to announce the creation of a long-awaited special task force to advise it on how to protect the province's endangered species, as promised in the government's August 2009 Speech from the Throne.

For more information, please visit www.protectbiodiversity.ca or contact:

Dr. Faisal Moola, Director of Science, David Suzuki Foundation (647) 993-5788
Keith Ferguson, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice (604) 685-5618 ext 287

May 31, 2010