VANCOUVER - The David Suzuki Foundation welcomes the introduction of a new bill in the British Columbia legislature today to protect and recover the province's threatened and endangered wildlife, including orca whales, great blue herons, and grizzly bears. New Democrat MLA Rob Fleming wrote and introduced the private member's bill: Bill M2, Species at Risk Protection Act.
"This endangered species bill comes at a crucial moment for B.C.'s globally renowned but increasingly embattled wildlife. Over four dozen plants and animals have already been driven to extinction in B.C., such as the Vancouver Island wolverine and Viceroy butterfly, and the list of casualties is growing," said Dr. Faisal Moola, Director of Science at the David Suzuki Foundation.
According to the B.C. government's Conservation Data Centre, 1,900 plants and animals are now declining or at risk of disappearing from the province. However, British Columbia along with Alberta, are the only provinces in Canada that currently lack a law to protect imperiled species or their habitat.
British Columbia continues to rely on outdated wildlife and resource management laws, such as the Wildlife Act and Forest and Range Practices Act. A recent study by the David Suzuki Foundation concluded that these laws and policies are weak, and that provincial and federal laws fail to protect 88 per cent of the province's threatened and endangered species.
If adopted, the NDP bill would significantly overhaul B.C.'s laws, including: mandating science-based listing of species at risk; legal protection of their habitat; and the development of recovery strategies for a species' survival and recovery. It would also encourage voluntary stewardship activities.
While the NDP's bill works its way through the legislative process, British Columbians are still waiting for the government to release a long-awaited report by a special task force that it announced in 2009 and convened in 2010. The Species at Risk Task Force (SARTF) included representatives from government, industry, First Nations, and fishing, hunting and environmental groups. Its mandate was to make recommendations on how the province can improve protection of species and ecosystems at risk in the province. The Task Force submitted their recommendations to the B.C. government last January, but the report has yet to be released.
"The B.C. government has had three different ministers in charge of this Task Force in the last year," said Peter Robinson, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation and a member of the Task Force. "The protection of endangered species should be a basic undertaking of every political party in British Columbia. Yet the Task Force's report has been sitting on the shelf for months now. We expect the government to release those recommendations immediately."
In the meantime, the David Suzuki Foundation is urging all members of the legislature to support the Species at Risk Protection Act private members bill introduced today.
For more information, please visit www.protectbiodiversity.ca or contact:
Jode Roberts, Communications Specialist, David Suzuki Foundation
(647) 456-9752 (cell)