they were issuing an emergency order to protect a species of bird known as the greater sage grouse — the first time the government has issued one of these orders since the Species at Risk Act went into effect in 2002.Conservation groups chalked up a tentative victory on Tuesday, as Environment Canada announced that
The sage grouse is a small brown and white bird that is completely dependent on the plant that gives it its name. The species lives and nests in sagebrush, and depends on it as food. Conversion of sagebrush land over to wheatgrass for cattle grazing has taken its toll on them, but worse are the effects the oil and gas industry have had on their population. Their numbers dropped to less than half during the 1980s, when oil exploration in the area experienced a boom, and their population has been steadily dropping since the 1990s.
According to the government, the population of sage grouses in the prairies has declined by 98 per cent since 1988, leaving only an estimated 138 of the species alive as of 2012.
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This new emergency order comes after conservation groups took the government to court over the issue, and apparently was announced at the 11th hour, just before Ecojustice lawyers were meeting with federal lawyers and a judge. The order is now intended to provide added protections to sage grouse that are on provincially- or federally-owned lands.
The conservation groups that are fighting for the sage grouse, such as the Alberta Wilderness Association and Nature Canada, issued statements saying that they welcomed the announcement and saw it as a "very positive development," they're still taking the news with cautious optimism, as many of the details are still unknown.
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