Nova Scotia still failing to protect species at risk after 4 years, AG finds

·3 min read
A moose seen in a forested area of mainland Nova Scotia. Moose are one of more than 60 at-risk species in the province. (Submitted by Bob Bancroft - image credit)
A moose seen in a forested area of mainland Nova Scotia. Moose are one of more than 60 at-risk species in the province. (Submitted by Bob Bancroft - image credit)

A new report by Nova Scotia's auditor general has found the province is still failing to protect species at risk more than four years after recommendations were made, and more than a year after an order by the province's Supreme Court to implement them.

"I fear [for] many of these species," wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Thursday.

"There are lots of people fighting and I think the government has got to take the interests of the people in mind, and the animals that share this province."

There are more than 60 species listed as endangered, threatened or vulnerable in Nova Scotia, including the Canada warbler and the mainland moose.

In 2016, then auditor general Michael Pickup made five recommendations to improve protections for endangered species, saying species at risk needed to be a greater priority for the provincial government.

On Wednesday, Pickup's successor released a report that found the province has failed to complete two of those recommendations despite having four years to do so.

The report by Kim Adair-MacPherson said the Department of Lands and Forestry has not yet established expert recovery teams or created plans for protecting species within one to three years of adding them to the at-risk list as required under the Endangered Species Act.

It has also failed to review all listed species and establish appropriate plans to protect their habitats, the report said.

CBC
CBC

"There is a risk that, by not completing these recommendations, endangered species are not being properly monitored and conserved," the report said.

Bancroft and lawyer Jamie Simpson say they aren't surprised the recommendations haven't been implemented.

They were both part of a team that successfully launched a judicial review in 2019 alleging a slew of failures under the Endangered Species Act dating back to the early 2000s.

In May 2020, Justice Christa Brothers found the province had failed to live up to its self-prescribed legal obligations to protect species at risk, and ordered the minister of lands and forestry to fulfil those duties.

No deadline was set by the justice, which frustrated Simpson.

Nimbus Publishing
Nimbus Publishing

"It's been about 14 months now since the decision was released ... but we haven't heard anything specifically from the Department of Lands and Forestry about any progress that they may have made in fulfilling the court order," Simpson told Information Morning.

In a statement late Thursday, a department spokesperson said 90 per cent of the work to fulfil the recommendations is complete and the remaining work is underway.

"Species-at-risk recovery is a dynamic, adaptive process, and there will always be more work to do as new knowledge is gained, and our environment changes," the statement said. "We plan to continue the significant progress that we have made over the past few years."

A statement from Adair-MacPherson's office said the government has publicly agreed to complete recommendations within two years, but Bancroft said time is running out — especially for the province's moose population.

"I fear the tipping points for a lot of species are coming pretty quickly. Several scientific studies indicate ... that about half of this province has been clear cut," Bancroft said.

"You don't clear cut healthy forests and ... have a healthy population. It's too drastic a change for animals."

Simpson said if the province fails to complete these recommendations in a timely manner, environmental advocates could launch another judicial review.

Bancroft said he's not giving up.

"They're ignoring what's happening and they've over cut the province and I'm not going to let it sit," he said. "We're going to keep fighting."

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