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WHEREAS the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) and the designated independent committee for habitat protection legislation will have long lasting negative economic impact on agriculture, industry, rural development, and land use in Alberta and is of great concern to rural municipalities and elected officials; and
WHEREAS agriculture, industry, species at risk and rural development can co-exist; and
WHEREAS rural municipalities are firm supporters of the goals of the Species at Risk Act; and
WHEREAS all municipalities, industry and agricultural producers are affected by the above. Leading to a shift in the social and economic balance between urban and rural municipalities in the province;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties facilitate a round table discussion with representation from the federal Environment Minister and provincial Environment Minister to rebuild the current Species at Risk Act to improve it in a way that seeks a balanced and cooperative approach (economic, environmental, and social) to species protection that focuses on ecosystem protection; limiting impact on agriculture, industry, rural development, and land use in Alberta.
SPECIFIC LEGISLATION LINKAGES: SPECIES AT RISK ACT (SARA) setting the stage
The Species at Risk Act (SARA) is a piece of Canadian federal legislation which became law in Canada on December 12, 2002. It is designed to meet one of Canada’s key commitments under the International Convention on Biological Diversity. The goal of the Act is to protect endangered or threatened organisms and their habitats. It also manages species which are not yet threatened, but whose existence or habitat is in jeopardy.
SARA defines a method to determine the steps that need to be taken in order to help protect existing relatively healthy environments, as well as recover threatened habitats. It identifies ways in which governments, organizations, and individuals can work together to preserve species at risk and establishes penalties for failure to obey the law.
The Act designates COSEWIC, an independent committee of wildlife experts and scientists, to identify threatened species and assess their conservation status. COSEWIC then issues a report to the government, and the Minister of the Environment evaluates the committee’s recommendations when considering the addition of a species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.
Specific Member Background:
(HISTORY OF THE ISSUE)
Other stakeholders with a vested interest: Province wide impacts for municipalities
1998 Agricultural Service Board Resolutions – Resolution #1
Endangered species legislation
Be it resolved – That the Government of Canada reject proposals for federal endangered species legislation and ensure that future efforts to protect Canada’s endangered species and their habitats focus on cooperative, compensatory, voluntary programs driven by local officials and private landholders and not through mandatory, restrictive and unenforceable federal legislation.
Response – Alberta Environmental Protection: As this resolution is directed strictly to the Government of Canada, a departmental response is unnecessary.
Environment Canada: The federal government remains committed to protecting endangered species. Minister Stewart is aware that private property owners and farmers in particular have raised concerns regarding the legislation that was before the House in April 1997. She also appreciates the agricultural community’s cooperative, voluntary approach to conservation activities. Environment Canada officials are reviewing the legislation with the intent of ensuring that landowners are not unfairly penalized. The review also seeks to ensure that the voluntary efforts of landowners to protect and conserve endangered species are recognized and encouraged.
Programs and policies must be developed to support and reinforce the stewardship of our lands, the conservation of species and the protection of species at risk. To this end, work has started on the issue of stewardship to complement legislation, and we will hold workshops this summer. Representatives of the provincial and territorial governments will be well informed of the plans.
I am confident that the legislation that emerges from the current review will foster the cooperation and partnership required to protect Canada’s species at risk. Please be assured that your comments will be taken into account as we prepare for the re-introduction of federal endangered species legislation.
1998 Agricultural Service Board Resolutions – Resolution #2
The Canada Endangered Species Protection Act
Be it resolved – The Provincial Government of Alberta actively lobby the Federal Government of Canada to ensure that the Canada Endangered Species Protection Act does not unduly inhibit the ability of individuals involved in the agricultural industry and others to carry on their normal business activities.
Response – Alberta Environment: The Government of Alberta is actively lobbying the federal government to ensure that federal endangered species legislation is consistent with the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk and its supporting framework. The National Accord is the umbrella agreement under which all provinces, territories and the federal government agreed to cooperatively establish national endangered species programs and legislation. Based on the principles of cooperation, education, awareness, and partnerships, it encourages a cooperative approach to endangered species conservation by governments, private organizations, industry and citizens. We are also lobbying the federal government to abandon its confrontational approach respecting civil remedies which will avoid costly and time consuming delays in resource and land management decisions, and better respect the rights of individuals.
4-14S: Species at Risk Act
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties and the Government of Alberta lobby the federal government to repeal the current Species at Risk Act and rebuild it in a way that better respects the socio-economic reality, seeking a balanced approach (economic, environmental, social).
DEVELOPMENTS: The response received from Environment Canada outlined the Ministry’s recovery strategy and supporting action planning process for endangered and threatened species under SARA. The action planning stage includes evaluating the social and economic costs and benefits of actions and the integration of provincial management plans. Though this process works towards the request of this resolution, a recovery strategy is not a regulatory document and as such, it lacks enforcement. Based on this information, the AAMDC assigns this resolution a status of Unsatisfactory and will continue to assess Environment Canada’s process to seek a balanced approach to enforcement and implementation related to the Species at Risk Act.
Environment and Parks: The Government of Alberta agrees with the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties that agriculture, industry, and rural development can co-exist with species at risk, if effective stewardship and conservation measures are implemented.
Continuing collaboration with municipalities, industry, other stakeholders and the federal government is essential to achieving recovery of species at risk in Alberta, and providing certainty to affected stakeholders.
The Government of Alberta believes challenges related to species at risk conservation can be addressed through provincial regulatory and policy approaches, federal policy development and improved inter-jurisdictional cooperation and stewardship, rather than legislative amendments to the Species at Risk Act.
The Government of Alberta response indicates a willingness to work with the AAMDC and the federal government to take a collaborative approach to aligning species at risk protection with the need to address social and economic impacts. This is encouraging and will be followed up on by the AAMDC. The AAMDC also provided input into the draft Species at Risk Act (SARA) policies that were released in 2016, noting that a balanced approach to protect species and their habitats needs to be considered to consider the social, economic and environmental impacts of these efforts.
Until a formal response from the Government of Canada is received, this resolution holds a status of Incomplete Information. The AAMDC is continuing advocacy efforts at the provincial and federal levels to move this issue forward.