Endangered species

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Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

Here in MRC Pontiac we enjoy a great variety of flora and fauna.  We are blessed with a varied landscape and natural habitat to many species of animals and plants.  But this

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

Here in MRC Pontiac we enjoy a great variety of flora and fauna.  We are blessed with a varied landscape and natural habitat to many species of animals and plants.  But this
environment, as with much of the rest of Canada, is experiencing the pressures of human habitation and economic activities.  This pressure has resulted in reduced numbers of specific species – they have become endangered or in some cases extinct.  There is the possibility of
significant loss of bio-diversity.
The Canadian government has become aware of the problem and, since 1977, has been advised of the situation by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).  This body of professional scientists examine a
number of factors such
as population, range of
habitat, breeding grounds and other relevant data.  They then classify the species under one of
several headings that includes special concern, threatened, endangered, extirpated (no longer in Canada, existing elsewhere), and extinct.  These recommendations are then presented to
the Minister of the Environment.  Next, under the Species at Risk act, the minister decides what action to take.  She (the current minister is Leona Aglukkaq) may place the species on a list.  The Species at Risk act
contains general and
specific actions to be taken for each species on the list.
In the past, this process has had some success in saving and restoring species that were at risk or threatened.  If there has been sufficient recovery, the species may be taken off the list.  However, under the Harper government, the process has become broken.  For the past four years, the
government has ignored all recommendations given by COSEWIC – there have been no
additions to the species
at risk list despite
overwhelming evidence presented!
The lack of action on the part of the Harper government can be explained in simple terms.  Placing a species on the list can only be effective if habitat
protection is included as part of the action to save a species.  This sometimes means restricting commercial activities in a
designated area.  But the Harper government has repeatedly and definitely indicated that commercial exploitation takes precedence over any
environmental concerns.
One prime example of the one-sided approach is the case of the beluga whales in Cacouna, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.  In recent years, the beluga whale population has dwindled from 10,000 to less than 1,000.  This has alarmed scientists and the public in general.  But Cacouna is the site chosen by TransCanada Corp for a terminal to its proposed 4,600-kilometre pipeline, which would carry 1.1 million barrels per day of oil sands crude from Alberta to refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick.  Such a development would not be allowed if the beluga whales were placed on the endangered species list.