September 23, 2019
Today, we go to court on behalf of those who cannot advocate for themselves.
For many years we have witnessed the provincial government’s failure to take the steps required by their own law to protect at risk species in Nova Scotia. Time is running out.
Several months ago we wrote the Minister of Lands and Forestry and included a copy of our latest Protected on Paper Only report. We called on the Minister to meet his legal obligations under the Endangered Species Act to complete the 19 recovery plans and 4 management plans that are currently overdue. These plans are the first steps to recover and protect endangered, threatened and vulnerable species in Nova Scotia.
We further asked the Minister to:
- Publish a plan of action to demonstrate how they will meet the requirements of the Act;
- Facilitate meaningful public participation by providing timely information on progress toward meeting the legal obligations; and
- Exercise his ministerial discretion to designate core habitat for endangered species and create regulations to protect that habitat.
After years of advocating for species at risk and seeing virtually no progress, we made the decision to go to court as intervenors in a judicial review of the Minister’s failure to meet even the minimal protections provided in the Endangered Species Act.
Working with the Ecojustice Halifax lawyers, we will argue that the Minister’s long history of failing to meet the law represents systemic neglect of the most vulnerable plants and animals.
Since 2012, East Coast Environmental Law has been ringing the alarm bells and asking government to meet its obligation to protect species at risk. In 2015, we released a report which found that the government of Nova Scotia was not fulfilling its legal obligations to protect species. At the time, there were 52 species listed as endangered, threatened, or vulnerable in Nova Scotia.
The momentum continued to build in 2016, when Nova Scotia’s Auditor General amplified our message in a chapter of his annual report, finding numerous failures by government to meet the requirements of the Act.
In 2018, our concerns were once again acknowledged when an extensive independent review of forest practices was commissioned by the provincial government. In his report, An Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia, Professor William Lahey made 45 recommendations, of which 3 specifically referenced the protection of species at risk including calling on government to fulfill its legal obligations under the Endangered Species Act.
This year, we released a new report, updating our 2015 findings. The number of species at risk has increased from 52 to 63 since our last report.
Given the already dire futures species at risk face and the global biodiversity crisis we all face, we were deeply disturbed to find that more than a third of the legally required recovery and management plans are overdue. We believe this demonstrates a long and systemic failure by government to take the most basic steps to protect the most vulnerable species in our province.