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Protected on Paper Only: Assessing the Implementation of Nova Scotia's Endangered Species Act

October 19, 2021

East Coast Environmental Law has released a new update to our report Protected on Paper Only: An Evaluation of Nova Scotia's Legal Obligations under the Endangered Species Act.

Biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate around the world, including in Atlantic Canada. Our governments have tools they can use to stop and reverse biodiversity loss, and those tools include laws to protect species at risk. Nova Scotia's Endangered Species Act ("the ESA") is one such law, and it can protect species at risk in Nova Scotia in meaningful ways. But laws like the ESA won't make a difference if the governments that create them don't implement them fully.

In 2015, East Coast Environmental Law published a report called Protected on Paper Only: An Evaluation of Nova Scotia's Legal Obligations under the Endangered Species Act. In it, we assessed what the ESA requires the Government of Nova Scotia to do to protect species at risk in the province, and we analyzed to what extent the government was meeting its obligations. Ultimately, the report found that the government had failed to meet several of its legal obligations under the Act.

We published an updated version of Protected on Paper Only in 2019, soon after a group of Nova Scotians (ourselves included) asked the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to judicially review the Government of Nova Scotia's failures to meet its obligations under the ESA. After the Court released its decision in May 2020, confirming that the government must do what the Act requires, we started working on a second update that takes the Court's decision into account and assesses how things stand today.

Our updated report finds that the Government of Nova Scotia has made some important progress since 2019, but there have been some worrisome developments too. All in all, our analysis shows that the Government of Nova Scotia has met the ESA's fundamental requirements for just 24 of the 63 species that are listed as endangered, threatened or vulnerable under the Act.

East Coast Environmental Law has shared our updated report with Nova Scotia's Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables, and we are calling on him to fully meet the ESA's requirements. We are also calling on him to exercise his ministerial discretion to designate core habitat areas for endangered and threatened species in Nova Scotia and create regulations to protect those habitats. 

You can read our updated report here. For more information on legal protections for biodiversity and species at risk in Nova Scotia, check out our "Biodiversity" webpage!