Wilderness Committee policy director Gwen Barlee says the planned pipeline and shipping route would jeopardize Pacific humpback whales, Nechako white sturgeon, marbled murrelets and southern mountain caribou.
"So we're just asking the federal government to do the right thing and fully implement the species at risk legislation that is supposed to protect these species," said Barlee.
The legal action is being handled by EcoJustice on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace Canada, Sierra Club B.C., Wilderness Committee and Wildsight.
EcoJustice lawyer Susan Pinkus says when species are protected under the Species At Risk Act, it is illegal to harm or destroy their habitat. The groups are expected to release more information about the legal action on Wednesday morning.
The Species at Risk Act was passed in 2002 but environmental groups argue the federal government has dragged its feet putting animals on the list, developing recovery plans and implementing those plans to protect habitat and restore fragile animal populations.
In September, Environment Minister Peter Kent said he wanted to figure how to make the Species At Risk Act more efficient. In particular, he said he wants recovery plans, provided for in the legislation, to consider whole ecosystems rather than just species in isolation.