Of 345 species at risk in Canada, more than 160 have waited far too long for recovery strategies. Thanks to a recent federal court decision, four luckier ones are finally getting overdue plans detailing steps needed to save and protect them. But court victories are just a start. It will take political will to ensure species and their habitats get the protection they need.
Not even a month has passed since the federally-appointed Joint Review Panel (JRP) released its official report recommending approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline, pending the fulfillment of 209 conditions. Yet already two separate suits have been filed against the integrity of the report, with groups requesting that the federal cabinet delay a final decision on the pipeline project until the Federal Court of Appeal can assess the complaints.
Areas of Earth that have remained relatively free of industrial development have taken on a special significance. In Canada, they include awe-inspiring landscapes like the Sacred Headwaters in northwestern B.C. But the Sacred Headwaters is not protected under law. It remains at risk from a multitude of proposed mines, railways, transmission lines and other projects that will eviscerate the landscape if approved.
Although industrial projects like the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline or the recently defeated mega-quarry in Ontario typically grab the headlines and bring out public opposition, it's often the combined impacts of a range of human activities on the same land base that threaten to drive nature beyond critical tipping points.
One endangered herd in Alberta's tar sands region is at great risk of disappearing. Clear-cutting and no-holds-barred oil and gas exploration and development have affected more than 60 per cent of the habitat of the Red Earth caribou herd, leaving little undisturbed forest where it can feed, breed, and roam.