Buzzing along, providing essential pollination services for both wild plants and cultivated crops, wild bees fulfill many important functions necessary to ensuring we have healthy ecosystems and flourishing agricultural economies. Unfortunately in recent years, we have seen a steep decline in the wild bee populations we depend on so much.
Two years ago, Ecojustice and our clients celebrated a landmark win for protection of B.C.'s iconic killer whales under the Species at Risk Act. And while there have been some recent signs that these populations may be on the long road to recovery, proposed projects like the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and now the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion pose new threats to their survival.
Recent cuts to Environment Canada's operating budget have left the department a shadow of its former self and unable to enforce what little environmental laws are left. The Harper Government has burned enough environmental legislation to keep the Minister warm for an entire winter in her home in chilly Gjoa Haven. Nero fiddles while Rome burns.
The St. Lawrence Estuary beluga whale population is listed as threatened and protected under the Species at Risk Act, and has been officially protected by the Canadian Fisheries Act since 1979. We naturally run into concern when those trusted to protect these species are scrubbing their content to make it more friendly for oil interests who are rummaging around for an alternate route to the ocean.
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.
For those of us who are interested in the field of conservation biology, this time of year prompts us to be more thoughtful about lists of a different kind: the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada ceremoniously completes a review of (in overly simplified terms) Canada's endangered species list at the end of each year.
Fifty years ago there were an estimated 5,000 Nechako white sturgeon -- today there are just 350 struggling to hang on. Dams and habitat loss have taken their toll, but the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline could be the coup de grace for this critically imperilled creature. The proposed pipeline would cross the watercourse in which the sturgeon lives. But it doesn't stop there.
Canada's environmental laws are under attack by both the federal and Ontario governments. In Ottawa, the government introduced Bill C-38 to implement far-reaching measures announced in its budget. The 420-page Bill C-38 will gut a raft of federal laws passed over the years to ensure that our air, water, and most vulnerable wildlife populations are protected.
Many of the 1,200 known species of bats are in trouble. And we humans deserve much of the blame. A bat can eat more than 1,000 insects in an hour, and without the services of bats, the agave plant, from which we get tequila, might not survive. So, if you like tequila but not mosquito bites, you should view bats as your friends.
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.