Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Ministers responsible for Wildlife

NEWS RELEASE – SPECIES AT RISK: The Main Concern of Canadian Wildlife Ministers

Quebec City, September 22, 1999 -- The federal, provincial and territorial wildlife ministers who met in Quebec City on September 21 and 22, 1999 agreed on priorities for action to protect plant and animal species as provided for under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.

The Accord, which was approved in principle at a previous meeting held in Charlottetown in October 1996, outlines sixteen commitments made by the governments to designate species at risk, protect their habitats and develop recovery plans.

At the first meeting of the newly created Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC), the ministers discussed a gap analysis prepared by the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy (CIELAP). This independent review commissioned by the wildlife ministers assesses the tools available to each jurisdiction to meet the commitments in the Accord. The report also outlines the significant progress made in implementing the Accord and identifies the shortcomings to be addressed by each jurisdiction.

The ministers welcomed the report's conclusions as it establishes a good baseline against which future progress can be measured. The gap analysis identified three priorities for action: habitat protection, promotion of stewardship programs particularly for private land, and development of recovery plans. With regard to habitat protection, the Quebec Minister Responsible for Wildlife and Parks, Mr. Guy Chevrette, underscored the importance that everyone places on this responsibility: "In Quebec, we adopted the Act Respecting Threatened or Vulnerable Species ten years ago. The Act Respecting the Conservation and Development of Wildlife has enabled us to protect wildlife habitat since 1993."

"I am pleased that all jurisdictions have agreed that ongoing cooperation under the Accord is essential for continued progress, particularly on the issue of habitat protection," said federal Environment Minister and meeting co-chair Mr. David Anderson. "All of the Council's members must ensure that the jurisdictions have the tools required to protect habitat essential to the survival of species."

The Ministers also discussed a proposal for a federal safety net for habitat. The Ministers agreed that further work is required to reach agreement on the application of the federal safety net on provincial, territorial and private lands. Ministers also agreed that all legislation related to species at risk should be complementary and avoid duplication.

In 1998, federal, provincial and territorial wildlife Ministers agreed to form the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. The federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister Responsible for Parks Canada are also members of the Council. The Council's mandate includes specific responsibilities for identifying and recovering species at risk and coordinating action among all parties. It also serves as a forum for resolving disputes that may arise out of the Accord.

The Quebec co-chair, Minister Guy Chevrette, was pleased that Council members worked together in such a cooperative spirit. "This is the best guarantee of every government's active commitment to achieving our common goal of protecting species at risk, all the while respecting the duties and responsibilities that we all have," he said.

Dr. David Green, Chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), met with the ministers to discuss the relationship between COSEWIC and the Council. COSEWIC will continue to provide independent scientific assessments of species at risk. Beginning next year, its recommendations on the list of species to be designated will be presented to the Council for action. The Council and COSEWIC have also agreed to make the list public.

"This was an important first step in defining the relationship between COSEWIC and the CESCC," said Minister Anderson. "We all have the utmost respect for the science that is at the root of the Council's decisions, and look forward to working cooperatively with COSEWIC for many years to come," he said.

The Wildlife Ministers Council applauded the efforts made by all jurisdictions and offered their support for the continued implementation of the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards between the European Community, Canada and the Russian Federation. They also noted the important role of the Fur Institute of Canada in coordinating this Canada-wide effort. The Council also discussed a Strategic Framework on Stewardship that will help to identify and develop measures to encourage the public's involvement in protecting species at risk and their habitats.

The ministers also welcomed the participation of the representative from the new territory of Nunavut. Alberta will be organizing next year's meeting, which will be held in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

- 30 -
John Fraser

Office of the Federal Minister of the Environment
(819) 997-1441

Esther Boily
Press Secretary Office of the Quebec Minister
Responsible for Wildlife and Parks
(418) 643-6980