Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Ministers responsible for Wildlife

NEWS RELEASE – Wildlife Ministers strengthen protection for endangered species

Victoria, September 28, 1998 - BC Environment Minister Cathy McGregor opened today's meeting of federal, provincial and territorial wildlife ministers by outlining the progress made since the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk which was agreed to in 1996. "Our task today - and I can tell you we have made significant progress - was to move forward with the implementation plan to achieve concrete results under this agreement" , said McGregor. The Ministers also began discussions on a National Biodiversity Stewardship Action Plan to protect habitats and help wildlife populations to remain healthy.

"The recoveries made by many species in recent years, including the Peregrine Falcon, the Swift Fox, the Trumpeter Swan and the Wood Bison, prove that we have a solid framework in place to protect wildlife in Canada," said Minister Stewart. Ministers commented on the 10th Anniversary Renew report and noted the $27 million that has been invested in recovery efforts in the past 10 years, including $4 million in the past 12 months. They agreed to expand upon this through improved monitoring and recovery planning. "By systematically monitoring and evaluating the status of all species, we can be pre-emptive in our response to effectively protect wildlife, rather than having to take drastic action at the last minute to save species at risk," she said.

Federal, provincial and territorial ministers amended the Accord to place greater emphasis and recognition on stewardship which all ministers agreed is essential in preventing species from becoming at risk. They also agreed to implement a national process for regular monitoring of the status of all wild species and committed to issuing a national wildlife status report by the year 2000.

The Ministers discussed a national safety net which would provide a nation-wide standard to prohibit willful killing or harming of any endangered or threatened species in Canada, unless there is management plan in place. "The national safety net would create a seamless web to protect species at risk," said Federal Environment Minister Christine Stewart. "Wildlife species do not recognize provincial or territorial borders, and close cooperation is essential to the conservation and protection of species at risk. Provinces, territories and the federal government, together with the active involvement of thousands of Canadian volunteers, landowners and organizations across the country will ensure that no species fall between the cracks," she said.

The Ministers approved new terms of reference for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), which reviews scientific data on wildlife suspected of being in danger, and assesses species at risk. While COSEWIC will report directly to a newly created Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC), including Canadian Wildlife Ministers, the independent scientific process by which species are listed by COSEWIC will continue. These changes elevate the status of COSEWIC by establishing a direct reporting relationship with Wildlife Ministers. This will improve accountability for taking action since COSEWIC will now report directly to those in a position to act when a species is listed.

Ministers agreed to require the development of recovery plans within two years following listing of a species as endangered or threatened by COSEWIC. "This provides a much needed sense of urgency once a species is listed", added Minister McGregor. "Under the new system, recovery plans for species in dire need of assistance, such as the Vancouver Island Marmot, will be developed and implemented much more quickly," McGregor said.

Governments agreed to continue extensive consultations with interested Canadians on the roles that governments, stakeholders and individuals can take to protect endangered species.

A report on "Conserving Wildlife Diversity", which reports on Canada's progress in implementing its biodiversity strategy, was released today.

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For further information, please contact:

Michael Barluk
Office of the Minister of Environment
(819) 997-1441

Beth Wilhelm
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks
(250) 953-4577
cell (250) 213-6880