KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – It’s been four-years since Nova Scotia’s auditor general issued a report that found that the province is failing to protect species at risk. The initial report in 2016, by Kim Adair-MacPherson, included five recommendations to improve protections for endangered species, of which only three were implemented by the province.
A follow-up report by the provincial Attorney General published on July 7th found that Nova Scotia’s Department of Lands and Forestry has failed to establish plans to protect the habitats of listed at-risk species. On top of that, it’s yet to form an expert recovery team for species at risk or create protection plans within the first three-years following species being added to the at-risk list, despite being required to do so under the Endangered Species Act.
“I’m disappointed that we’ve strayed into persistent nagging territory,” Karen McKendry, Ecology Action Centre’s wilderness outreach coordinator, said in an interview. “The province has known for a long time that the public is on to the fact that they have not been following their own legislation and policy.”
In 2019, a group of naturalist societies launched a judicial review challenging the province for not following its own rules. Justice Christa Brothers found the province to be in violation of its provincial legislation surrounding the Endangered Species Act in May 2020. Department of Lands and Forestry minister – Iain Rankin, at the time of the review – was ordered to fulfill neglected duties. There was no deadline for fulfilling the order.
McKendry explained that nationally, one of the first steps of a recovery strategy planning process is determining if recovery is feasible.
She cites the “cautionary tale” of mainland moose in the province, explaining that there used to be thousands of moose throughout the province. In 2003, when the amount of mainland moose dropped to an estimated 1,000, the species was listed as endangered. In 2019, an aerial survey obtained by CBC suggested there being less than 100 mainland moose in the province.
“If we’re taking pieces out of the puzzle of the web of life, and you take out too many pieces or the wrong pieces, you can have an ecosystem collapse,” McKendry said. “The more we do that in Nova Scotia, the more our ecosystems won’t function properly – especially given all the other stressors they’re under.”
In a July 7 press release, the office of Adair-MacPherson wrote that the province has agreed to implement the remaining two recommendations in the next two-years. However, this is the last year that Adair-MacPherson’s office will follow-up on 2016 audits.
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