|Ecojustice lawyer Sean Nixon (R) along with Gwen Barlee of the Wilderness Committee and George Heyman (L) of the Sierra Club of B.C. hold a news conference in Vancouver, British Columbia September 26, 2012. (Reuters/ANDY CLARK)
VANCOUVER - An environmental group is suing the federal government for failing to produce recovery strategies for four species at risk in B.C. whose habitat lies along the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and shipping route.
A recovery strategy is "a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest or reverse the decline of a species," as defined by the department of fisheries and oceans. "It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main areas of activities to be undertaken."
Ecojustice wants to see the feds' recovery strategies for the Pacific humpback whale, the Nechako white sturgeon, the marbled murrelet (seabird) and the southern mountain caribou.
The environmental legal organization alleges the strategies are at least three years overdue in each case, exceeding the mandatory deadlines set out in the federal Species at Risk Act.
“We believe the recovery strategies for these four species are already completed, and I truly believe they’re sitting on someone’s desk in Ottawa and there’s some political interference holding these strategies back,” said Gwen Barlee, policy director of the Wilderness Committee, one of the groups represented by Ecojustice in the lawsuit.
Greenpeace Canada, Sierra Club B.C., the David Suzuki Foundation and Wildsight are also part of the litigation aimed at forcing the government to release the recovery strategies.
“The case could result in a (recovery) strategy that requires the federal government to protect the habitat,” said Ecojustice executive director Devon Page. “To the extent that (oil) tanker traffic impacts critical habitat, that would have to be mitigated or stopped.”
“We’ve taken the federal government to court five times now to have them comply with federal duties under the (Species at Risk) Act,” said Ecojustice lawyer Sean Nixon.
“We’ve won every time.”