Environmental groups demand feds act to save the critically endangered spotted owl

Wednesday, May 08, 2019
Wilderness Committee and Ecojustice
Jared Hobbs
Jared Hobbs

Vancouver – May 8, 2019. Today, Ecojustice demanded action for the endangered spotted owl in British Columbia, after decades of mismanagement by the provincial government. On behalf of the Wilderness Committee, Ecojustice wrote to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, demanding the federal government step in and produce the long overdue habitat action plan for the spotted owl in southwestern B.C.

The demand letter was motivated by a recent expert report by Jared Hobbs, B.C.’s former and foremost spotted owl expert, commissioned by the Wilderness Committee. The report confirmed that the B.C. government has prioritized logging the spotted owl’s habitat over protections that are required by law.

Due to these failures of the B.C government, Ecojustice and the Wilderness Committee are now calling on the federal government to act. The spotted owl has been listed as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act since 2003, and ultimately McKenna is required by law to take action.

Prior to European contact, there were an estimated 500 pairs of spotted owls in southwest B.C. the only place in Canada where they are found.  Those numbers have now declined as much as 99 per cent. Little has been done to slow logging in the old-growth forest habitat of the spotted owl in B.C., while immediately to the south in the United States, millions of hectares of forest have been protected for the owl.

Ecojustice and the Wilderness Committee’s demand for action comes days after the release of a devastating UN Report which confirmed over a million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction worldwide due to human activity. In B.C alone, 1,807 species are at risk of extinction. Yet the province still does not have laws dedicated to protecting and recovering these species.

Joe Foy, Co-Executive Director of the Wilderness Committee, said:

“Four million hectares of forest have been allocated in the United States for the protection of the spotted owl. Canadian protection efforts have been dismal by comparison, totalling only 218,347 ha of protected suitable habitat to date. At the very least, the remaining unprotected 314,959 ha of suitable spotted owl habitat must be protected immediately. At a combined total of 533,306 ha, this would still be a much smaller effort as compared with the United States. Every year since 2000, the B.C. government has allowed logging in old growth forests, destroying 30,000 ha of suitable spotted owl habitat in the process. This despicable state of affairs must stop now.”

Kegan Pepper-Smith, lawyer for Ecojustice, said:

“The spotted owl is in critical danger of becoming extinct in Canada because the B.C. government has for decades sanctioned the destruction of its habitat. Fewer than 6 of these owls are believed to still exist in the wild in Canada. But despite its dire situation, Canada’s spotted owl population can still be revived — migration from the United States and introduction from B.C.’s captive breeding program is possible. However, B.C. can breed as many owls as it likes, if they don’t also protect the spotted owl’s old-growth habitat the only way the owls will survive is in cages. Time is running out. We are looking to Minister McKenna to produce a science-based habitat action plan as soon as possible or Ecojustice and the Wilderness Committee will consider taking legal action.”

 

The Wilderness Committee works to protect life-giving biological diversity in Canada through strategic research and grassroots public education.

Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.

 

For more information, contact:

Sean O’Shea, soshea@ecojustice.ca, 416-368-7533 ext. 523

Joe Foy, Co-Executive Director, joe@wildernesscommittee.org, 604-683-8220

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