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Conservationists unite in Piping Plover lawsuit

Canada dragging its feet?

A coalition of leading conservation groups in Canada have filed a lawsuit against the Canadian Environment Minister for her ministry's refusal to identify critical habitat in the recovery strategy of Piping Plover.

Nature Canada (BirdLife in Canada), together with other national conservation organisations, state that the federal government is failing to adequately implement the Species at Risk Act by not identifying critical habitat in recovery planning documents for Piping Plover.

Piping Plover Charadrius melodus is listed as Near-Threatened by BirdLife International, the official Red List Authority for birds for the IUCN Red List. In recent years crucial habitat for plover is thought to have faced increased pressures as a result of drought, inappropriate water and beach management and from gas and oil industry dredging.

Loss or degradation of habitat is the single greatest cause of all species endangerment in Canada but the Species at Risk Act protects habitat only if it is identified. Though the Piping Plover strategy cites a lack of knowledge as the basis for not identifying critical habitat, the groups say this is false.“In the United States critical habitat for Piping Plover has been identified using much the same information as exists in Canada,” argued Candace Batycki of ForestEthics, one of the conservation organisations involved in the coalition. “The case of the Piping Plover illustrates a federal government unwilling to enforce the Act, especially where it impacts provincial jurisdiction.”

The lawsuit was filed as leaders from across Canada gathered this week for the first Minister's Round Table under the Species at Risk Act.

"Three years after the Species at Risk Act came into force, the federal government is failing to fulfil its duty of care toward our nation's wildlife," said Julie Gelfand, President of Nature Canada. "The most important element of the Act - identification and protection of critical habitat - isn't being implemented. It comes down to a choice between recovery or extinction."

4th July 2014