Alberta’s Failing Grade for Species at Risk Management is Well Deserved

A recent report released by Eco-Justice gave Alberta a well deserved failing grade for its species at risk management.  Unlike many other provinces, Alberta has no legislation specific to species at risk, a voluntary system to list species, no requirement to protect species’ habitat and no legal requirement to implement recovery action.   The Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) is not surprised by this failing grade. AWA has been advocating for the protection of wildlife and wild spaces in Alberta for over four decades and is disappointed at the lack of progress on protection for species at risk.  Species such as Woodland Caribou, Grizzly Bear and Greater Sage Grouse are a few examples of where the governments of Alberta and Canada are failing to protect the natural heritage that Canadians deeply value.  With the threat of the federal government weakening the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in legislature this fall, there is an even greater need for the provinces to be leaders and protect species at the provincial level. 

“We know that, in most cases, habitat loss and degradation are the leading causes of species declines yet we have no legal provisions in Alberta to protect species’ habitat,” says Katie Rasmussen, a Conservation Specialist with AWA. “It is important to remember that this is not just about individual species; it is also about entire ecosystems that they represent. If one species is faring poorly, it’s likely those problems are affecting the whole system.”

“For many of these species, we have the data, we know what we need to do, and we have the ability to do it; All we are lacking is the political will.  As just one concrete example, it is well known that the Greater Sage Grouse could be extirpated from the province within a year or two and yet we still see no meaningful action by the province to protect their habitat.“

The report, Failure to Protect: Grading Canada’s Species at Risk Laws, outlines four key steps to ensuring protection of species at risk: 1) identify them, 2) don’t kill them 3) give them a home, and 4) help them recover. In Alberta, we only have legal requirements that address number two – directly killing them.  Listing of species, habitat protection and implementing recovery strategies all happen on a discretionary basis allowing many species to fall through the cracks. There is no excuse for this void of legislation.  There are examples, nationally and internationally, of species at risk legislation that is effective at protecting and recovering species.  This is not a case of lacking the tools or the ability to address the problem; it’s a case of leadership lacking the will to use readily available tools.   We would like to see Alberta adopt effective species at risk legislation, such as the federal SARA, that provides a solid legal basis for the protection of species.  These are not problems that can be addressed on a voluntary basis.  The natural diversity of species and ecosystems in Alberta is highly valued by Albertans and visitors to our province alike and we would like to see concrete legislation to ensure it remains an integral part of our provincial identity. 

For more information:

  • Katie Rasmussen, Conservation Specialist AWA, (403) 283-2025