Alberta Conservation Groups Celebrate the Critical Habitat Order Issued for Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Alberta Populations

Today the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced that a Critical Habitat Order for the westslope cutthroat trout, Alberta populations, has been registered and published on the Canada Gazette Part II, as required under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) and Timberwolf Wilderness Society (Timberwolf) applaud this important and legally required step towards the protection and recovery of this threatened native fish.

“We are pleased with today’s announcement that the Order has finally been issued,” says Timberwolf’s Aquatic Ecologist, Dave Mayhood. “We are thankful the new Minister recognized the urgency of legally protecting the critical habitat of westslope cutthroat trout.”

Section 58(1) and 58(4) of SARA prohibit the destruction of critical habitat once a critical habitat order is issued under section 58(5)(a). The section requires the Minister to issue a critical habitat order within 180 days after the final recovery strategy is published on the Public Registry. The Recovery Strategy for the westslope cutthroat trout was issued on March 28, 2014, therefore, the 180-day statutory deadline expired on September 24, 2014.
AWA and Timberwolf, after repeated unsuccessful requests for the previous Minister to issue an overdue Critical Habitat Order, filed an application on September 18, 2015 in Federal Court to force the Minister to issue the Order.

“We are happy that today’s announcement means in all likelihood, we will not have to continue our litigation to enforce the obligation of an Order under SARA,” says Brittany Verbeek, AWA Conservation Specialist.

Westslope cutthroat trout were once widespread and abundant in the Oldman and Bow River drainages in Alberta. The current, remnant populations of genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout now occupy a small fraction of their original distribution, occurring as small, disconnected populations restricted to the upper headwaters of the Bow and Oldman River drainages in the Rocky Mountains and adjacent foothills. The Alberta population of westslope cutthroat trout is listed as a threatened species under SARA.

The Critical Habitat Order, upon coming into force, triggers the prohibition under subsection 58(1) of SARA against the destruction of any part of the critical habitat of the westslope cutthroat trout, Alberta populations.

For more information:

  • Brittany Verbeek, Alberta Wilderness Association, Office (403) 283-2025 Cell (403) 200-4622
  • Dave Mayhood, Timberwolf Wilderness Society, (403) 283-8865