Emergency order issued for the first time since the Species at Risk Act created
The federal government plans to introduce an emergency protection order for the greater sage grouse.
The emergency order will protect the endangered bird by imposing restrictions on provincial and federal crown lands in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Private land and provincial and federal grazing lands will be free of these restrictions.
“A balanced approach to species conservation is important and the Government of Canada recognizes the impacts that prohibitions could potentially have on private landowners whose livelihood depends on working the land,” said Environment Canada spokesperson Mark Johnson.
He said the federal government is encouraging private landowners to protect endangered species on their land with help from organizations such as the Alberta Conservation Association.
The restrictions in the emergency order will apply to 1,200 sq. kilo-metres of crown land in Saskatchewan and Alberta “to address seasonal noise, destruction of habitat, disturbance of breeding sites and creation of new structures,” according to Environment Canada’s web-site.
Under the Species at Risk Act, an emergency protection order is used when a species faces threats to its survival.
“The Government of Canada has been taking steps to protect the sage grouse for several years,” Johnson said.
“The recent rapid decline in the population prompted the (environment) minister’s determination that the species faces an imminent threat. The intent to introduce an emergency order is the next step in protecting the species.”
This is the first time an emergency order has been invoked since the act was created in 2002, so it is unknown how it will affect private landowners and those who use crown land for grazing.
“What they (the federal government) did was, they made quite clear that it wouldn’t apply to private lands, which is normal,” said Greg Northey, director of environment for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
Funding will be available under the Habitat Stewardship Program for landowners and stakeholders in protecting the sage grouse.
“It’s a good thing that they’re sort of looking at agriculture and not applying the strictest of the prohibitions,” Northey said.
“The better things that they mention are incentive based programs such as the Habitat Steward Program. They’ll work with farmers for beneficial management practices and incentives for the conservation of the land.”
The program provides $9 to $13 million per year for projects that preserve and protect endangered species and their habitats.
The federal, Saskatchewan and Alberta governments, the Calgary Zoo and other stakeholders are providing more than $1 million in funding over the next three years on protection projects for the sage grouse and other endangered species.