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    Canada eyes wildlife laws overhaul
    Ottawa's Environment Minister Peter Kent seeks to increase legislation's effectiveness; expand Species at Risk Act to include entire ecosystems

    Canada is gearing for a legislative update of its wildlife protection regulations Environment Minister Peter Kent told the Canadian Press recently.


    Kent said that he seeks to make Canada's Species at Risk Act, enacted in 2002, more efficient, and will focus on recovery plans proposing to include entire ecosystems, rather than just species in isolation, in the Act.


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    "There are improvements to be made," Kent said. "Sooner rather than later we need to address changes to the Species at Risk Act to be more effective."


    Kent told the Canadian Press that has already consulted various wildlife experts and legalists on the matter. Nevertheless, he said that the changes he is considering are "not ready to be included" in the budget bill currently before Ottawa's Parliament.


    The bid follows one implemented in the spring, when Canada greenlighted major changes to environmental oversight regulations, which dramatically streamlined environmental assessment procedures.


    The scope of the bill was slammed by the opposition and environmentalists alike, who accused Ottawa of abandoning federal responsibility for the environment in the name of resource development.


    Some have expressed concern that the government is seeking a way to "water down" the Species at Risk Act without consultation.


    "“They’re going about making changes to major habitat protection laws… with no formal consultation process,” Ottawa-based lawyer Will Amos, with Ecojustice, said.


    “It is obvious that the Harper government is deregulating and devolving authority on environmental protection to the greatest extent possible. It comes as no surprise that this government would want to weaken and off-load endangered species legislation.”


    Kent said flaws in the current legislation became obvious the minute it took effect and have become starker over time.


    But Amos said the federal government has all the tools it needs to improve that situation. All it has to do is implement the act properly: "We’ve litigated this stuff and we’ve won every time. The federal government is not implementing."


    The existing law is meant to develop plans that protect animals such as grizzly bears, timber rattlesnakes, woodland caribou, many types of whales, whooping cranes, screech owls and a long list of other fragile plants and creatures.


    Analysis done by various environmental groups in Canada argues that the Ottawa has dragged its feet in putting animals on the list, developing recovery plans and implementing those plans to protect habitat and restore fragile animal populations.



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    Environment Minister Peter Kent
    Photo: Reuters