A new Species at Risk Act intended to improve the approach to conserving species in danger of disappearing from New Brunswick was introduced today in the legislative assembly.
“This new act will provide the necessary tools to effectively manage and protect species that are in danger of disappearing from our province,” said Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Michael Olscamp, on behalf of Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup. “Species at risk will be identified by an independent committee of experts, in a science-based process. This identification will be followed by the development of a recovery strategy and a protection assessment that will give consideration to potential socio-economic implications.”
The Species at Risk Act will replace the existing Endangered Species Act. It meets commitments set out in the national Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk and reflects input received during an extensive consultation process.
“The goal of the act is to prevent endangered or threatened species from disappearing from New Brunswick or becoming extinct, and to help recover these species,” said Olscamp. “It is also intended to provide for the conservation of species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.”
Under the proposed Species at Risk Act:
● An independent committee of experts will assess the biological status of species that are in trouble and make recommendations to the minister of natural resources.
● The minister will list species in a regulation based on scientific assessments.
● The minister will ensure that recovery planning documents are developed which address the conservation needs of the species. Recovery habitat will be designated on Crown land before private land.
● In response to the recovery planning, a protection assessment will be undertaken to determine if general prohibitions and habitat protection is required. If required, a socio-economic impact assessment, including consultation, will take place and the necessary protection recommendations will be made to the lieutenant-governor in council.
● A public registry will be created and maintained to inform the public of key decisions as well as the protection status of species. Status reports, recovery documents, and process timelines will also be on the registry.
● To ensure that the best available information is used in decisions regarding the biological status of species, the minister will have the authority to survey for populations and habitat on private property.
● The necessary regulation-making authority includes: the listing of species; the protection of recovery and survival habitat; the appointment of committees; and reporting.
● Protection for species that existed under the Endangered Species Act will be continued.
Olscamp said legislation alone cannot adequately protect species at risk.
“The objective of species at risk management is to keep species from requiring legal protection in the first place,” he said. “This requires involving First Nations, the public and stakeholders in non-regulatory approaches such as stewardship, education and partnerships. We will continue to engage our partners in this important initiative. However, as legislation is an essential tool that is relied upon when required, it is critical that it be revised accordingly.”
There are currently 84 species considered at risk in New Brunswick.