Canada lays down the law on endangered species

  After 10 years of debate, Canada has become the last country in North America to pass an endangered species law. The Species at Risk Act (SARA) passed Parliament in December, and goes into effect later in 2003.

Unlike the U.S. Endangered Species Act, SARA protects only “federal species,” such as fish, migratory birds, and plants and animals living on federal land or in the oceans. While the new law will protect 233 species and their federal habitat, provincial governments still have authority over all other species.

“We have a ‘made-in-Canada’ approach to cooperate with landowners and provinces,” says Ruth Wherry, director of the Species at Risk Office of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Conservation groups are skeptical. Kate Smallwood, with the Vancouver-based Sierra Legal Defense Fund, points out that British Columbia is only 1 percent federal land, and has no provincial endangered species law. “Unless a spotted owl flies into a post office, Coast Guard station, military base, airport, national park or other federal land, it is out of luck,” she says.
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