Ruling favours endangered bird sets precedent

Government should have identified critical habitat says judge

In a precedent-setting decision a federal court judge has ruled that Ottawa broke the law by refusing to identify critical habitat in a recovery plan for the endangered greater sage-grouse known for its impressive entertaining mating dance.

“It’s a huge win for us” says Philip Penner of the Federation for Alberta Naturalists. “It sets a precedent and will mean a lot for protected species in the future.”

The lawsuit filed by environmental groups in June charged the government refused to identify critical prairie habitat for the bird. The federal Species at Risk Act requires that as part of the recovery strategy critical habitat be identified “based on the best available information.”

“The government has been treating the law as discretionary but it has been made clear it is a mandatory obligation” says Devon Page executive director of Ecojustice.

In his comments the judge stated: “ It is unreasonable for the (government) to conclude that no critical habitat can be identified now. The source habitat identified by Dr. Aldridge in the Manyberries area could have been and ought to have been identified by the (government).”

Government officials were not available for comment.