Sage grouse protection?

Groups cautiously optimistic over government designation

Environment Canada says it will issue an emergency protection order for the greater sage grouse in coming months. The prairie bird appears to be nearing extinction with a population of only 150 spread over Alberta and Saskatchewan. Its numbers have dropped by 98 per cent in the past 15 years.

The emergency order can protect the animal and its habitat on provincial and federal crown lands but cannot restrict human activities on privately owned land.

“Our goal is to achieve the best protection for the sage grouse while minimizing impacts on landowners and agricultural producers” states a September 17 news release from Environment Canada.

A release from Ecojustice says conservation groups repsented by Ecojustice lawyers are “cautiously optimistic” about the government’s announcement.

However the group points out the government “does not detail when the emergency order will be implemented nor does it include specific language around one of the key threats to the sage grouse’s recovery and survival: oil and gas development in its critical habitat.”

Environment Canada’s announcement came the same day Ecojustice lawyers representing the concerns of the Alberta Wilderness Association Wilderness Committee Nature Saskatchewan and Grasslands Naturalists over the sage grouse’s survival were scheduled to meet with federal lawyers to discuss conservation efforts.