Species at Risk Act Given Royal Assent

OTTAWA, December 12, 2002 - The Species at Risk Act (SARA) received Royal Assent today, bringing to a close a nine-year legislative process to protect Canada's species at risk and their critical habitat. The new legislation will come into force in 2003.

"Today we fulfilled a commitment made by this government to ensure protection for species at risk and the places where they live," said the Honourable David Anderson, Minister of the Environment. "SARA is the result of an extensive consultation process that has seldom been seen in Canadian history and the legislation enjoys broad support among Canadians. This inclusive process will continue as the Act provides for openness and transparency at all stages."

SARA is one of three elements of the government's Strategy for the Protection of Species at Risk. Under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Government of Canada works with provinces and territories on a common approach to protecting species at risk in Canada that includes complementary legislation and programs to protect habitat and species.

"Protecting species at risk is a shared responsibility of all governments in Canada," said Minister Anderson. "This Act ensures the federal responsibility is met, and it also helps to fulfill some of Canada's international obligations under the Biodiversity Convention."

The other key component of the federal Strategy is stewardship, a cornerstone of the Government of Canada's approach to species protection. Canada's Stewardship Agenda, approved earlier this year by federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Wildlife, encourages Canadians to work together in a landscape approach to protect habitat, contribute to the recovery of species at risk and conserve Canada's natural heritage. One such initiative is the federal government's Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, which funds projects that support habitat conservation and stewardship. Hundreds of projects involving Aboriginal organizations, landowners, businesses, industries, and non-government organizations have been approved over the last three years. The Government of Canada committed $45 million to the Habitat Stewardship Program over 5 years.

Minister Anderson also noted the link between the passage of SARA and the Government of Canada's overall environmental agenda. "SARA complements many other environmental initiatives," he said. "For instance, our actions on climate change also protect species and their habitats - we know climate change affects the forests and waters that support species."

The species at risk legislation ensures that species are assessed under a rigorous and independent scientific process that operates at arm's length from the federal government. It also requires the development of recovery action plans for species that are found to be most at risk, and recognizes the essential role of Aboriginal peoples in the conservation of wildlife by requiring the establishment of a National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk.

SARA will come into force by an order in council in 2003. In the period leading up to the order in council, the Government of Canada will develop the regulations required under the Act, including regulations on compensation.

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For more information, please contact:

Kelly Morgan
Director of Communications
Environment Canada
Office of the Minister of the Environment
(819) 997-1441

Suzanne Meunier
Acting Chief of Media Relations
Environment Canada
(819) 953-4016