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Environmental group challenges federal action on protecting endangered spotted owl

VANCOUVER — An environmental group is in Federal Court in Vancouver challenging what it describes as Ottawa’s failure to protect the endangered northern spotted owl despite an “imminent threat” to its recovery.

The Wilderness Committee, represented by environmental law charity Ecojustice, says federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault delayed by eight months recommending an emergency order to cabinet that would have protected the owl in B.C.’s Fraser Canyon. 

Ecojustice lawyer Kegan Pepper-Smith told the court that the Wilderness Committee initially petitioned the federal government last October to raise the issue well ahead of the 2023 logging season, where the old growth forest that spotted owls rely on could be threatened. 

Pepper-Smith said Guilbeault had the responsibility under Canada’s Species at Risk Act to respond to the imminent threat to the recovery of the spotted owl population, given the animal’s endangered status.

The federal government announced earlier this month that it is not going ahead with an emergency order for the spotted owl’s old-growth habitat after receiving Guilbeault’s recommendation in late September.

There is only one known wild-born spotted owl left in the Fraser Canyon, while two more captive-bred animals were released earlier this year in the area.

The hearing is expected to continue into Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2023.

The Canadian Press


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