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Judge probes eight-month wait in federal minister’s owl protection recommendation

VANCOUVER — A Federal Court judge says he’s “wrestling” with why the minister responsible for protecting the northern spotted owl waited eight months to recommend an emergency protection order to cabinet with only one wild-born bird remaining.

Judge Yvan Roy questioned Crown counsel Aileen Jones during a hearing in Vancouver today, asking why federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault made his recommendation to cabinet in late September despite saying he would take that action in January. 

Jones replied that the delay was necessary because the Canadian Species at Risk Act should be interpreted “in a way that the minister can make an informed recommendation to cabinet.”

She said Guilbeault has the obligation to engage with the province on any order that would restrict logging on spotted owl habitat in the Fraser Canyon, noting that the government needed to determine the proper “scope” of a potential emergency order to ensure the species’ recovery.

The federal government announced earlier this month that it would not go ahead with an emergency order, despite Guilbeault’s recommendation.

The environmental group Wilderness Committee is challenging the delay in presenting recommendations to cabinet despite the imminent threat to the spotted owl, with only one known wild bird, and two others recently released from a breeding program in that forest. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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