NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Canada Looking To Import Bad Law On Endangered Species

January 7, 2000

The 25-year-old U.S. Endangered Species Act has completely failed to protect species and is best known for creating a "shoot, shovel, and shut-up" incentive for private landowners to purposely make their property unattractive for endangered species to avoid regulatory takings.

Nevertheless, environmentalists are calling on Canada to enact similar legislation. But a Fraser Institute study suggests Canada does not need to follow in these dubious footsteps:

  • Only 339 species, about 0.5 percent of the total recorded species in Canada, are considered "at risk," according to the government's estimates.
  • The list of "at risk" species is inflated, because many of them are simply naturally scarce in Canada, although they may be plentiful globally; a conservative estimate suggests that no less than 71 of the listings are totally or partially attributable to species at the northern periphery of their natural range.
  • The government also double or triple counts some "species" as being at risk because they use species to denote subspecies and geographically defined populations, as well as biologically defined species.

For example, says Jones, the grizzly bear is listed twice: once for their prairie population and a second time for bears found in British Columbia and Alberta.

Thus a more accurate estimate indicates that the list of at risk species should be reduced from 339 species to 91 species, or roughly 0.13 percent of the species known to exist in Canada.

In any event, "there are already hundreds of initiatives for conserving wildlife in Canada," says the study's author, Laura Jones. And there is no crisis: of the 12 known species that have become extinct in Canada, "the latest extinction of a mammal occurred 79 years ago, and the last extinction of a bird occurred 85 years ago."

Source: Laura Jones, "Crying Wolf? Public Policy on Endangered Species," Critical Issues Bulletin, November 17, 1999, Fraser Institute, 4th Floor, 1770 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC V6J 3G7, Canada, (604) 688-0221.


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