Emergency Order to protect sage grouse must be defended

The Green Party is calling on the Harper administration to defend an Emergency Order to protect Alberta and Saskatchewan’s extremely vulnerable sage grouse population from the ill effects of oil and gas drilling in the region.

Last week, the City of Medicine Hat and Calgary-based LGX Oil + Gas Inc. submitted an application to the Federal Court to suspend the order for a 6-month period. During this time they hope to “Work with the federal government to devise initiatives that will benefit both the sage grouse and the City of Medicine Hat”, according to a statement released Friday.

Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP for Saanich–Gulf Islands, urged the federal government to prevent further destruction of grouse habitat by defending the order.

“This order was the result of an arduous legal battle fought by Canada’s environmental NGOs to get the Conservatives to follow their own Species at Risk legislation,” said May. “Right now, it is the only thing keeping the sage grouse from going extinct.”

The Green Leader emphasized that it is now up to Crown lawyers to defend the order, issued last year by former Environment Minister Peter Kent, before the Federal Court.

University of Winnipeg Ecologist and Green Party Environment Critic Dr. Andrew Park, described the habitat conservation efforts of the City of Medicine Hat and LGX Oil + Gas as “insufficient.”

Said Park: “Until a comprehensive recovery plan can be put in place to protect this remnant population and increase its numbers, the Emergency Order to enforce the Species at Risk Act should remain in force.”

Slated to come into effect on February 18, the order would protect 1,700 square kilometers of crown land in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan from construction and development.

It is estimated that there are fewer than 100 sage grouse left in Canada, and that without drastic protection measures they could face extinction within two years.