The number of recovery plans waiting to be put in place for species at risk continues to grow, show documents obtained under a freedom of information request.
In 2013, the federal auditor general admonished Environment Canada for its backlog of about 150 cases. As of June 2014, the number had grown to 174, and experts say the number is most likely much higher today.
With 316 species waiting for an at-risk designation, the number of recovery plans in the backlog could soar.
The species at risk advisory committee used to develop those recovery plans, but Ottawa cancelled the meetings last year.
“While they sit in that limbo of not being listed, nothing else happens. At least when a decision is made, then it triggers Fisheries Act measures or Species At Risk Act measures,” said Susanna Fuller, the marine co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax and a member of the species at risk committee.
In the documents obtained under access to information, the only reason given for cancelling the meetings was “there were concerns that not all interested parties are represented in the current structure of the committee.”
Environmental groups blame the Stephen Harper government for the problems.
There is hope that better days are ahead. Scientists and special interest groups are anxiously waiting to see the approach Environment Canada takes under prime-minister designate Justin Trudeau’s government. On Wednesday, Trudeau will name his cabinet.
“We are very much looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings. I mean it’s not all going to happen tomorrow,” said Kate Lindsay, the director of conservation biology with the Forest Products Association of Canada.
Species at risk experts say there is a lot of work to catch up on quickly, which will cost more money.
The next list of animals, fish, plants and insects at risk will be made at the end of this month.