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A verdict has arrived in a lawsuit filed in Canada in September 2012, and environmentalist David Suzuki is pleased: the two ministries responsible for protecting endangered and threatened wildlife must produce recovery strategies for four species – the Pacific humpback whale, Nechako white sturgeon, marbled murrelet and southern mountain caribou – “in a timely fashion”.

A press release on the David Suzuki Foundation website says that at least five years past its mandatory deadline, “The Federal Court has declared that the Minister of Environment and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans acted unlawfully in delaying for several years the production of recovery strategies for the four at-risk species threatened by industrial development, including the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker route.”

The investigation also found that the delays are part of a larger systemic problem, an acknowledgement that might bring needed pressure for the other 167 at-risk species waiting for recovery strategies.

In a letter published this week, David Suzuki laments the time taken in the process. “Just getting status assessments for species may take up to five years,” he says. “Five more years could be required for government to decide whether to accept these scientific assessments and give species protection. Then, legal timelines kick in, followed by recovery strategies – many delayed – and still more years for action plans, which have no timelines, to take effect. For killer whales, whose overdue action plan was just released, the process has taken about 13 years and a court challenge from the David Suzuki Foundation and others, which concluded government was failing to protect the whale’s critical habitat.”

It was Ecojustice lawyers working for Greenpeace Canada, Sierra Club BC, Wilderness Committee, Wildsight and the David Suzuki Foundation that won this latest suit.

“Wouldn’t it be nice,” says Suzuki, “if we didn’t have to resort to court challenges to protect threatened wildlife?”

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