Canadians expect strong Federal leadership on protecting species at risk

OTTAWA, Dec. 13, 2012 /CNW/ - Canadians overwhelmingly support a strong Federal government commitment to protecting species at risk in Canada no matter where they are found and regardless of their status in other countries.

The vast majority of Canadians view protecting Canada's endangered animals and plants as an important issue (97%) and feel that the Federal government's current commitment to the protection and recovery of Canada's species at risk should be maintained or strengthened (96%), according to a new Ipsos Reid poll released today.

Reports from Canada's Environment Minister, the Honourable Peter Kent, regarding potential changes to the Species at Risk Act raised concerns that the Act could be substantially weakened. The Ipsos Reid poll, commissioned by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, was designed to gauge the value Canadians place on protecting our at-risk species.

A large majority (85%) of Canadians agree that federal laws protecting species at risk are essential to the diversity and abundance of wildlife, which in turn are crucial to our economy and health.  Only a small percentage of Canadians (15%) feel these laws negatively impact the economy and reduce job growth.

"It is clear from the poll results that Canadians believe a strong economy can be maintained while continuing to protect our wildlife. In fact, only 3% of Canadians feel that industry should be unrestricted by the need to protect species at risk," says James Pagé, Species at Risk Specialist for the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

When it comes to whether Canadians value some at-risk species more than others, the poll found that Canadians expect a commitment to protecting all species at risk in Canada, regardless of whether they happen to be abundant outside of our borders (77%).

A recent decision by the federal government to not protect three species (Coast Manroot, Laura's Clubtail and Four-leaved Milkweed) included the argument that since they do not occur on federal lands, they do not require federal protection.

"The vast majority of Canadians would not support that argument. Only 8% think that the Act should only apply to species found on federal lands," says Pagé. "This decision raises concern that the federal government may be looking to step back from its responsibility of providing federal oversight for all species at risk in Canada." "This poll shows that Canadians care deeply about the state of our endangered wildlife and they expect the Federal government to play a lead role in protecting these species," says Pagé. "Any review of the Species at Risk Act and its implementation should be done with an aim to improve recovery efforts for our most vulnerable species.  We understand the federal government is looking for efficiency in delivering on species at risk protection, but this must be accomplished without compromising on the outcomes for Canada's at-risk species."

What Canadians expect from the Federal Government:

  • The federal government should not decrease their current efforts for species at risk. Only 4% of Canadians think that the federal government is doing too much and should step back their current efforts. 96% want to see the federal government do at least as much (34%) or more (62%) for species at risk.
  • The federal government should either maintain or increase its current financial investment in species at risk (92%). Only 8% of Canadians think fewer resources should be invested in species at risk by the federal government.
  • Over half (52%) of Canadians believe the federal government must bear the primary responsibility of protecting and recovering species at risk.
  • Over three quarters (77%) of people think that scientific advice should take precedence in decisions regarding species at risk. Within this, 62% believe economic considerations should carry some weight.
  • Canadians (74%) do not want to see business operate at the expense of species at risk and (85%) think that the current law protecting species at risk are in fact crucial to our economy and health.
  • There is little support (only 8%) for the Species at Risk Act to be restricted to only apply to lands under federal jurisdiction. Three in five Canadians (59%) think the federal Act should apply to all lands in Canada including provincial and privately owned land.
  • Canada needs to be responsible for all our species at risk regardless of whether or not they occur in the United States (78%). Only 16% of Canadians think that the federal government should not protect a species at risk in Canada if it is common elsewhere.
  • The majority of Canadians (74%) believe that businesses should only operate in a way that does not harm species at risk. In fact, almost no Canadians (3%) believe that industry should be unrestricted by the need to protect species at risk.

The poll was carried out between November 2nd and November 6th to gauge the public's opinions around key issues with respect to species at risk in Canada. A sample of 1005 Canadians was surveyed using Ipsos' standardized online panel. Weighting was used to ensure a balanced demographic representing the adult population in Canada. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval.  In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/- 3.5 percentage points had the entire Canadian adult population been surveyed. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error.

CWF has a long history of working with species at risk, operating the leading non-government program of its type in Canada.  CWF supports researchers and on-the-ground action through the largest funding program in Canada outside of government, providing $500,000 per year to enable key research on at-risk species.

About the Canadian Wildlife Federation

The Canadian Wildlife Federation is a national non-profit charitable organization dedicated to ensuring an appreciation of our natural world and a lasting legacy of healthy wildlife and habitat.  By improving knowledge of human impacts on the environment, developing and delivering programs, recommending policy changes and cooperating with like-minded partners, CWF encourages a future in which Canadians can live in harmony with nature.  For more information, visit CanadianWildlifeFederation.ca

SOURCE: CANADIAN WILDLIFE FEDERATION

For further information:

Pam Logan
(613)222-1405
pamelal@cwf-fcf.org

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CANADIAN WILDLIFE FEDERATION

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