The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), an independent organisation of wildlife experts, has released its updated list of species at risk on 6 December, which now includes the amphibian, the Jefferson Salamander, listed as threatened; four butterflies, including Taylor’s Checkerspot, now endangered; four plants, including the American Hart’s-tongue Fern, now of special concern; the Atlantic Wolffish, special concern; and the mollusc, the Olympia Oyster, also of special concern. The 11 were added to the list only six months after the last update.

Overall, five more species were listed as endangered, meaning that they face imminent extinction or extinction in the wild in Canada. Five more species were listed as threatened, meaning that they are likely to become endangered “if limiting factors are not reversed” and one more species was listed under the special concern category, meaning that species have become particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events. COSEWIC’s criteria are based on a global model used by the World Conservation Union (see related story).

Of the species already on the COSEWIC list, seven were uplisted and one was downlisted.

“COSEWIC’s reassessments provide us with an ever more current and complete picture of the status of species at risk in Canada,” said COSEWIC chairman Dr. David Green. “The number of species on the list continues to increase each year.”

Canada was the first industrial nation to endorse and ratify the 1992 Rio Summit’s Convention on Biological Diversity, requiring nations to develop legislation to protect threatened species, but is yet to implement any such federal laws protecting endangered species, although four of the 13 provinces and territories have such legislation. Environment Minister David Anderson introduced a Species At Risk Bill, the second such legislation in five years, but it was killed off by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien calling an early general election. The same thing happened to the previous legislation.

Chrétien won his third term as Prime Minister very recently after a general election campaign in which the environment barely featured (see related story). Anderson has now pledged to reintroduce the Species At Risk Bill.

“Twice now endangered species bills have been promised by the government, and twice they have vanished like too many of the species the bills were intended to protect,” commented Monte Hummel, President of WWF Canada. “This is an affront to the thousands of Canadians who have expressed their concern about this issue.”

The US introduced its Endangered Species Act in 1973 and has seen more than half of its listed species recover or cease to decline. The act protects the grizzly bear in the US, but should it cross the border, it can be legally hunted, wildlife groups say.

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