I have never been a fan of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Introduced by the Liberal government in 2002, the law is in need of a major re-write.
While protecting endangered species is a laudable goal, the Act makes two glaring mistakes which render it incapable of achieving that objective. Both need to be fixed. The sooner the better.
Mistake number one: The Act focuses on coercion rather than cooperation. Instead of working with land managers and stakeholders, the Act takes a heavy-handed approach and imposes sanctions on land use accompanied by the threat of inspections, seizures and investigations with the possibility of stiff fines or even jail time. Farmers and ranchers don’t need to be threatened in order to protect endangered species. All they need is some cooperation.
Which brings me to the second mistake: The Species at Risk Act disproportionately imposes costs on a few private individuals and corporations. When public policy is deemed to be in the public interest it is normally financed through the public purse, not the private pocketbooks of those who make their living off the affected land.
I have met with the Minister’s Office and departmental staff a number of times to discuss my concerns. What we need is an Act that takes a new approach. It’s time to write an Act that can effectively deal with Species at Risk and recognizes that local people have far better advice and solutions than experts from a long ways off.