Legal Victory for Marbled Murrelets

This month, the SCCA is celebrating a legal victory that could help the threatened Marbled Murrelet – the bird shown in our logo, which inspired our creation.

Last fall, Ecojustice lawyers were in Federal Court to advocate for the protection of migratory birds and their habitats across Canada. They were acting on behalf of Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee.

These lawyers argued that a “protection statement” – issued by federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault in 2022 – too narrowly interpreted the Species at Risk Act, unlawfully limiting the minister’s duties to protect at-risk bird habitat by protecting only the nests and not the wider habitat which the birds need to survive and recover.

Last week, the Chief Justice set aside the “protection statement” and sent it back to Minister Guilbeault for reconsideration, with the Court’s reasons:

  • Only ensuring the protection of migratory birds’ nests, but not the rest of their critical habitat, was not justified under the law or key facts before the Minister.
  • The Minister should have considered that habitat loss and degradation is a key driver in the decline of most at-risk bird populations.
  • The Minister had not considered that it is nearly impossible to spot the nests of many migratory birds, including Marbled Murrelet, so protection based on identifying individual nests alone is completely ineffective.

We at the SCCA join these conservation groups in hoping that this decision will result in the federal government taking timely action to protect critical habitat and to support the survival and recovery of the Marbled Murrelet and other at-risk migratory birds.

For more details on this legal effort, and it’s importance, read Sierra Club BC’s press release.

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