Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Saskatchewan's Wildlife Habitat Protection Act lands are being put up for sale

For Immediate Release May 19, 2010

The Green Party of Saskatchewan is criticizing the Sask Party Government for rushing through legislation amending the Wildlife Habitat Protection Act. The changes to the legislation allow lands that are currently protected under the Wildlife Habitat Protection Act to be removed from the Act and put up for sale. Leader of the Green Party of Saskatchewan, Larissa Shasko, met with Minister of the Environment, Nancy Heppner, last week to discuss the proposed amendments to the W.H.P.A. The legislation amending the W.H.P.A. received its third reading in the provincial legislature today. “This legislation has been rushed through without giving adequate time for the people of Saskatchewan to be consulted about the changes to the W.H.P.A. The changes being made to the legislation will remove lands protected under W.H.P.A. from public ownership, yet few people in this province are aware of the changes being made, and environmental organizations have not had adequate time for public education efforts about the changes to the W.H.P.A,” states Shasko. The Green Party of Saskatchewan is concerned that important details resulting from the changes to the W.H.P.A. have been overlooked.

“The Wildlife Habitat Protection Act is the most cost effective way to protect wildlife habitats and important ecosystems in our province,” states Shasko. “Removing land from W.H.P.A. and putting it up for sale with Crown Conservation Easements attached will require a hefty budget to provide adequate regulation of W.H.P.A. lands that are sold off. Yet the Ministry of Environment’s budget was just cut by $25 million in the 2010/11 provincial budget.” Shasko is also concerned that the Crown Conservation Easements can be removed from protected lands at the discretion of the Minister of Environment if the lands are required for something in the ‘public insterest’. “‘Public interest’ is too broad of a term to provide strong and ongoing protection of wildlife habitat and sensitive eco-systems,” Shasko states. “It’s too much of a loophole to protect the W.H.P.A. lands that are being put up for sale.”

“The Green Party of Saskatchewan believes that the Government’s newly developed Crown Land Evaluation and Assessment Tool should have been used to identify unprotected Crown land that should be added to W.H.P.A. protection instead of using it to assign values to W.H.P.A. lands so that they can be sold off,” states Shasko. “Greens recognize that all W.H.P.A. lands have equal ecological value. If there are lands currently protected under the Wildlife Habitat Protection Act that have suffered a loss in bio-diversity, then those lands should be allowed to restore any loss of bio-diversity over time naturally and with the help of stewards of the land; they should not be put up for sale because of a loss in bio-diversity.”

According to Green Party of Saskatchewan Deputy Leader, Billy Patterson, "The context of this decision, in light of changes removing environmental regulation legislation and replacing it with an Alberta-style "code" as well as centralizing power over environmental enforcement with the Minister herself appointing the board responsible for enforcing environmental protection in the province, Greens are worried that the corporate-interest priorities reflected in the Uranium Development Panel and Enterprise Saskatchewan appointments will further the corporate agenda at the public expense."

Due to the Wall Government’s poor environmental record and ‘big business’ priority, the Green Party of Saskatchewan is extremely concerned that the changes to the W.H.P.A. have been rushed through so quickly, without the permission or trust of the people of this province.

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