North America advances the Protection of Polar Bears

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The Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has, after a thorough review of the relevant documentation, concluded that a factual record respecting the timely listing of the polar bear species pursuant to Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) is warranted.

Polar bear walking on land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. While polar bears spend much of their life on the sea ice, many congregate during the ice-free period between August and October on the northern slope of Alaska. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Jessica Matthews.
The CEC Secretariat issued a notification recommending to the CEC Council the development of a factual record on submission protection of Polar Bears and now, five working days later, it is authorized to make the notification public.
Submission by the Center for Biological Diversity (the Submitter), a US-based nongovernmental organization, asserting that Canada is failing to effectively enforce its environmental law with respect to the protection of the polar bear species.
In particular, the Submitter alleges that the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) failed to consider the best available information about the status of the polar bear in Canada and that, based on COSEWIC’s recommendation, Canada listed the polar bear as a species of special concern rather than as a threatened or endangered species.
The Submitter alleges that the proper listing would have afforded greater protection to polar bears and their critical habitat. Among other alleged failures to effectively enforce SARA, the Submitter asserts that Canada failed to meet mandatory deadlines in making its listing decision.
In its response, Canada states its position that COSEWIC is not subject to the Article 14 process because COSEWIC is not a Party to the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), and because subsection 15(2) of SARA does not meet the NAAEC’s definition of environmental law. Canada also states that, contrary to the Submission, the mandatory timelines in the SARA were not breached.
Having considered the Submission in light of the Response, the Secretariat finds that there remain central open questions about Canada’s enforcement of SARA, in respect of the polar bear species.
The Secretariat considers that a factual record would provide the public with a better understanding of the role of the “best available information” considered by COSEWIC in the SARA listing decision-making process, as well as how the timing of key steps in that process may be affected by other factors. Such factors include the role of land claims agreements and of consultations with Wildlife Management Boards and other bodies.
The Secretariat will develop a factual record if two or more members of the Council—the CEC’s governing body, composed of the highest ranking environmental officials of Canada, the United States and Mexico—so decide. The Council has until 21 February 2014 to vote.
By Lubio Lenin Cardozo | Gustavo Carrasquel
Source | Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC)