The Basics of Species at Risk Legislation in Alberta
AbstractThis article examines Alberta’s Wildlife Act and the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) to assess the legal protection of endangered species in Alberta. Most of the discussion relates to provisions contained in SARA, as there is comparatively less to discuss under the Wildlife Act. The fact that legal protection for endangered species in Alberta consists primarily of federal statutory rules is unfortunate, as wildlife and its habitat are by and large property of the provincial Crown, and it is a general principle of constitutional law that the federal government cannot in substance legislate over provincial property under the guise of a regulatory scheme. The legal protections in SARA are, thus, for the most part restricted to species found on federal lands and to species that fall under federal legislative powers. This article demonstrates that the Alberta government has chosen to govern species at risk almost entirely by policy and discretionary power. The limited application of federal protections to provincial lands and the absence of meaningful protection in the Wildlife Act leads the authors to conclude that, despite a perception of legal protection for endangered species, such protection does not exist in Alberta.
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