While the flood gates seem to have opened for the release of many long-overdue recovery strategies, how are we really doing when it comes to SARA and endangered species recovery in Canada? Two recent publications, one an editorial on SARA and political will and the other on the psychology around public commitment to conservation reflect on the state of species at risk recovery from the standpoint of social license and what is needed if we are going to catch up and move forward as SARA turns 14!
Recovering the Species at Risk Act was written by a number of notable British Columbia science and policy leaders in endangered species and biodiversity conservation was published in February 2017 in Policy Options. The article looks at the legacy of SARA over the past, the inertia and policy flaws that has plagued its success to date and asks the key question; “Will a new review allow it to take flight?”
Considering the evolution of species at risk conservation policy in Canada the article concludes by saying “David Anderson, Canada’s longest-serving minister of the environment (1999-2004), described the long process that culminated in the passage of SARA as being akin to pushing a massive boulder uphill, very slowly. Over the past decade, waning political will and a lack of precise, prescriptive implementation policies have resulted in significant slippage. The recent suite of draft policies —suitably amended and rigorously implemented — should go some way toward ensuring a smoother, if still slow, ascent to the summit of full species protection and recovery.”
Assessing public commitment to endangered species protection: A Canadian case study is a recent paper produced through a collaboration of researchers from a number of programs across multiple eastern Canadian universities. There is a large collection of case studies and public commitment survey results from the United States on endangered species conservation. But aside from a handful of user pay or value surveys on species at risk or biodiversity protection, case studies for Canada are playing catch up. This paper provides timely and important understanding around how the public values and responds when presented with realistic scenarios around the implications of committing to conservation action. The paper concluded that [the too typical] “Opinion polls that measure public support for conservation without acknowledging the concessions required may result in overly optimistic estimates of the level of support. Most Canadians in our sample supported endangered species conservation even when the necessity of limiting human activities was explicitly stated.”