In December, the Federal Government followed through on its
commitment (and obligation) to introduce an Emergency Protection Order for the Greater
Sage Grouse, a species on the verge of extinction in Canada.
Earlier this month, however, the City of Medicine Hat and LGX
Oil & Gas Inc. filed an application in Federal Court seeking a
judicial review of the Order.
killing or moving sagebrush plants, native grasses or native
forbs (herbaceous flowering plants);
installing or constructing fences;
installing or constructing loud structures or machines;
constructing a new road or widening an existing road; and
installing or constructing structures, other than fences,
greater than 1.2 m in height.
operating load facilities or machines for 1.5 hours both
at dawn and dusk during April and May.
The Order allows for exemptions in "certain circumstances
or locations" as well as for pre-existing residential
buildings and agricultural operations, and their immediate
In effect, these prohibitions would restrict oil and gas
developments on Crown land that is sage grouse habitat. The
Order makes no extra commitment to restoration or research.
The Application for Judicial Review
The application reportedly "asks the court to quash,
alter or suspend the order for six months so the federal
environment minister can consult with [the City and LGX]". The
City and LGX say they have already undertaken a number of steps to
protect the sage grouse such as:
"[R]efraining from drilling
during important parts of the sage grouse's life cycle,
removing equipment from leases, conducting pre-drilling wildlife
surveys, adopting minimal disturbance practices, abandoning wells
near leks (mating sites) and sponsoring sage-grouse
Existing efforts to protect the sage grouse have not been
effective. We hope that the application for judicial review does
not delay the long overdue protection measures, set to come into
effect on February 18. Rather, the Order should be the first in a
series of steps to bring this species back from the brink.
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In Fort Nelson First Nation v. British Columbia (Environmental Assessment Office), 2016 BCCA 500, the B.C. Court of Appeal recently considered three issues involving the Reviewable Projects Regulation under B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Act:
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