Canada slashes spending on wildlife protection-CBC

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OTTAWA, Sep 19 (Reuters) Canada has slashed spending on wildlife protection and monitoring of ecosystems because of budget problems at the federal environment ministry, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp reported today.

The cuts mean the Canadian Wildlife Service -- responsible for studying and protecting wildlife in Canada -- has been forced to halt all its scientific field and survey work.

In addition, a program monitoring the health of bird populations lost half its budget, while the budget for an operation that protects significant habitats for wildlife and birds was reduced to zero.

The network observing changes in ecosystems lost 80 per cent of its budget. CBC said the cuts would be in place until the current fiscal year ended in early 2008.

Sandy Baumgartner of the nonprofit Canadian Wildlife Federation -- which cooperates with the environment ministry on some programs -- said the spending reductions could have long-term consequences.

''A lot of it (the cuts) is actually research-based, which is alarming because if nobody is out there studying the health of the environment, how do we know where there are problems?'' she told Reuters.

The press spokesman for Environment Minister John Baird did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Critics regularly accuse Canada's minority Conservative government of ignoring the environment, particularly over the question of climate change.

Although Ottawa ratified the Kyoto climate change protocol, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada has no chance of meeting its targets under the agreement.

CBC said that despite the spending cuts, the environment ministry would spend 59,000 dollars on a consultant to study why employee morale was so bad.

REUTERS GL BD2047

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