Earth is 2,000 light years closer to supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy than we thought


The Extinction Chronicles

By Katie Hunt, CNN

Updated 12:01 PM ET, Fri November 27, 2020The new map suggests that the center of the Milky Way, and the black hole which sits there, is located 25,800 light-years from Earth. This is closer than the official value of 27,700 light-years adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1985.The new map suggests that the center of the Milky Way, and the black hole which sits there, is located 25,800 light-years from Earth. This is closer than the official value of 27,700 light-years adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1985.

(CNN)A new map of the Milky Way by Japanese space experts has put Earth 2,000 light years closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.This map has suggested that the center of the Milky Way, and the black hole which sits there, is located 25,800 light-years from Earth. This is closer than the official value of 27,700 light-years adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1985, the National Observatory of Japan said.

New type of black hole detected in massive collision that sent gravitational waves with a 'bang'

New type of black hole detected in massive collision that sent gravitational waves with a ‘bang’What’s more…

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Climate ‘apocalypse’ fears stopping people having children – study

The Extinction Chronicles

Survey of 600 people finds some parents regret having offspring for same reason

Children at a climate protest in Brussels

Born into a dying world? Children at a climate protest in Brussels, Belgium.Photograph: Isopix/Rex/ShutterstockDamian CarringtonEnvironment editor@dpcarringtonFri 27 Nov 2020 06.00 EST


People worried about the climate crisis are deciding not to have children because of fears that their offspring would have to struggle through a climate apocalypse, according to the first academic study of the issue.

The researchers surveyed 600 people aged 27 to 45 who were already factoring climate concerns into their reproductive choices and found 96% were very or extremely concerned about the wellbeing of their potential future children in a climate-changed world. One 27-year-old woman said: “I feel like I can’t in good conscience bring a child into this world and force them to try and survive what may be apocalyptic conditions.”

These views were based on very…

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A Brief History of Hunting Animals to Extinction (complete text)

A Brief History of Hunting Animals to Extinction

by Jim Robertson President, Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting

I could begin this historical overview with the Big Bang and the spreading out of all matter throughout the once-empty universe, followed by the resultant formation of stars and the planets which took up orbit around them, but for the sake of promised brevity, I’ll skip ahead a few billion years and focus on the fully-formed, sufficiently-cooled Earth. And as far as the ongoing human-driven extinction spasm, our story must skip on to the final few moments of a12-hour timescale.

If you’re with me so far, we’re talking about the arrival of the most cunning, ruthless, self-aggrandizing. overly-intelligent primate species ever to reach the dead-end at which we now find ourselves, thanks to hunting. Hunting and meat-eating in general.

Evolution is the process through which dinosaurs sprouted wings and gave rise to birds, horses grew from equines the size of miniature ponies to mustangs (while controlled breeding spawned thoroughbreds and behemoth Clydesdales—and actual miniature ponies) and wolves led to dogs (resulting in pugs, poodles and Great Pyrenees).

Meanwhile, primates evolved from tree shrews not long (well, a couple of million years) after the extinction of the (un-feathered) dinosaurs some sixty-five million years ago, branching out and diversifying over time to become plant-eating specialists in their chosen niches.

Humans and their direct fore-bearers were the only primates to follow the path of carnivism and become full-time predators of everyone else they came across, including other species of primates and hominids—many of whom were likely hunted to extinction early on in human evolution. No one can say which was the first species that humans wiped off the face of the planet, or when. Chances are it was another primate, somewhere between 100,000 and a million years ago.

No doubt any other hominids around at the time were hunted down and killed as competition. Homo Sapiens may not have always eaten their conquests, but modern-day trophy hunters often don’t bother to eat their kills either.

Other species hunted to extinction partly for hubris or bragging-rights included mammoths, mastodons and any other relative of today’s elephants, as well as any early rhino or hippo human hunters could get their spears into.

Early species of giant armadillo and beaver, cave bear, camel, horse and ground sloth were all wiped out when pioneering pedestrians stumbled onto this continent full of unwary mega-fauna who had never met humans before and found their horns, hooves or bulk were no match for the weaponry of these new super-predators. This “American blitzkrieg” (as Jared Diamond, author of The Third Chimpanzee, Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel labeled it) marked the tragic, catastrophic end of 75% of North America’s indigenous large mammals, including the American lion, dire wolves and saber-toothed cats—none of whom were prepared for humans’ hunting tactics. 

Even back in the Pleistocene, so-called “modern” humans (not the ones of today’s world, glued to their smartphones), armed only with primitive weapons, quickly wiped out the noble mega-fauna that had taken millions of years to evolve.

The Pleistocene was a time of great diversity of life—it was in fact the most diverse period the Earth has ever known—but a few centuries after our species were on the scene they had already hacked away at Nature’s masterpiece and started an unparalleled extinction event. It was the first time that one intelligent species was responsible for eternally snuffing out so many of its larger-bodied brethren. No other species had caused the kind of damage as did this cleverly destructive, self-centered, weapon-wielding primate.

Early in pre-human evolution, bipedalism became a necessity for primate-predators, if only to free up a couple of appendages to carry clubs and spears—followed by bows, rifles and harpoon cannons. It seems our species never took the time (until now?) to look back to their earliest days of living by plant-eating. But, if a 500 lb gorilla can, surely the human primate can survive without animal flesh.

One of our species’ closest relatives is the orangutan, a highly intelligent primate who, like the gorilla, wouldn’t be caught dead eating meat. Both species are among the most critically endangered animals on Earth, hunted (poached) nearly to extinction outside zoos or other captive situations.

Human beings are one of four currently living species of “great” apes, including gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans. Only one of those species is grossly (morbidly) overpopulated and routinely eats the flesh of other animals to excess. Care to guess which one? (No fair peaking at the shiny front cover of the grocery store ads that magically end up in your mailbox or the ubiquitous golden arches on the street corner.) Of course, it’s the humans. It’s interesting that the USDA still places meat and dairy in their essential food pyramid, when no other primate really needs those things. Hmm, it seems that the government is wrong about that. Do you suppose? Perhaps they need to take another look at that in context of the situations the world now faces.

The only one of our closest ape cousins still clinging to existence on the planet who has been observed to step out of the plant eating regimen of the monkeys, non-human great apes and other primates are the chimpanzees, who, while normally peaceful plant-eaters, will on rare occasions venture out on violent forays, killing and eating monkeys or other hapless creatures they come upon. Once a kill is made, the real excitement begins for the chimps, who loudly advertise their blood lust with whoops and screams, proclaiming their conquest.

Therein lies a grim parallel and exposes the roots of modern human’s sport hunting behavior.

Continuing on our rapid flash forward, we enter the European Middle Ages and a period when animals were farmed to feed the peasantry, while hunting became a sport reserved for the “elite.” Wolf trapping, sometimes practiced by lower castes, was smiled upon by the royalty since it took out the competition for their prized game species: stags, elk and other horned “lordly game” creatures, as Teddy Roosevelt would later dub them.

Speaking of Teddy, let’s skip ahead to Roosevelt’s era. After Europeans had made it their task to “settle” the New World, they infamously hunted the plains bison to near extinction in the 1800’s. During that same period, over-zealous hunters completely killed off the once amazingly abundant passenger pigeon and Eskimo curlew (both killed en mass and sold by the cartload for pennies apiece), the Carolina parakeet (the only parrot native to the U.S.), the great auk (a flightless, North Atlantic answer to the penguin) and the Steller’s sea cow (a Coastal Alaskan relative of the manatee). Of sea cows, the 19th Century German zoologist Georg Wilhelm Steller wrote in his journal that this peaceful, plant-eating herd animal showed “…signs of a wonderful intelligence…an uncommon love for one another, which even extended so far that, when one of them was hooked, all the others were intent upon saving him.”

Meanwhile, elk, bighorn sheep, wolves, grizzly bears and prairie dogs—once hunted, trapped and poisoned down to mere fractions of their original populations—continue to be targeted today. And when certain species, such as black bears, Canada geese and coyotes prove to have adapted to the human-dominated world, they are hated, hunted and trapped with a vengeance.  

In the words of the Fund For Animals founder, Cleveland Amory, “Theodore Roosevelt…could not be faulted for at least some efforts in the field of conservation. But here the praise must end. When it came to killing animals, he was close to psychopathic.” Dangerously close indeed (think: Ted Bundy).

In his two-volume, African Game Trails, Roosevelt lovingly muses over shooting elephants, hippos, buffaloes, lions, cheetahs, leopards, giraffe, zebra, hartebeest, impala, pigs, the less-formidable 30-pound steenbok and even a mother ostrich on her nest.

But don’t let on to a hunter what you think of their esteemed idol, because, as Mr. Amory wrote in his book, Mankind? Our Incredible War on Wildlife “…the least implication anywhere that hunters are not the worthiest souls since the apostles drives them into virtual paroxysms of self-pity.” Amory goes on to write, “…the hunter, seeing there would soon be nothing left to kill, seized upon the new-fangled idea of ‘conservation’ with a vengeance. Soon they had such a stranglehold [think: Ted Nugent] on so much of the movement that the word itself was turned from the idea of protecting and saving the animals to the idea of raising and using them–for killing. The idea of wildlife ‘management’–for man, of course–was born.” 

Almost without exception, state and federal wildlife “managers” are hunters themselves. Being both delegates and lackeys for the hunting industry, they would have us believe the preposterous party line that hunting helps animals—that they won’t continue to live unless we kill them. This is particularly outrageous in light of how many species have been wiped off the face of the earth, or nearly so, exclusively by human hunting.

Nowadays, hunting season is like a bunch of weapon-wielding, over-sized pre-schoolers on an Easter egg hunt creeping around the back-roads hoping a deer will jump out in front of them and stand still long enough for them to get a shot off. It doesn’t even have to be a good, clear shot, either. I’ve heard hunters bragging about taking a few “sound shots” at whatever they heard in the bushes, as if blasting their noisy rifles is the main reason to be out there (never mind the target).

But, it’s never quite as satisfyingly thrilling for them as making an actual kill, the carcass of which they are fond of displaying on the hoods or in the open beds of their brand new $60,000 pickup trucks.

“Survival” of the fittest? Don’t even get me started…

This article includes excerpts from the book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport

14-year-old killed in hunting accident

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog

Click here for updates on this story

HARTFORD, AR (KHSB/KHOG) — A 14-year-old boy was killed in a hunting accident near Hartford Monday afternoon, according to Arkansas Game & Fish.

Newt Hodge and his older brother, Kasey Hodge, had shot a deer and started to load it into their truck.

“They had put their gun mounted up against the truck,” Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spokesperson, Keith Stephens said. “When they put the gear in, the gun fell and discharged and hit the 14-year-old brother, and went through him and some of the shrapnel from the bullet hit his brother in the shoulder.”

The brothers were taken to the hospital where Newt was pronounced dead. Kasey is expected to survive.

“Something like this just happens in the blink of an eye,” Stephens said. “I’m sure that when they put that gun there they…

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Ellinwood hunting guide sentenced for violating Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog

Updated: Nov 23, 2020, 11:04 AM

KANSAS CITY – A Kansas guide is losing his hunting privileges for three years because he violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said on Friday.

Zachary B. White, 35, Ellinwood, pleaded guilty in federal court in Wichita to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In his plea, White admitted he acted as a waterfowl guide to a party of 13 hunters during a hunt conducted during December 2015 in Barton County. With White’s assistance, the hunters killed 31 white-fronted geese, violating a daily bag limit of two per person.

The unlawful hunting and guiding services were provided to the hunters by White and another guide, both co-owners and operators of Prairie Thunder Outfitters (PTO), located near Ellinwood.

White was sentenced to three years on probation, during which he is prohibited from hunting and fishing or acting as a guide…

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Hunter dies following apparent accidental shooting on Washington Island

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog

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Hunter dies following apparent accidental shooting on Washington Island

byLanden Moore, FOX 11 NewsMonday, November 23rd 2020AA

File photo. (WLUK image)

File photo. (WLUK image)

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WASHINGTON ISLAND (WLUK) — A hunter died over the weekend after an apparent accidental shooting on Washington Island.

Washington Island police say a report was received shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday of a hunter who had been shot on the north end of the island.

A preliminary investigation found that the hunter appeared to be leaving his blind and accidentally shot himself.

The hunter, identified as 65-year-old Steven Hoogester of West Bend, was pronounced dead at the scene.

An investigation is ongoing.

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What Turkey Producers Don’t Want You to Know, by Martha Rosenberg

23 November 2020

When I interviewed a “live hanger” who worked at House of Raeford Farms turkey facility in Raeford, NC, he told me the turkeys arrive at the slaughterhouse with broken and dislocated limbs. When you try to remove them from their crates, their legs twist completely around, offering no resistance he told me. “The turkeys must be in a lot of pain but they don’t cry out. The only sound you hear as you hang them is trucks being washed out to go back and get a new load.” – Martha Rosenberg

Thanksgiving turkeys endure extreme suffering
Thanksgiving turkeys endure extreme suffering
(Image by Martha Rosenberg)

As “Turkey Day” approaches, animal lovers cringe, food safety advocates become vigilante and turkey producers hope you are not reading the news.

They hope you have forgotten that scientists at the Bloomberg School’s Center for a Livable Future and Arizona State’s Biodesign Institute found Tylenol, Benadryl, caffeine, statins and Prozac in feather meal samples that included U.S. turkeys: “a surprisingly broad spectrum of prescription and over-the-counter drugs,” said study co-author Rolf Halden of Arizona State University.

They hope you have forgotten that ractopamine is still used in turkeys, the asthma-like growth enhancer to add muscle weight.

Here’s What Turkey Producers Don’t Want You to Know

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B.C. government gives okay to trap endangered fishers for fur as scientists warn of impending extinctions

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Trappers Wayne and Leilah Kirsh stopped harvesting fisher on their trapline, in the Nazko region southwest of Prince George, as fisher disappeared following industrial logging. Photo: Leilah KirshNEWS

Unlike six other provinces, B.C. has no endangered species legislation, which allows species at risk to be killed outside of protected areasSarah Cox  Nov 20, 2020 11 min read

Nine months after listing the interior fisher population as endangered, the B.C. government has approved winter trapping of the elusive forest animal even though a scientist warns it could wipe out fishers in some areas. 

“A red-listed population of this size, with a negative population growth rate … should not be trapped,” biologist Larry Davis, a member of the B.C. fisher working group, told The Narwhal. 

“These animals are a low-density species. So many areas have been impacted by [forest] harvesting and fires that removing even a few more animals from these areas will probably result in local extirpations.”

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B.C. has no endangered species legislation, allowing species at risk of extinction to be killed outside of protected areas. Out of 1,336 species at risk currently recognized by the province, only four are legally protected under B.C.’s Wildlife Act — the burrowing owl, American white pelican, Vancouver Island marmot and sea otter. 

B.C.’s hunting and trapping regulations for 2020-2022, which came into effect on July 1, noted the interior fisher was red-listed earlier this year, meaning the genetically unique population is in danger of disappearing. The regulations said fisher trapping seasons were under review and could be amended prior to the start of trapping season on Nov. 1, but no changes have been made. 

Fisher, which are about the size of a housecat but stretched out like a limo, require mature trees for denning and shelter. Only five species of tree in B.C. have cavities suitable for female fisher to birth and raise their kits while avoiding predators. 

The interior fisher population has suffered steep declines, largely due to habitat destruction as a result of accelerated logging for the mountain pine beetle, which has eliminated fisher denning trees such as cottonwoods and balsam poplars. 

Only 300 to 500 interior fishers remain, according to Davis.

“If an area’s already been impacted by extensive harvesting and wildfires, the remaining fisher population is likely to have a hard time sustaining itself — and even removing a few more individuals will make that more difficult,” he said.

B.C. doesn’t protect endangered species

The fisher trapping season coincides with a Nov. 16 letter sent to Premier John Horgan from 17 scientists, urging the newly elected NDP government to create “long overdue” endangered species legislation and to invest in protection and recovery efforts needed to reverse biodiversity loss across the province. 

“Provincial leadership is sorely needed,” the scientists wrote. “With every passing year, it becomes more and more difficult to reverse species declines.”

B.C., the most biodiverse province in Canada, has the greatest number of species at risk of extinction, with 1,336 species on the red and blue lists. Another 1,037 species meet provincial status requirements for red and blue listings but have not yet been added.

Red and blue listing in B.C. is currently an empty exercise, however, because species at risk of extinction receive no unified legal protection in the province. 

Unlike six other provinces that have endangered species legislation, B.C. relies on an uncoordinated mish-mash of legislation to protect plants and animals, including the Forests and Range Practices Act, the Oil and Gas Activities Act, the Environment and Land Use Act, and the Wildlife Act. 

When the NDP came to power in 2017, Premier John Horgan instructed Environment Minister George Heyman to enact an endangered species law, in keeping with an election promise made by the party. But the government subsequently reneged on its commitment

Tara Martin, one of the scientists who signed the letter to Horgan, said she and other scientists worked with the province and other stakeholders to advance the promised legislation. 

“We were hugely disappointed that nothing came of it,” Martin said in an interview. “Essentially, the province walked away from their commitment, with no statement as to why.”

Southern mountain caribou, northern spotted owls and the interior fisher are only a few of the many hundreds of species at risk of extinction in B.C. Illustration: Sarah Hammond / The Narwhal

Lack of endangered species legislation ‘negligent’

The push for B.C. endangered species legislation comes as scientists around the world warn we are witnessing the sixth mass extinction event in the planet’s four-billion-year history. Scientists estimate as many as half of all species may be headed toward extinction in the next 30 years, in large part due to habitat destruction.

Martin said species continue to be added to B.C.’s list of at-risk species and ecosystems.

“This is negligent. This is really unacceptable. We’re losing many opportunities that come with having a biodiverse region. We’re so fortunate to live where we do, and we are not heeding the responsibility that we have for protecting these species and ecosystems,” she said.

“We’re down to less than three per cent of our old-growth forests left. We’re seeing caribou herds disappear. We saw 19,000 cubic metres of endangered white bark pine harvested without penalty.”

Martin and the other scientists told Horgan that B.C.’s wildlife populations are decreasing in abundance, “with many species approaching extinction” due to unsustainable land use and development.

“We’re all losing,” Martin said. “We’re losing our life support system. We’re losing our natural heritage. We’re losing our economic opportunities. And we’re really impacting future generations by taking away opportunities, by not putting in legislation to safeguard our species and ecosystems.”Stuffed caribou Royal BC Museum

A taxidermied caribou cow from an extirpated herd in a back room of the Royal B.C. Museum. Caribou populations have been winking out of existence in B.C. due to over development, industrial logging, road building and other human incursions into wilderness. Photo: Carol Linnitt / The Narwhal

Failing to protect B.C.’s species and ecosystems also violates the rights of Indigenous peoples to have access to species for food, social and ceremonial purposes, the scientists said in their letter. “Not protecting biodiversity in the province is antithetical to the B.C. government’s commitments to reconciliation,” they stated.

Trapper Wayne Kirsh said he is frustrated by the B.C. government’s lack of action to protect fisher habitat. “I don’t think the trapping is going to hurt the fisher, compared to the loss of habitat,” said Kirsh, who trapped interior fisher for decades. 

Kirsh and his wife Leilah stopped harvesting fisher on their trapline, in the Nazko region southwest of Prince George, as fisher disappeared following industrial logging. The couple tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade logging companies and the provincial government to leave behind denning and nesting trees.

“When you have a trapline it’s kind of like having a farm. You have to farm it because if you don’t, in a couple of years, you have nothing left to trap,” Kirsh said in an interview.

In 2016, the Kirshes filed a complaint with B.C.’s forest practices board, an independent watchdog for forestry practices, saying forestry companies were harvesting heavily on their traplines with no designated cutting areas.

The forest practices board upheld the complaint, saying the provincial government failed to use legal tools available to protect fisher habitat.

Kirsh, who worked in the forestry industry for 37 years, said logging practices in interior fisher habitat “haven’t changed one bit. They’re just going in there and raping the habitat.”

“Why don’t they leave some habitat? … It’s not the trapper who is screwing things up,” he said. “Fires are one thing, but logging is the number one killer. They’re not leaving their denning trees and they’re not leaving the spruce with the witch’s broom.”

Fisher use witch’s broom, a dense mass of shoots on a tree branch that resembles a nest, for resting sites and to shelter from the elements.

David said about 170 fishers are trapped each year in B.C., which has a second fisher population in the Peace region that is blue-listed, meaning it is vulnerable to local extinction.Fisher

The Kirshes’ stopped trapping fisher for fur in the Nazko in 2014, in a voluntary effort to help the struggling population. In 2015 and 2016, the couple live-trapped 19 fisher for a reintroduction project in Washington state’s Cascade Mountains. Photo: Leilah Kirsh

Trapping guidelines note ‘increased concern’ for fisher

Biologist Eric Lofroth said it’s not typical for a red-listed species like the fisher to be harvested. 

The impact will depend on where interior fishers are trapped, said Lofroth, adding that government-approved trapping “is certainly not going to be of any help” in recovering populations. “Whether it’s going to result in the extirpation of fisher from any particular part of its current distribution is hard to know.”

He said new data — that he and other scientists have collected — indicates the interior fisher population has a lower reproductive rate than the boreal fisher population in the Peace, possibly due to food availability. Fisher prey on shrews, mice, voles, snakes, squirrels, snowshoe hares and grouse. They also consume mushrooms and berries but not, despite their name, fish.

“The number of females that den on an annual basis and the average litter size is much lower in the central interior than it is in the boreal population,” Lofroth said, noting that a paper on the new data is awaiting peer-review. “That has a real bearing on potential population growth rates.”

The province’s new hunting and traplines guidelines regulations said there is “increased concern” for fisher populations in areas of the Thompson, Cariboo, Omineca and Skeena Regions that have experienced large habitat changes due to forest harvest and salvage of beetle and fire-killed forests. 

“Where habitats are compromised, trapping poses a compounding threat to population persistence,” say the regulations, which encourage trappers to reduce the incidental capture of fisher by modifying marten boxes, which attract fisher.

Davis said he has spoken with a few trappers who are not planning to trap fisher this year due to low fur prices related to the COVID-19 pandemic. “That at least gives us a glimmer of hope that those populations of fishers won’t be heavily impacted with the trapping this winter.” 

“There are areas out there that could be refugium for fishers, whereas in other areas trappers are still active.” 

The fisher working group, supported by the B.C. government, has built close to 1,000 boxes to give out to trappers who harvest marten but who also catch fisher in their traps, Davis said.  

“We are rolling that out right now, trying to get these boxes out to trappers, just to test them, to see if they’re comfortable using them.” 

The boxes have an entry plate with a hole designed for the skull size of martens, which are smaller than fishers. “There’s a difference in the width of their head so they’ve designed the box to have a hole that would fit a large male marten but shouldn’t allow a female fisher to enter, and for sure a male fisher would not be able to enter,” Davis said.

In response to a forest practices board report based on the complaint from Wayne and Leilah Kirsh, the B.C. forests ministry said it would develop a provincial fisher management plan. In June, the ministry told The Narwhal the plan is underway, with a “targeted” completion date of 2022.

Endangered species legislation was not mentioned in the 2020 NDP election platform. Instead, the party vaguely pledged to “work with neighbouring jurisdictions to cooperatively develop and invest in new strategies aimed at better protecting our shared wildlife and habitat corridors.”

B.C. has no laws that specifically prohibit harm to species at risk (other than prohibitions around hunting) or laws that provide mandatory protection for the habitat that species vulnerable to extinction require for their survival and recovery. Nor do B.C. laws require recovery planning or implementation for species at risk.

The scientists are requesting a meeting with B.C.’s next environment minister, who will be named on Nov. 26 when the new provincial cabinet is announced, to discuss how the new government can safeguard endangered species and ecosystems.  

“We feel that Horgan has a clear mandate to govern, and a responsibility to re-engage in this really important effort to bring about species at risk legislation for the province,” Martin said. 

The B.C. government is not answering media questions during the interregnum period following the Oct. 24 election, unless questions pertain to health and safety or statutory requirements.