The meaningful incorporation of independent scientific advice into effective public policy is a hurdle for any conservation legislation. Canada's Species at Risk Act (SARA; 2002) was designed to separate the science-based determination of a species' risk status from the decision to award it legal protection. However, thereafter, the input of independent science into policy has not been clearly identifiable. Audits of SARA have identified clear deficiencies in the protection and recovery of luted species; for example, of the 176 species legally protected in 2003, only one has a legal implementation plan for its recovery. We argue that clearly distinguishing science from policy at all relevant stages would improve the scientific integrity, transparency, accountability, and public acceptance of the legal listing and recovery implementation processes in SARA. Such delineation would also clarify exactly what trade-offs are being made between at-risk species recovery and competing policy objectives.
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