Friday, January 18, 2013

New Regulations Would Weaken Ontario's Endangered Species Act

Blanding's turtle, Threatened in Ontario. Photo by Beatrice Laporte

Alarming new recommendations have been released by the Ontario Government which will exempt industrial activities from key sections of the province’s Endangered Species Act. Many of the recommendations are vague, but will have sweeping consequences to all listed species at risk in Ontario and the habitat they depend on.

[Update: Nature Canada submitted formal comments to the Ministry. Read them.]

Ontario is one of the only provinces or territories in Canada with a strong, dedicated Endangered Species Act, for which Ontarians should be proud. With this Act Ontario is leading the fight within Canada to protect and recover at-risk species and their habitat.

That’s one reason why Ontario received the highest grade in a recent report card published by Ecojustice that evaluated
federal, territorial and provincial governments on their effectiveness in protecting Canada’s at-risk species.

When Ontario’s Endangered Species Act was passed in 2007 it was expected to be the strongest of its kind. Yet in the Ecojustice report card, Ontario still only received a C+, mainly due to the poor implementation of the Act. Now the Ministry of Natural Resources  is proposing actions which will further weaken the implementation of one of the few pieces of provincial or territorial legislation that is dedicated to endangered species protection and recovery in this country.

Despite the vague wording of the recommendations it is clear that proposed “regulations” are actually “exemptions” for industry. These exemptions mean individuals and businesses will no longer require permits for standard activities (specifics are not mentioned as to what activities this would include), even if their actions impact Ontario’s most sensitive species and habitat. Further, existing or planned activities would be able to proceed as planned despite impacting a species or habitat that is newly protected, or a previously unaccounted for species at risk found at the site. This means that the 65 species at risk which have been waiting for habitat protection on municipal, provincial or private lands in Ontario since 2007, and all species yet to be listed on the Endangered Species Act, will be left without protection on lands where development is proceeding or planned.

Currently individuals and businesses need to apply for a permit from the Ministry for activities that will impact species at risk or their habitat. The standard is that only activities that promote overall good to the species or habitat, through initiatives such as creation of additional or replacement habitat, are approved. Driven by budget cuts and the need to “promote administrative efficiencies” the Ministry is proposing that conformity to rules and established regulations instead become voluntary. It is through research, the collection of background information required to evaluate permit applications and follow-up that the Ministry is able to monitor the impacts of industrial development on the landscape. Without the accountability created by permits how will the Ministry know what activities are ongoing or their impacts to Ontario’s wildlife?

The list of exemptions continues, with potentially alarming impacts! One example is that accredited individuals and organizations would no longer need a permit for possession of listed species at risk or specimens. 

Prothonotary warbler, Endangered in Ontario. Photo by Allan Woodhouse.

This issue is concerning to all Canadians as actions of this nature could present a precedent for other governments, including the federal government.

So what can you do?

Add your voice to the opposition of these proposed exemptions for industry development and tell Ontario to uphold the purpose of the Endangered Species Act, which is to “protect species that are at risk and their habitats, and to promote the recovery of species that are at risk”.

Read about the “Regulation Proposal Notice” and submit your own comments to the Ministry of Natural Resources. The comment period is open until January 25, 2013. Make sure to reference EBR Registry number 011-7696 for your entry to be considered.

You should also check out Ontario Nature's action alert, or read Anne Bell's editorial, which first appeared in the Toronto Star. You can also write to your local Member of Parliament, your minister and the opposition critics since these amendments will pass with only the approval of the cabinet.

Finally, please share this story with your friends and get the message out there.


Red Maple Tree said...

Since long time I have seen a turtles in nature. Thank you for great post.

My Complaint said...

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