Friday, February 22, 2013

Help Us Save Ontario's Endangered Species Act

Last month we told you about the alarming recommendations released by the Ontario Government to exempt industrial activities from key sections of the province’s Endangered Species Act. One of our many concerns was that the proposal was extremely vague regarding what sort of activities would receive exemptions.

Well, now we know. And the answer isn’t good. 

Milksnake, Special Concern in Ontario. Photo by Chandru Ramkumar
The main threat that Milksnakes face is human persecution since they live close to humans and are often mistaken for rattlesnakes.
New details released by the Ministry have only confirmed our fears. Industry activities ranging from forestry and mining to residential development would be exempt from requiring permits for activities that would harm Ontario’s most sensitive species and habitats. Instead, proponents of these types of projects would be required to “take steps to minimize adverse effects on species and their habitats”, a significant change from the current much higher standard, which is to provide an overall benefit to the species and habitat.

Projects would have a staggering two years to develop a mitigation plan while development moves ahead. This final mitigation plan will not need to be made available to the Ministry, except if specifically requested. With cut backs rampant throughout the government we question how effectively the Ministry will be able to regulate and enforce conformity of the conditions suggested in this proposal.

This is certainly not the direction Canada - and by association the provinces and territories- agreed to follow when we joined over 150 other nations in signing the Convention on Biological Diversity, promising to halt the loss of biodiversity on the planet initially in 1992 and again in 2010.

In their rush for so-called “modernization of approvals” the Ministry of Natural Resources is undermining the very purpose of the Endangered Species Act; to protect species that are at risk and their habitats, and to promote the recovery of species that are at risk.

This issue resonates far beyond Ontario’s borders. After more than a year spent gutting environmental legislation, the federal government has been suggesting a "review" the federal Species At Risk Act as well. Is this only the continuation of a disturbing trend in Canadian politics or the foreshadowing of actions to come? 

Red Knot, Endangered in Ontario. Photo by Mark Peck
The Red Knot rufa subspecies visits Ontario during its migration form the Canadian Arctic to Argentina.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has extended the deadline for submission of comments to February 25, 2013. Make sure to reference EBR Registry number 011-7696 for your entry to be considered.

Ontario Nature, our provincial Canadian Nature Network partner, has released an action alert.
Please join Nature Canada and Ontario Nature in opposing this proposal by visiting the Action Alert here, and adding your voice to ours.

Keep in mind a couple key points when submitting your own letter to make sure it has the most impact:

Take a few moments to make the form letter your own. Tell a personal story, add a new point of concern or develop on one already listed. By making your letter unique it will be awarded more “points” than the same form letter sent in repeatedly.
Specifically reference areas of concern. When the Ministry is tallying the letters they will break down the content into categories and tally the number of responses to each subject. So comment on as many categories as possible!
Send your letter to your MPP. You already wrote it, so why not spread your concerns with the Provincial Member of Parliament who is representing you?
Share this issue and ask your friends to write in as well.


Ted Cheskey said...

Ontario's policies on biodiversity protection are in the worst state in years. Not sure what is happening, but they are in the process of cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Ted Cheskey said...

Ontario's policies on biodiversity protection are in the worst state in years. Not sure what is happening, but they are in the process of cutting off their nose to spite their face.