Let’s save Ontario’s Endangered species!
We can’t afford to trash the environment.
Strong environmental legislation in Ontario is critical to our economy. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources own report, our goods and services in southern Ontario alone are estimated to be worth over $84 billion a year.
Over the last year, the Ministry of Natural Resources has attacked the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by proposing changes to the legislation that will weaken North America’s best endangered species protection act.
On the table are broad industrial exemptions that lower the standard of protection for Ontario’s species at-risk and their habitats.
The implementation of the ESA can be improved. But in another case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, these changes move toward industry self-regulation. Default exemptions will undermine the fragile ecosystems that we need to sustain us.
Government has a responsibility to ensure adequate environmental protections are in place, so that Ontario is healthy today and in the future.
Photo Credit: Don Freiday/USFWS
What is the Ontario Endangered Species Act (ESA)?
The ESA is an environmental law aimed at protecting endangered and threatened species, and species under special consideration from extinction. Currently, in Ontario there are more than 190 species population that are declining.
The first Endangered Species Act was written in 1971. It’s most recent version, Endangered Species Act 2007, was updated to include better protection for species given the changes in land and resource use since 1971.
The ESA 2007 now includes increased protection for species through the provision of more effective enforcement methods, increase fines, emphasis on species recovery, etc. You can read more through the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Species at Risk website.
As a result, Ontario’s ESA is one of the strongest Acts in North America and holds industry to a strict standard and accountable for the environment.
Why is the ESA under attack?
There have been legitimate concerns about the implementation of the ESA, such as inconsistency with respect to permitting, costly delays and poor coordination with other approval processes.
But these can addressed by improving the implementation, for example standardizing permits where appropriate; moving to on-line permitting for low risk activities such as research or the cultivation of endangered plants for restoration purposes; delegating approval authority to those with requisite expertise within MNR.
The Act itself does not need to be dismantled.
The old parties Queen’s Park seem to be forgetting that one of the stated purposes of the ESA is to “protect species that are at risk and their habitats, and to promote the recovery of species that are at risk.” The existing permit process ensures that developers and industry must maintain species protection as a priority when they work in sensitive habitat areas.
The old-line parties also claim that the protection plans for some species (such as the Woodland Caribou) is not based on sound science. This is simply not true. Review and assessment of species in Ontario is based on a rigorous science-based process which utilizes the best available science as well as Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge. Read more about the process and role of the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO).
Here are some articles that highlight some of the challenges that the ESA is currently facing:
- Sierra Club: “The Ontario Endangered Species Act (ESA), a law without friends in power”: http://o.sierraclub.ca/en/blog/dan-mcdermott/esa
- David Suzuki Foundation: “Driving a hole through Ontario’s Endangered Species Act”: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/panther-lounge/2013/01/driving-a-hole-through-ontarios-endangered-species-act/
- “Fact and Fiction” (Ontario Nature Magazine): http://onnaturemagazine.com/fact-and-fiction.html
- Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario (Thought Provoker series: Ontario News Watch): http://ontarionewswatch.com/onw-news.html?id=619
- Toronto Star (Jan. 10, 2013): “Ontario’s mixed message on protecting endangered wildlife”: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2013/01/10/ontarios_mixed_message_on_protecting_endangered_wildlife.html
- Toronto Star (Feb. 23, 2013): “Tim Hudak warns endangered species regulations hurting business”: http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2013/02/26/tim_hudak_warns_endangered_species_regulations_hurting_business.html
- Toronto Star (May 29, 2013): “Ontario conservation group fears endangered species taking back seat to industries”: http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2013/05/29/ontario_conservation_group_fears_endangered_species_taking_back_seat_to_industries.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter