from the Conservation Committee of the OFNC

The question is simple really. Do you care about species at risk? Do you care about Barn Swallows, Blanding’s Turtles, Eastern Whip-poor-wills, or Monarch Butterflies? If you care about these species and the other 200 species at risk in Ontario, then it is time to stand up for them.

The government of Ontario is currently reviewing the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the legislation that provides protection for species at risk and their habitat. The ESA is not perfect. It could be improved, but the current discussion paper produced by the government makes it clear that the real goal of this review process is to further weaken the ESA and make it easier to develop the habitat of species at risk. The deadline for comments is March 4, 2019.

Ontario Nature has produced the following statement about the government’s plans (full statement here):

Under the guise of “enabling positive outcomes for species at risk” the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks is reviewing the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA). Allegedly responding to criticisms that the ESA is administratively burdensome and creates “barriers to economic development,” the government’s discussion paper is closely aligned with its broader “open-for-business” approach to governance.

Make no mistake: the ministry is inviting the public to consider options that, if passed, would undermine the very cornerstones of the law: science-based listing that includes Indigenous traditional knowledge, mandatory habitat protection, and legislated timelines for planning and reporting. Essentially the critical measures that enable positive outcomes for species at risk.

The government has backed down on some controversial proposals – when there has been strong public response. It is critical that as many people as possible express their anger at this proposal to weaken the ESA. Politicians do listen to numbers. If very few people object to their plan then they will know few people care.

There are two ways to submit comments on this review:

  • Go to the Ontario Nature website. From there you can submit a form letter. With just a few clicks you can send a letter to the government. It is always better to personalize the form letter if you can. Add a brief comment about some species at risk you have seen, or why the protection of species at risk is important to you. While a personalized letter is better than a form letter, a form letter is better than no letter at all.
  • The other option is to submit comments directly through the Environmental Registry of Ontario. Once there click on the blue box with the words “Submit a comment.” On the next page click on “Comment without registering” and submit your comments. You can submit your own letter, or the OFNC form letter below, which was modified from the Ontario Nature form letter. Again, personalizing our form letter is worthwhile if you can.

The deadline for comments is March 4, 2019, so please act quickly.

Sample letter

A review of the provincial ESA is very timely and I am hopeful it will result in increased protection for species at risk. Given the large number of species at risk in the province (over 200 species!) this is an important issue. I am greatly concerned that the discussion paper issued by the government of Ontario will not provide greater protection for species at risk, but will simply make it easier for industry and developers to destroy the habitat for species at risk.

Any changes to the ESA must support its purpose of protecting and recovering species at risk. To that end, I urge the government to:

  1. Repeal the 2013 exemptions for various sectors, including forestry, hydro, mining and development industries.
  2. Amend section 57 (1)1 of the ESA so that exemptions will only be allowed if they do not jeopardize the survival and recovery of endangered and threatened species.
  3. Do not change COSSARO’s current science-based listing process. The listing of species at risk should not be a political decision.
  4. Mandatory habitat protection for threatened and endangered species should remain. The minister should not be interfering with the protection of species at risk.
  5. Maintain meaningful overall benefit requirements for species at risk from all development proposals. Proponents should not be able to simply pay into a fund to compensate for harm to species at risk or their habitat.

Many species continue to decline across the world and in Ontario and it is our responsibility to protect species at risk. I look forward to seeing an even stronger ESA after this review process.