Toronto, Ontario – As the provincial government concludes its public consultation on changes to the Ontario Endangered Species Act, leading environmental groups today called on the government to follow through on its commitment to introduce a new Endangered Species Act as soon as the Legislature resumes sitting in March. The groups contend that the proposed legislative package, which includes funding, incentives, and an exceptions process, presents a balanced approach to protecting endangered species while addressing the concerns of landowners and resource users.
The groups – CPAWS Wildlands League, Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature, Sierra Legal, and David Suzuki Foundation – are partners in the Save Ontario’s Species (S.O.S.) campaign (www.saveontariospecies.ca).
Monday was the final day for public comment on the Province’s proposed package of new legislation and programs that are intended to provide effective science-based protection for Ontario’s approximately 200 endangered species and their habitats. The government proposal would implement the recommendations of a government-appointed panel of experts in science, law and Aboriginal matters.
“Reforming the Endangered Species Act so that it is better for species protection and affected landowners is long overdue,” says Rachel Plotkin, an Ontario-based Policy Analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation.
“If the government follows through on its promise to implement the expert panel’s recommendations, Ontario will have the best endangered species law in the country,” says Aaron Freeman, Policy Director for Environmental Defence.
Last month (December 14, 2006), Minister of Natural Resources, David Ramsay, indicated in the Legislature that the legislation would be tabled at the earliest opportunity in the spring session. “In a report submitted to the government in August, the advisory panel suggested a framework for legislation that provides effective protection and recovery measures as well as the necessary tools for practical application,” he remarked, noting that the government would use the framework in developing its new legislation.
The groups agree that the proposed framework must address the concerns of landowners. “We agree the new Act needs a properly resourced stewardship fund for landowners. The costs of protecting species cannot be placed solely on those who steward the land,” says Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science for Ontario Nature.
Robert Wright, Counsel for Sierra Legal, adds: “The province should announce proper stewardship funding and incentives at the same time as the Act is introduced in March. The suggested approach of combining strong new legislation with proper funding would create a win-win situation for wildlife and landowners.”
The groups are critical, however, of the position taken by the Ontario Forest Industry Association. “The Ontario Forest Industry Association has recently taken to scare-mongering in an attempt to oppose the new Endangered Species Act. Their position seems to belie efforts being undertaken by industry leaders such as Tembec who are actually proactively examining their operations to reduce their impact upon threatened species like the Woodland Caribou,” says Janet Sumner, Executive Director of CPAWS Wildlands League.
For a full copy of the expert panel report that the government is using as a basis for the new legislation, visit: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/mnr/speciesatrisk/ESA_Advisory_Panel_Report.pdf
About Save Ontario’s Species (www.saveontariospecies.ca): S.O.S. is a collaboration among CPAWS Wildlands League, Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature, Sierra Legal and the David Suzuki Foundation. The groups are working together to ensure that Ontario’s new Endangered Species Act creates the necessary legal basis for protecting and restoring all of the province’s species at risk. The S.O.S. Campaign is also supported by ForestEthics and Western Canada Wilderness Committee. Additional information about each partner organization is available online at www.saveontariospecies.ca.
For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
Wendy Francis, Ontario Nature, (416) 846-2404
Janet Sumner, CPAWS-Wildlands League, (416) 971-9453, ext. 39
Robert Wright, Sierra Legal, (416) 368-7533 ext. 31
Rachel Plotkin, David Suzuki Foundation, (613) 594-9026