Toronto, Ontario – Ontario’s environmental community is calling upon the Minister of Natural Resources to respond decisively to threats by the president of the Ontario Landowners Association that he will deliberately destroy the habitat of the loggerhead shrike, an endangered Ontario bird 
Quoted in the April 29, 2007 edition of the Ottawa Sun, Jack MacLaren threatens to bulldoze several acres of land to protest Bill 184, Ontario’s proposed new Endangered Species Act. He claims that the land may be habitat for the endangered loggerhead shrike.

“It’s hard to fathom this contempt for an endangered species and for the law,” says Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “To willfully destroy the home of a bird so in danger is not only shocking, it’s illegal, and it must be stopped.”

The loggerhead shrike has experienced serious declines in numbers in Canada and across North America since the mid 1960s. A primary threat is loss of habitat. The bird and its habitat are protected under Ontario’s existing Endangered Species Act.

“I’m sure most responsible landowners would find this kind of act highly offensive,” says Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science for Ontario Nature. “There are landowner efforts across southern Ontario to help the shrike survive and recover. Most people place a high value on helping species that are in trouble, and would find such planned, wanton destruction completely reprehensible.” 

“Ironically, whether the new Act is passed or not, Mr. MacLaren has targeted a species that is already protected under the existing law,” adds Robert Wright, Counsel for Sierra Legal. “This is an enforcement issue. Like all law-abiding citizens, we expect the Ministry of Natural Resources to investigate and lay charges if this person deliberately breaks the law.”

“We hope that the extreme views expressed by Mr. MacLaren are clearly repudiated by all landowner organizations and political parties,” says Rachel Plotkin, Policy Analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation. “Lawless environmental destruction cannot be tolerated.”

“Once a species is classified as endangered it means we, as a society, have failed to do our job and more effective measures are needed to prevent extinction,” says Janet Sumner, Executive Director of CPAWS-Wildlands League. “To purposefully destroy any endangered species habitat is reckless.”

Bill 184 has passed second reading in the Ontario Legislature, and Committee Hearings to review and amend the proposed legislation begin this week. Environmental groups are hopeful that the Act will balance a science-based approach to species protection with the flexibility needed to promote stewardship by landowners and accommodate compatible resource use.

The proposed legislation provides for permits and regulations so that habitat protection can be tailored to allow compatible land and resource use. It also comes with an $18 million stewardship fund to assist landowners and others who want to preserve and rehabilitate wildlife habitat.
 

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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Wendy Francis, Ontario Nature, (416) 846-2404
Janet Sumner, CPAWS Wildlands League, (416) 971-9453, ext. 39
Rachel Plotkin, David Suzuki Foundation, (613) 796-7999
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
Robert Wright, Sierra Legal, (416) 368-7533 ext. 31
 
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. ForestEthics and Western Canada Wilderness Committee also support the S.O.S. Campaign.