Ontario government takes aim at species at risk

Endangered Species Act review could gut wildlife protections

The Government of Ontario has set its sights on “improving” Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, posting a discussion paper on the Environmental Registry. However, the paper makes it clear that the province’s primary objective in revisiting the act is not to ensure efficient recovery for Ontario’s at-risk species but, rather, to find even more efficiencies for industries that want to operate where these animals and plants live.

The primary cause of wildlife decline in Ontario (and nationally, and globally) is habitat loss and degradation, for which limits need to be set, not greater efficiencies created.

In 2013, the province passed an amendment that exempts a broad suite of industrial and development activities from the rules against harming endangered and threatened species and their habitats. In other words, the ESA is already failing to effectively safeguard the habitat wildlife needs to survive.

The provincial government touts itself as a government of the people. If measures to weaken the ESA are greeted with the same outrage that met the province’s proposal to gut protection measures for the Greenbelt, maybe the province will recognize that the people care about wildlife.

We need to ensure that the province upholds a piece of legislation intended to change business-as-usual activities that drive wildlife decline, not pave the way for them.

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