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Ontario must show courage in defending species at risk, urges Environmental Commissioner

Monday, March 2nd 2009 9:43:23am

For Immediate Release

Ontario must show courage in defending species at risk, urges Environmental Commissioner

(March 2, 2009, Toronto) – The fate of Ontario’s 183 species at risk depends on the courage of the Ontario Government in making their protection a priority. This is one conclusion found in a Special Report released by Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), and tabled before the Ontario Legislature today.

“The Endangered Species Act, 2007 is the last line of defence for imperilled species before they disappear from Ontario’s landscape,” advises Miller. “Although the new law is a great improvement over its predecessor, many of its protections can be undermined if the law’s flexibility is misused.”

Today’s report, entitled The Last Line of Defence: A Review of Ontario’s New Protections for Species at Risk, analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the Endangered Species Act, 2007, which came into force on June 30, 2008 and whose implementation continues. In the report, the ECO provides the Government of Ontario with recommendations and key action items to ensure the province’s most vulnerable species and their habitats are protected and recovered.

For example, under the Act, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is given the authority to allow some activities that may be destructive of habitat, even when that habitat is critical to endangered species. “The ministry must exercise extreme caution and prudence in using this authority,” Miller warns.

“I am encouraged to see that the decision to list species as being at risk is now a scientific decision rather than a political one,” noted Miller. “But without strong commitment and tough decisions, much of Ontario’s wildlife, and the natural areas it relies on, may be lost forever,” stated Miller.

The Environmental Commissioner’s Keys to Successful Implementation of the Endangered Species Act, 2007

• Use great caution in exercising the power to authorize activities that would otherwise be prohibited under the Act, such as killing individual plants or animals, or destroying their habitat.
• Ensure that habitats are prescribed on an ecological basis, rather than being driven by economic or social constraints.
• Ensure that species management and recovery plans and their implementation are robust and effective, and are delivered in a timely fashion.

The Commissioner will host a web-based briefing session at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, March 2nd.

For further information, please check our website at www.eco.on.ca or contact:

Hayley Easto, Communications, Office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
Tel: (416) 325-3371 / Toll-free public inquiry line: 1-800-701-6454 E-mail: media@eco.on.ca