(Toronto- November 29, 2011) The Government of Ontario is not taking sufficient steps to protect and recover the province’s imperilled species. This warning was issued by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Gord Miller, in his 2010/2011 Annual Report released today at Queen’s Park.
“Ontario’s Endangered Species Act is a good law that has the potential to make a real difference,” said Gord Miller. “However, the government is not making the tough choices about what it will and will not do to protect species at risk. Rather than taking decisive action, much of what the government is doing has become an empty bureaucratic exercise with little benefit for endangered species.”
The government released its plans to address the recovery of 13 species at risk in November 2010. The Environmental Commissioner’s report found that the government’s commitments in the majority of these plans do the bare legal minimum to address these species. The government is taking a backseat in its own program by offloading key actions, creating a situation in which the on-the-ground recovery of species at risk might only occur if external, voluntary groups step up. Further, the government is not providing stakeholders with the necessary information on how to carry on with business, if appropriate, when species at risk are present.
“Protecting endangered species must first be framed by science, and then political and social choices can be made,” stated the Environmental Commissioner. “Instead, the government has so muddied the process that it is difficult to decipher science from politics. The result for Ontario is that the loss of biodiversity continues unchecked.”
The Environmental Commissioner’s report found the Ministry of Natural Resources is sending mixed messages in its conservation efforts for species at risk:
The Ministry of Natural Resources allows the hunting and trapping of some species at risk, such as snapping turtles and eastern wolves which are both species of special concern.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has failed to provide the public with a clear picture of where Ontario’s threatened woodland caribou are and what will be done to actually conserve their habitat