By: The Working Forest Staff
Following the government’s 10-year review consultations this past winter of the province’s Endangered Species Act, the province is improving outcomes for species at risk by implementing recommendations received to modernize and improve the effectiveness of the act and improve outcomes for species at risk.
“During consultation, we received valuable feedback from the public, Indigenous communities and conservation groups on what works well and what doesn’t, learning how we can improve the act by including modern thinking from other jurisdictions,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “Our goal is to find the best way to protect Ontario’s species at risk by ensuring populations are transparently assessed by an independent scientific committee of experts.”
In January 2019, the government launched its consultation on how best to update the 10-year-old act to improve the effectiveness of the program for species at risk by ensuring Ontario’s best-in-class endangered and threatened species protections include advice and species’ classifications from an independent scientific committee and modern approaches to enforcement and compliance; species and habitat protections, and recovery planning.
To further support Ontario’s species at risk, the government also announced its $4.5M fund for the Species at Risk Stewardship Program for 2019-2020 which will be renewed each year. The fund supports academics, communities, organizations and Indigenous peoples across Ontario to implement on-the-ground activities that benefit species at risk and their habitats.
At Queen’s Park, the Hon. Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, announced the fund for the Stewardship Program and proposed changes to the act.
“By ensuring that costs municipalities and industry incur to address species at risk while building a road, bridge or hospital are directed towards more effective actions, we can actually improve outcomes for the species or its habitat,” stated Phillips. “We know that people want to do the right thing but can become frustrated when government duplication or uncertainty stymies the process.”
Ontario is committed to ensuring that its Endangered Species Act includes a provincial species at risk list that is automatically updated based on classifications by an independent scientific committee, as well as best-in-class approaches from across the country to ongoing species and habitat protections and recovery. The proposed changes posted on the Environmental Registry include:
- enhancing government oversight and enforcement powers to ensure compliance with the act;
- improving transparent notification of new species’ listings;
- appropriate consultation with academics, communities, organizations and Indigenous peoples across Ontario on species at risk recovery planning; and
- creating new tools to streamline processes, reduce duplication and ensure costs incurred by clients are directed towards actions that will improve outcomes for the species or its habitat.
Ontario is also proposing to create Canada’s first independent Crown agency proposed to be called the Species at Risk Conservation Trust, to allow municipalities or other infrastructure developers the option to pay a charge into a species at risk trust in lieu of completing certain on-the-ground activities required by the act. The board-governed provincial agency would make informed, unbiased and expert decisions on how to best employ the funds to support strategic, coordinated and large-scale actions that assist in protection and recovery for species at risk. This new approach will give greater certainty to business and better enable positive outcomes for species at risk compared to the current piece-meal industry-led approach.
Our commitment to protecting species at risk is part of the government’s Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan to protect our air, land and water, prevent and reduce litter and waste, support Ontarians to continue to do their share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help communities and families increase their resilience to climate change.