McGuinty Government To Strengthen Protection For Ontario's Species At Risk

Archived Release

McGuinty Government To Strengthen Protection For Ontario's Species At Risk

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

Proposed Legislation Among Strongest In North America TORONTO, March 20 - The McGuinty government is introducing proposed legislation that, if passed, would make Ontario a North American leader in species at risk protection and recovery, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay announced today. "The proposed legislation we are introducing today sets a gold standard for protection and recovery of species at risk and represents a new era of natural heritage protection in Ontario," said Ramsay. "By working to reverse the rate of species decline in our province, we will ensure that future generations of Ontarians benefit from a healthier and diverse natural environment." More effective legislation is just one component of a comprehensive, three-part approach to species at risk protection announced today that also includes the programs and policies to implement the new legislation, and support for public stewardship initiatives. "We are proposing a comprehensive, three-part approach to provide an improved legislative framework for species and habitat protection, and also encourage greater stewardship involvement from landowners, resource users and conservation organizations," said Ramsay. "We further propose to back up our commitment to greater stewardship with funding of $18 million over four years to promote stewardship activities protecting essential habitat and green space." Ontario is home to more than 30,000 species - all important to the biological, social and economic vitality of the province. At present, more than 175 of these species are identified as being at risk, which means they may disappear from the province if their rate of decline continues. If passed by the Legislature, the proposed Endangered Species Act, 2007 would: - Broaden the scope of Ontario's existing Endangered Species Act and strengthen protection and recovery measures - Provide greater accountability to the public and demonstrate clear results - Include the necessary provisions to support protection within the context of sustainable development. The Ontario government consulted extensively with the public, Aboriginal organizations and a wide range of stakeholder groups before drafting the legislation. These groups included land developers, environmentalists, rural communities, fish and wildlife enthusiasts, municipalities and resource industry sectors. "This is the first time since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1971 that our laws protecting species at risk have undergone a thorough review," said Ramsay. "We asked Aboriginal representatives, our partners, stakeholders, the Endangered Species Act Review Advisory Panel and the Ontario public for their views and they have indicated strong support for better species at risk legislation. We thank those who have provided input." The proposed legislation is just one way the McGuinty government is protecting Ontario's natural heritage. Other initiatives include: - Launching Ontario's Biodiversity Strategy - Protecting 1.8 million acres of greenspace in the Greenbelt, providing a safe habitat for 66 species at risk - Working with an alliance of organizations through the Natural Spaces program to develop the tools, incentives and on-the-ground activities that will encourage and support private landowners in conserving natural areas on their land. For more information about the proposed Endangered Species Act, 2007, please visit the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry at www.ontario.ca/environmentalregistry and enter Registry Number AB06E6001. Note to Editors: B Roll available on request. Disponible en français ontario.ca/mnr rom.on.ca/ontario/risk.php Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- ONTARIO INTRODUCES PROPOSED ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT, 2007 Contact Info BACKGROUND In May 2006, the Ontario government launched an extensive review of the Endangered Species Act with the goal of updating and strengthening the legislation that protects the province's native species at risk and their habitats. The Ontario government consulted extensively with the public, Aboriginal Organizations and a wide range of stakeholder groups - including land developers, environmentalists, rural communities, fish and wildlife enthusiasts, municipalities and resource industry sectors. Based on the findings of this review, the government is introducing proposed legislation that would replace the outdated Endangered Species Act and significantly expand protection for the province's species at risk. The proposed Endangered Species Act, 2007 would, if passed, be among the strongest such legislation in North America. More effective legislation is just one of three components of an updated, comprehensive approach to protection and recovery of species at risk in Ontario. The other two components are: - Programs and policies to implement the new legislation - Enhanced stewardship programs. HIGHLIGHTS OF PROPOSED LEGISLATION Compared to the existing Endangered Species Act, the proposed legislation provides broader protection provisions for species at risk and their habitats, enhanced support for volunteer participation from private landowners and partners, a greater commitment to recovery of species and more effective enforcement provisions. The significantly improved provisions in the legislation include: - A clear role for science in determining the status of species at risk - Stronger protection measures for species at risk and their habitats - A balance between protection measures and flexibility to accommodate other land use considerations, and recognition that such flexibility can sometimes help achieve the desired outcome of protection and recovery. - Greater transparency through public reporting requirements - Effective enforcement measures - Recognition of Aboriginal and treaty rights protected under the Constitution Act, in addition to a commitment to ongoing dialogue with Aboriginal peoples as the new legislation is implemented - The creation of a stewardship program for the purpose of promoting stewardship and other related activities to assist in the protection and recovery of species at risk. More information about the proposed species at risk legislation is available on the ministry's website at www.ontario.ca/speciesatrisk. ONTARIO'S SPECIES AT RISK Ontario is home to more than 30,000 species of which more than 175 are considered to be at risk. Species may become at risk due to small or declining numbers and limited distributions in combination with other factors such as habitat loss, pollution, competition from invasive species and over-harvesting. Ontario classifies species at risk into the following categories: - Extinct - no longer lives anywhere in the world - Extirpated - lives somewhere in the world, lived at one time in Ontario, but no longer lives in the wild in Ontario - Endangered - lives in the wild in Ontario, but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation - Threatened - lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered, but is likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors that appear to be leading to its extinction or extirpation - Special Concern - lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered or threatened, but may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats. More information about Ontario's species at risk is available at the species at risk website produced in partnership between the ministry and the Royal Ontario Museum www.rom.on.ca/ontario/risk.php. Contact: Debbie Ramsay Biodiversity Section 416-314-1819 Disponible en français ontario.ca/mnr Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- SUPPORT FOR ONTARIO'S PROPOSED ENDANGERED SPECIES LEGISLATION "Conservation Ontario commends the Government of Ontario for undertaking a review of the Endangered Species Act which will result in improved protection for species at risk. The Province led a very inclusive consultation process during the review and the Conservation Authorities were pleased to participate." Richard Hibma, Chair of Conservation Ontario. "The new Endangered Species Act is a significant step forward for Ontarians and the natural heritage we all value so highly. This new legislation will provide an inclusive, science-based and effective framework within which to balance different environmental and economic priorities." Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence "Our panel recommended a science-based, proactive approach to the protection and recovery of species at risk and we are pleased that our advice has been accepted. The new program will ensure that the needs of species are the first priority in listing, habitat protection and recovery." Justina C. Ray, Ph.D., Director, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada and Adjunct Professor, University of Toronto's Faculty of Forestry. "This new legislation brings Ontario's protection for endangered plants and animals into the 21st century. The package of incentives and programs will ensure that private landowners, who are responsible for the majority of rare habitats, are valued partners in the delivery of endangered species protection." Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science, Ontario Nature "We are delighted that the Ontario government's new species at risk legislation proposed today includes greater recognition and support for the essential role private land stewardship plays in protecting and restoring important natural habitats such as wetlands." Ron Maher, Manager Provincial Operations (Ontario), Ducks Unlimited Canada "We congratulate the government for acting on its commitment to update and expand Ontario's existing species at risk legislation. If passed, this milestone legislation will provide support to private landowners and conservation groups for stewardship activities and provide stronger protection for our native species at risk to help ensure they have the habitat they need to thrive." James Duncan, Acting Regional Vice President, Ontario, of the Nature Conservancy of Canada "OSSGA is pleased that the new Endangered Species Act provides mechanisms that will permit balanced decisions around the responsible extraction of essential materials, while at the same time deliver overall benefits for endangered and threatened species." Ken Lucyshyn, Chairman of the Board, Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association "Forward-looking jurisdictions around the world have set a standard for endangered species legislation that includes habitat protection measures and Ontario's revised Endangered Species Act (ESA) meets this standard. WWF-Canada works with leading industry partners and we believe the ESA supports collaborative conservation efforts to protect biodiversity, such as through Forest Stewardship Council certification." Tony Iacobelli, Director, Forest and Freshwater program, WWF-Canada "This endangered species legislation is compatible with corporate social responsibility and is a cornerstone for any progressive society hoping to halt extinction of species including the spotted turtle and woodland caribou. Protecting endangered species through effective legislation is the last line of defense and is only necessary if we have failed to ensure the survival of species through more proactive measures such as adequate land use planning or socially responsible industrial management regimes such as the international Forest Stewardship Certification for forestry." Janet Sumner, Executive Director, CPAWS Wildlands League Disponible en français ontario.ca/mnr Fact Sheet ------------------------------------------------------------------------- PROTECTING ONTARIO'S SPECIES AT RISK Ontario is home to more than 30,000 species - all important to the biological, social and economic vitality of the province. At present, more than 175 of these species are identified as being at risk, which means they may disappear from the province if their rate of decline continues. The following is a sample of species currently protected under Ontario legislation. ATLANTIC SALMON The Atlantic salmon is the only salmon native to Ontario. Abundant at the time of European settlement in the early 1700s, the population began to decline by the mid-1800s as land was cleared, water quality declined and dams blocked fish passage. In spite of various hatchery stockings, which began in 1866, the last Atlantic salmon was removed from the Lake Ontario basin before 1900. As a top predator, the Atlantic salmon had a key ecological role in maintaining a healthy native fish community. It was also an important source of food for both native peoples and early settlers. As such, this species is a significant part of the natural and cultural heritage of the Lake Ontario basin. Restoring the Atlantic salmon would be a significant milestone towards improving Ontario's biodiversity. The Ministry of Natural Resources is setting direction for a salmon restoration program with a number of partners, including the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, LCBO and Australia's Banrock Station wine company. Other partners and sponsors committed to the project include the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association, Trout Unlimited Canada, Fleming College, Trees Ontario Foundation, Fishing Forever Foundation and local conservation authorities and community groups. This long-term process is expected to take 15 to 20 years. PEREGRINE FALCON The peregrine falcon is a fast-flying raptor with long, pointed wings; a long narrow tail; quick, powerful wing beats, and a distinctive dark facial mask including heavy dark "sideburns." Adults are slate-gray on the back, with a light-coloured barred breast. Younger birds are brown with a heavily streaked breast. In the wild, peregrine falcons nest on high, steep cliff edges near lakes and rivers. Some peregrine falcons have adapted to city environments, where pigeons and other city-dwelling birds are easy prey and the ledges of tall buildings provide good nesting sites. The peregrine can dive at speeds of up to 300 kilometres an hour, literally knocking its prey out of the air. The peregrine falcon was once on the brink of extinction, largely due to the widespread use of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides such as DDT in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1973, it was regulated under Ontario's Endangered Species Act. Recovery efforts have been underway for more than 25 years, involving the Ministry of Natural Resources and many partners including Ontario Nature, Canadian Wildlife Service, Bird Studies Canada, conservation authorities, naturalist clubs, volunteers and the Canadian Peregrine Foundation. Through the combined efforts of the Ontario government and these partners, the peregrine falcon has made a remarkable recovery. There are now more than 70 pairs of peregrine falcons in Ontario. As a result of this success, the species was reclassified from Endangered to Threatened in June 2006. The peregrine falcon continues to be protected from hunting, trapping and nest disturbance as a Specially Protected Raptor under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. AMERICAN BADGER The American badger is a stout, short-legged carnivore with gray fur and distinctive black and white stripes on the head and face. The badger is a powerful digger, using its long front claws to create underground dens or burrow out small rodents which are its main source of food. Badgers are mainly nocturnal but are often active in the early morning. Small populations of badgers live in tallgrass prairie patches, sand barrens and farmlands in northwestern and southwestern Ontario. It is likely that badgers were never seen in great numbers in Ontario and populations have continued to decline. At present, it is estimated that fewer than 200 of these animals live in the province. The badger has few natural enemies, but its habit of travelling long distances in search of food makes it a frequent casualty of road vehicles. The other main threat to the badger is habitat loss. In 2003, a provincial team of experts was formed to develop a recovery strategy for the American badger. The team is coordinating research and monitoring efforts to reduce threats, promote habitat restoration and, ultimately, achieve successful recovery of this animal. PROTHONOTARY WARBLER The prothonotary warbler is a brightly coloured songbird that inhabits swampy deciduous woodlands in the Carolinian Zone of southwestern Ontario. Both males and females have brilliant golden yellow heads and under parts, olive-green backs, azure blue wings and tails, and large white tail spots. It is the only cavity-nesting warbler in North America, often selecting an existing hole in the trunk of a decaying tree. The prothonotary warbler is a small bird, weighing about 14 grams and measuring about 14 cm long. The male's distinctive territorial song is a loud, ringing "tsweeet-tsweet-tsweet-tsweet," repeated four to six times. The current population of this bird is restricted to five known sites along and adjacent to the Lake Erie shoreline. It is estimated that perhaps 100 pairs once existed in this region, but today only about 20 pairs occupy nesting sites in any given year. Factors contributing to the decline of this warbler include significant habitat loss and degradation, and competition from other species such as the house wren and brown-headed cowbird. A draft recovery plan has been prepared by the Prothonotary Warbler Recovery Team, led by Bird Studies Canada and in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Canadian Wildlife Service. The long-term goal is a population of 40 breeding pairs in Ontario. GREY FOX The grey fox has a salt-and-pepper coat with a reddish chest and sides, a black-tipped tail, white under-parts and a prominent black stripe running the length of its back. It is smaller than the red fox, with paw prints resembling those of a cat with claws showing. The grey fox prefers deciduous forests and marshes. It may also be found in agricultural areas and on the outskirts of towns and cities. The grey fox climbs trees to escape enemies and preys on small mammals, birds and insects, mostly at night. Little is known about historic population trends of the grey fox. Archaeological evidence indicates that it may have been almost as common as the red fox prior to European settlement. Since then, there appears to have been a periodic influx from the United States, where it is relatively common. Climate may be an important factor influencing long-term population trends of grey fox in Ontario. The only known resident breeding population for grey fox in the province is in southwestern Ontario. BLANDING'S TURTLE The Blanding's turtle is easily identified by its bright yellow throat and jaw. Its smooth, domed shell has been compared to a military helmet. This medium-sized turtle prefers shallow wetland areas with abundant vegetation. It may also spend much of its time in upland areas moving between wetlands. In a single season, this highly mobile turtle has been known to travel up to seven kilometres in search of food or a mate. The Blanding's turtle is found throughout the Great Lakes Basin. In Ontario, this includes the southern and central portions of the province except along the Bruce Peninsula and the far southeast. The total Canadian Great Lakes/St Lawrence population of this endangered species is estimated to be about 10,000. This number will likely continue to decline due to ongoing loss and fragmentation of its habitat. The colourful and friendly Blanding's turtle is an easy target for pet trade collectors. Because the turtle is long-lived and does not reproduce until about 14 to 25 years of age, this illegal activity can have a severe impact on the survival of the species in the wild. The loss of even a few adults can have a great impact on a local population. BIRD'S-FOOT VIOLET The bird's-foot violet is a small perennial plant that flowers in the spring and again in the fall. The flowers range from purple to white, and the deeply dissected leaves resemble the toes of a bird. When the ripe seed pods open, the tiny copper-coloured seeds may be catapulted up to five metres from the parent plant. In Ontario, the bird's-foot violet is found only in the southwest where it grows in several small scattered populations in open black oak savanna habitat. This lightly forested grassy habitat is also provincially rare, as only a tiny remnant of Ontario's black oak savanna remains from pre-settlement times. The largest populations of this violet in Ontario are found on publicly owned lands, but threats to this species still include invasive shrubs and the natural succession of its habitat of open fields gradually returning to forest. For more information about Ontario's species at risk, visit the ministry's website at www.ontario.ca/speciesatrisk. Note to editors: High resolution photos of these species are available at www.ontario.ca/speciesatrisk. Contact: Sue Russell Species at Risk 705-755-1789 Disponible en français ontario.ca/mnr For further information: Media Calls Only, Anne-Marie Flanagan, Minister's Office, (416) 327-0654; Jolanta Kowalski, Communications Services Branch, (416) 314-2106 HELP | CONTACT US | PRIVACY | IMPORTANT NOTICES © Queen's Printer for Ontario, 2008-2009 — Last Modified: February 15, 2009 For further information: Media Calls Only, Anne-Marie Flanagan, Minister's Office, (416) 327-0654; Jolanta Kowalski, Communications Services Branch, (416) 314-2106