Ontario Nature Blog

Protecting wild species and wild spaces since 1931

Author: Anne Bell

Betrayed! Ontario unravels protections for species at risk

American badger, Credit: Bethany Weeks CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

American badger, Credit: Bethany Weeks CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Part 1 of a 3 part blog series about the Province’s failure to uphold strong protections for our most vulnerable plants and animals.

I came back from vacation in mid-August to face a nasty surprise on the Environmental Registry: a government proposal to strip nine species at risk of their core legal protections under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA). If the provincial government proceeds as planned, these species and their habitats will no longer be protected from harm associated with forestry, mining exploration, energy development, residential and commercial development, and more.

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Neonics at breakfast

Bumble bee on blossom. Credit: John Vetterli

Carpenter bee on blossom. Credit: John Vetterli

For breakfast this morning, I had the pleasure of attending a science briefing on neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) presented by Dr. Jean-Marc Bonmatin, vice-chair of the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. Hosted by the David Suzuki Foundation at Queens Park, the breakfast event was sponsored by MPPs Marie-France Lalonde and Peter Tabuns, and attended by several other MPPs, including Glen Murray, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

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Wild Bees in Trouble

American bumblebee,  Credit: Thom Wilson of Baltimore City, MD, USA

American bumblebee, Credit: Thom Wilson of Baltimore City, MD, USA

Half of the bumblebee species in eastern North America are in decline. This trend holds true in southern Ontario, where seven of the 14 bumblebee species found in surveys from 1971 – 1973 were found to be either absent or in decline when surveyed 30 years later. Some of these, like the rusty-patched, the gypsy cuckoo and the American bumblebee, were once common and/or widespread in parts of the province. The causes of decline are not fully understood, though it is widely accepted that habitat destruction and the use of pesticides are significant threats.

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Fact and fiction

In 2007, to much acclaim, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed with support from members of all parties. Just six years later, the Liberals are quietly trying to gut the act, the NDP are muzzled by one or two northern members seeking exemptions for forestry, and the Progressive Conservatives are raging on about how the act is “throttling”  industry. Only the Green Party has spoken out in defense of the act.

With the federal government appearing poised to weaken the Species at Risk Act, the situation couldn’t be more dire for Ontario’s species at risk. Given all the misinformation out there, it’s time to set the record straight.

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