Recent Media Coverage

Taking elected officials to task over erroneous information

The Daily Observer

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

On behalf of Ontario Nature, I am writing to you in response to an article that was published in The Daily Observer on November 28, 2009, titled Slow Down Provincial Act. The article contains numerous inaccuracies about the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and, in particular, the regulations for the wood turtle. Most disturbing is that the misinformation in this article is largely conveyed through quotes attributed to Mayors Mary Campbell, Zig Mintha, Janice Visneskie and Bob Sweet.

Assuming these quotes were recorded accurately, it is deeply disturbing that elected officials are making the following mistakes regarding the ESA.

First, the recently passed wood turtle habitat regulation makes a clear distinction between habitat protection for northern and southern populations of wood turtle. For southern populations (i. e. Populations located in the municipalities of Halton, Niagara, Waterloo and counties of Huron, Renfrew and Simcoe), wood turtle habitat is protected within two kilometres of their occurrence up and down streams and waterways -not six kilometres as stated in the Daily Observer article. Furthermore, in the south, 200 metres -not 500 -of the shoreline on either side of the watercourse are protected. Neither the northern nor the southern habitat definition includes an area of 12-square kilometres, as claimed in the article.

According to The Daily Observer, "county councillors expressed concern" that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) added some 43,000 acres of new private land for the protection of wildlife. This figure is unsubstantiated. The amount of land protected for at-risk turtles has never been publicly released because the province doesn't want poachers to discover the turtles' whereabouts. Did this claim form the basis of the county council request that the wood turtle habitat regulation should be revised? In the interests of making an informed decision, the council should revisit its request and base it on correct information.

Mayor Mary Campbell notes the "lack of science and transparency behind the selection of these lands," and, moreover, that the wood turtle habitat regulation was formulated in a single, downtown Toronto meeting.

Neither of these claims are true. In fact, the wood turtle habitat regulation is based on recommendations from the wood turtle recovery team, which consists of 14 leading experts from the academic community, local and provincial districts of MNR, conservation authorities, naturalist clubs, and others. All of these individuals were selected on the basis of their scientific expertise and knowledge of the wood turtle and its ecology. Representatives from rural and urban locations across the province, including eastern Ontario, made up the team. The habitat regulations for the wood turtle closely mirror the recommendations of the recovery team, so clearly the accusation that the regulation lacks scientific basis is unfounded.

Nor did the process lack transparency. The recovery strategy for the wood turtle was posted on the Environmental Registry -an open forum accessible to the public in which environmental policy is presented for public review and comment -on February 5, 2009. It was posted on the same day on the MNR website. Members of the public were encouraged to review and comment on the strategy. On May 15, 2009, the draft wood turtle habitat regulation was posted on both websites. The update included a summary of the comments received and the changes that were made to the draft habitat regulation as a result.

Finally, an important point about the activities than can occur within a supposedly protected area is notably absent from this article. Though the Act's primary goal is the protection of species at risk and their habitat, the ESA was written to accommodate many of the land use activities that occur in southern and eastern Ontario. As you are no doubt aware, activities that will have a negative impact on habitat may still go forward, providing MNR has issued a permit to conduct those activities. Many permits have already been issued for a variety of industrial projects in Ontario, indicating this system works.

We also suggest that you consult with MNR to verify the information we have provided regarding the process for developing the wood turtle habitat regulation and accommodation of land use through permitting under the ESA.

Now that you have more accurate information with respect to the ESA and wood turtle regulations, I look forward to a response letting us know when and how you will correct these errors of fact and omission. Perpetuating the misinformation outlined in this letter through a refusal to correct the record would be a disservice to the communities you represent, your constituents and the natural environment.

Caroline Schultz

Executive Director Ontario Nature

Toronto, ON

Back to top

Donate Now
Sign up for  E-news
   JOIN US
Twitter   Facebook   YouTube

Pinterest   blog   instagram
On Nature