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At risk species worry groups

The Chronicle-Journal

April 8, 2013

By Carl Clutchey, North Shore Bureau

Proposed changes to the province’s Endangered Species Act would increase the threat to more than 60 at-risk animals and plant species in areas where their numbers are thin, placing "human convenience and cost cutting above protection,” warns a consortium of environmental groups.

"The Ministry of Natural Resources is proposing to waive ESA protection requirements for a broad suite of activities that would dam age or destroy the places where these species survive," Ontario Nature director Anne Bell said in a news release.

The proposals are part of a review of the six-year-old act that began in November, which included a panel of environmental, energy, forestry, agricultural and quarry industry experts.

Bell, along with Sierra Club Canada and Earthroots, says the proposed exemptions would seriously “weaken” the act by subjecting mining companies, quarry operators, hydro utilities and housing developers to less rigorous requirements for protecting endangered species that live within their project areas.

The Sierra Club Canada calls the proposals “Orwellian.”

One proposed exemption, the groups say, “would undermine protection not only for the 65 species that are due to receive habitat protection this summer, but for any species added to Ontario s endangered species list in the future.”

“Such an Endangered Species Act would be unworthy of the name,” Ontario club chapter director Dan McDermott fumed in the release.

MNR spokeswoman Jolanta Kowalski said no decisions have been made.

The ministry is still in the consultation phase of this initiative and all information from the ESA panel’s recommendations along, with advice and comments submitted through the Environmental Registry and individual meetings held with stakeholder groups, will be reviewed and considered before any regulatory changes are finalized,” Kowalski said in an email.

More than 10,000 comments on the proposed changes to the act are also being reviewed by ministry staff, she said.

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