Media Release


Ontario Government approves more than 20 exemptions to the new Endangered Species Act

Toronto, July 3, 2008 - Protection for Ontario\'s rare and endangered species - ranging from the iconic woodland caribou to most of our turtle species - was severely undermined yesterday when the Liberal Cabinet approved more than two dozen exemptions to the Endangered Species Act, which was passed in May, 2007.

\"We\'re extremely disappointed,\" said Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature. \"When the new Act was passed last year, the government promised to set a new direction for the protection and recovery of endangered species. A year later they\'ve created exemptions for forestry, aggregate extraction, hydro and development. Is anything really going to change?\"

The exemption for the forest industry poses the most direct threat to at-risk species. Woodland caribou, recognized provincially and nationally as a species at risk, are dependent on an intact boreal forest. At the present rate of logging, woodland caribou will be gone from Ontario in less than 90 years, say scientists who study the species. If the forestry sector continues with its current practices, this scenario will become a reality.

Additional exemptions for the aggregate and hydro industries will severely affect endangered species in southern and central Ontario. Under previous regulations, 42 species and their habitats were fully protected. The new exemptions mean that these species (which include the Blue racer snake, the red mulberry and the loggerhead shrike) will no longer be afforded the same degree of protection that they once had - the exemptions approved yesterday actually turn back the clock.

A year ago, Ontario Nature and other environmental organizations (CPAWS Wildlands League, Ecojustice, The David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence and ForestEthics) applauded the McGuinty government\'s new and progressive ESA. But Ontario\'s endangered plants and animals face a bleak future if the new ESA is not effectively implemented. Business-as-usual industry practices could easily prove to be the tipping point for iconic and little known species alike.

\"We\'re worried,\" said Caroline Schultz. \"In many ways, these exemptions will allow business to continue as usual. And business as usual, we know, is pushing over 200 species towards extinction in Ontario.\"

For more information, please contact:

Caroline Schultz, Executive Director, Ontario Nature, (416) 444-8419 ext. 237; 416 768-9795 (cell)
Victoria Foote, Director of Communications, Ontario Nature, (416) 444-8419 ext. 238; 647 290-9384 (cell)

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