Media Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Is the government backing down on its commitment to protect endangered species?

Hard-hitting report challenges Province to save species from extinction

March 2, 2009 - Save Ontario's Species, a coalition of leading environmental groups, expressed its support today for the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario's hard hitting report, The Last Line of Defence: A Review of Ontario's New Protections for Species at Risk.

While Commissioner Gordon Miller rightly praises Ontario's Endangered Species Act (ESA), he points out many ways in which it can be undermined. He cautions that government policies and regulations being formulated under the ESA must:

  • be based on sound science rather than politics;
  • uphold the ESA's "precautionary principle";
  • ensure the independence of the teams responsible for recovery plans; and
  • ensure that exceptions from the Act are only granted when there is a demonstrated track record in conservation.

"Introducing the new Endangered Species Act was an important first step," says Anne Bell, Ontario Nature's Senior Director of Conservation and Education. "But unless the Province takes the kinds of actions strongly recommended in this report, Ontario's wildlife will only be protected on paper."

The Province is currently drafting its first set of habitat regulations for ten high priority species under the new Act, including the threatened woodland caribou. These regulations will set the standard for the rest of Ontario's endangered species.

"Woodland Caribou will be the first test of the government's intentions in implementing the Act. But all indications are that political pressure to maintain the status quo of industrial activity in caribou habitat will trump science," says Rachel Plotkin from the David Suzuki Foundation.

The habitat regulation now being drafted by the Ministry of Natural Resources for woodland caribou indicates that industrial development, including forestry, will continue in prime woodland caribou habitat, despite the fact that habitat loss is the major reason for the species; decline.

"We urge the McGuinty government to rise to the Commissioner's challenge to make greater efforts to ensure Ontario's endangered species are protected," says Justin Duncan, staff lawyer at Ecojustice. "We need to do things differently, and err on the side of caution, or we will continue to see species disappear from Ontario."

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For more information, please contact:
Anne Bell, Ontario Nature, (416) 444-8419 ext. 239
Justin Duncan, Ecojustice, (416) 368-7533 ext. 22
Catharine Grant, ForestEthics, 416-597-1904
Rachel Plotkin, David Suzuki Foundation, (613) 796-7999
Janet Sumner, CPAWS Wildlands League, (416) 971-9453, ext. 39

About Save Ontario's Species: S.O.S. is a collaboration among Ontario Nature, CPAWS Wildlands League, the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, and ForestEthics.

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Caribou can't survive without a place to live. Tell industry and government that you expect them to take action to secure a brighter future for this species at risk.

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