Today, Ontario’s leading environmental groups are welcoming the McGuinty Government’s introduction of the new Endangered Species Act in the Legislature. They say that the proposed legislation, stewardship funding and incentives package presents a win-win solution to protecting endangered plants and animals while addressing the concerns of landowners and resource users.
The introduction of the bill follows extensive public consultation exercises as well as the report of an Expert Panel. The proposed package of new legislation and programs is intended to provide effective protection for Ontario’s approximately 200 endangered species and their habitats. Action is urgent, given that for those plants and animals for which trends are known, over 75% are either already gone from Ontario or are on their way to disappearing.
“We thank Minister Ramsay, Premier McGuinty, and the clear majority of Ontario residents who support this new legislation. By working together, we can make sure our natural heritage is protected for all time,” says Aaron Freeman, Policy Director for Environmental Defence.
“Reform of the old Endangered Species Act of 1971 is long overdue,” says Rachel Plotkin, an Ontario-based Policy Analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation. “The Environmental Commissioner, Auditor General of Ontario, and numerous experts have pointed out the weaknesses of the existing legislation for years.”
The bill has been spearheaded by Minister of Natural Resources, David Ramsay, with the support of Premier Dalton McGuinty, who promised to address the weaknesses in the old legislation in the lead-up to the last election.
“If passed in its current form – and Ontario deserves no less – this will be the best endangered species law in the country,” says Rob Wright, Counsel for Sierra Legal.
“The new stewardship fund accompanying the bill will help ensure that the costs of protecting rare plants and animals do not fall solely on landowners,” adds Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science for Ontario Nature.
The environmental groups will be working hard to ensure the Act’s passage before the summer, and are embarking on a radio and TTC advertising campaign to underline the urgency of doing this.
“Effective endangered species legislation is the last line of defense for many plants and animals. It is only necessary because we have failed to ensure their survival through more proactive measures such as adequate land use planning before development begins or through socially responsible industrial management regimes such as the Forest Stewardship Certification for forestry,” comments Janet Sumner, Executive Director for CPAWS Wildlands League. “Progressive companies will welcome this legislation.”