Conservation groups today applauded the Government of Ontario for passing strong new legislation to protect the province’s vast system of parks and wilderness areas. Ontario’s outdated Provincial Parks Act was last substantially revised in 1954, when the park system was made up of only eight parks.
The province’s new legislation was passed by the government on June 22 and will provide protection for Ontario’s current system of more than 600 provincial parks and conservation reserves – covering over 9% of the province.
“This new law finally puts nature first in Ontario’s parks” said Janet Sumner, Executive Director of CPAWS Wildlands League. “This is an environmental promise that Premier McGuinty has kept.”
Conservation groups have been calling for new legislation for over 10 years. In 2003, while in opposition, McGuinty promised that his government would, “… make natural protection the first priority for an updated Parks Act.”
Front and centre in the new legislation is the concept of Ecological Integrity, which will become the guiding principle in our parks, putting nature first and moving away from industrial development.
“The new Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act puts Ontario at the front of the pack in protecting parks and wilderness areas,” said Anastasia Lintner, Sierra Legal Defence Fund Staff Lawyer. “With some additional tweaking, this legislation will become the gold standard for the rest of the country.”
While the groups are very excited about the long-awaited new law, there still are still some concerns:
Industrial logging will continue to be permitted Algonquin Park
Hydroelectric development could be considered in remote protected areas
Cabinet can make minor boundary changes without legislated public scrutiny
The new law lacks a Good Neighbour Clause – making ‘neighbours’ outside of protected areas responsible for any actions that cause damage in a provincial park or conservation reserve
The Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act is expected to be proclaimed into force by Cabinet before the end of the year.