Groups Badger Government Over Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release

Save Ontario s Species
Contact: 

Anne Bell, Ontario Nature - (416) 444-8419 ext. 239; 416-659-2339 (cell)
Rachel Plotkin, David Suzuki Foundation - (613) 796-7999
Janet Sumner, CPAWS-Wildlands League - (416) 971-9453 ext. 39
Catharine Grant, ForestEthics - (416) 597-1904 ext. 3
Justin Duncan, Ecojustice - (416) 368-7533 ext. 22

Groups Badger Government Over Endangered Species Act

First annual report card shows Ontario is failing the ABCs of habitat protection

TORONTO - Save Ontario's Species
(SOS), a coalition of leading environmental groups, is marking the first year
of the enactment of Ontario's Endangered
Species Act, 2007
(ESA) with the release of its first ESA report
card. The report card indicates that the province is setting itself up for
failure.

Habitat loss is the number one threat
to most endangered species in Ontario,
so the identification and protection of all areas used by these species is
crucial to their survival and recovery. To protect the habitat of ten
"fast-track" species under the ESA, the Ministry of Natural
Resources was to have completed ten habitat regulations by June 30, 2009. Now,
with only nine of those ten regulations posted in draft form, it is clear that
many of the regulations will fail in their primary goal - to protect the
habitat needed to ensure the continued survival and recovery of the species,
among them the American badger and the barn owl. At present, it is estimated
that there are only 200 badgers and 5-10 pairs of barn owls remaining in Ontario.

"Our report card grades are based
on the fact that habitat regulations are the most critical element of the new
ESA, and it's crucial we get these first ten right," said Dr. Anne
Bell, senior director of conservation and education for Ontario Nature.
"These regulations are the first real test of whether the ESA is going to
be effective."

Animals and plants rely on a variety of
areas throughout their life cycle-including spaces for breeding, rearing
young, hibernating, migrating and feeding.

"Habitat means a lot more than
just dens, nests and roosts," says Rachel Plotkin, biodiversity policy
analyst, David Suzuki Foundation.
"Like people, species need areas to find food and to move around, not
just a den to sleep in."

The report card identifies significant
failings in the key areas of translating sound science into strong policy. Five
of the nine posted regulations were awarded poor or failing grades.

"Ontario has the best endangered species act
in the world, and it's being gutted one regulation at a time," says
Janet Sumner, executive director, CPAWS-Wildlands League. "When climate
change and habitat fragmentation are driving our ecosystems to their knees we
need more protection for species, not less."

The government failed to post a draft
habitat regulation for woodland caribou in time to meet the June 30 deadline.
As a result, logging and road-building continue and forest management planning
proceeds without any clear direction from government about habitat protection.

"Each day that goes by without a
habitat regulation for the woodland caribou brings the species that much closer
to extinction," says Catharine Grant, boreal campaigner, ForestEthics.

The absence of a draft
habitat regulation for the woodland caribou is a violation of a commitment made
by the government of Ontario
to regulate habitat for ten species by June 30, 2009.

"Woodland caribou face great
peril from ongoing activities, such as logging, in its critical habitat,"
said Justin
Duncan, staff lawyer, Ecojustice. "Delaying this
regulation will have serious ecological, and possibly legal, implications that
cannot be dismissed by our government."

The draft habitat regulations are
posted for comment until June 15, 2009 online at: http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTA2NDI0&statusId=MTU5NjA4&language=en

The SOS report card can be found at: http://www.ecojustice.ca/publications/reports/ontarios-endangered-species-act-report-card

Access the media backgrounder here: http://www.ecojustice.ca/media-centre/media-backgrounder/backgrounder-to-the-first-nine-habitat-regulations-under-the-endangered-species-act-esa-2007

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S.O.S. is a collaboration among CPAWS Wildlands League, the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, ForestEthics and Ontario Nature.

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