McGuinty Government To Strengthen Protection For Ontario's Species At Risk



    Proposed Legislation Among Strongest In North America

    TORONTO, March 20 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is introducing proposed
legislation that, if passed, would make Ontario a North American leader in
species at risk protection and recovery, Natural Resources Minister David
Ramsay announced today.
    "The proposed legislation we are introducing today sets a gold standard
for protection and recovery of species at risk and represents a new era of
natural heritage protection in Ontario," said Ramsay. "By working to reverse
the rate of species decline in our province, we will ensure that future
generations of Ontarians benefit from a healthier and diverse natural
environment."
    More effective legislation is just one component of a comprehensive,
three-part approach to species at risk protection announced today that also
includes the programs and policies to implement the new legislation, and
support for public stewardship initiatives.
    "We are proposing a comprehensive, three-part approach to provide an
improved legislative framework for species and habitat protection, and also
encourage greater stewardship involvement from landowners, resource users and
conservation organizations," said Ramsay. "We further propose to back up our
commitment to greater stewardship with funding of $18 million over four years
to promote stewardship activities protecting essential habitat and green
space."
    Ontario is home to more than 30,000 species - all important to the
biological, social and economic vitality of the province. At present, more
than 175 of these species are identified as being at risk, which means they
may disappear from the province if their rate of decline continues.

    
    If passed by the Legislature, the proposed Endangered Species Act, 2007
would:
    -   Broaden the scope of Ontario's existing Endangered Species Act and
        strengthen protection and recovery measures
    -   Provide greater accountability to the public and demonstrate clear
        results
    -   Include the necessary provisions to support protection within the
        context of sustainable development.

    The Ontario government consulted extensively with the public, Aboriginal
organizations and a wide range of stakeholder groups before drafting the
legislation.  These groups included land developers, environmentalists, rural
communities, fish and wildlife enthusiasts, municipalities and resource
industry sectors.
    "This is the first time since the Endangered Species Act was passed in
1971 that our laws protecting species at risk have undergone a thorough
review," said Ramsay. "We asked Aboriginal representatives, our partners,
stakeholders, the Endangered Species Act Review Advisory Panel and the Ontario
public for their views and they have indicated strong support for better
species at risk legislation. We thank those who have provided input."

    The proposed legislation is just one way the McGuinty government is
protecting Ontario's natural heritage. Other initiatives include:

    -   Launching Ontario's Biodiversity Strategy
    -   Protecting 1.8 million acres of greenspace in the Greenbelt,
        providing a safe habitat for 66 species at risk
    -   Working with an alliance of organizations through the Natural Spaces
        program to develop the tools, incentives and on-the-ground activities
        that will encourage and support private landowners in conserving
        natural areas on their land.

    For more information about the proposed Endangered Species Act, 2007,
please visit the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry at
www.ontario.ca/environmentalregistry and enter Registry Number AB06E6001.

    Note to Editors: B Roll available on request.


    Disponible en français

                               ontario.ca/mnr
                         rom.on.ca/ontario/risk.php



    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

           ONTARIO INTRODUCES PROPOSED ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT, 2007
    

    BACKGROUND
    In May 2006, the Ontario government launched an extensive review of the
Endangered Species Act with the goal of updating and strengthening the
legislation that protects the province's native species at risk and their
habitats.
    The Ontario government consulted extensively with the public, Aboriginal
Organizations and a wide range of stakeholder groups - including land
developers, environmentalists, rural communities, fish and wildlife
enthusiasts, municipalities and resource industry sectors.
    Based on the findings of this review, the government is introducing
proposed legislation that would replace the outdated Endangered Species Act
and significantly expand protection for the province's species at risk.
    The proposed Endangered Species Act, 2007 would, if passed, be among the
strongest such legislation in North America.
    More effective legislation is just one of three components of an updated,
comprehensive approach to protection and recovery of species at risk in
Ontario. The other two components are:

    
    -   Programs and policies to implement the new legislation
    -   Enhanced stewardship programs.

    HIGHLIGHTS OF PROPOSED LEGISLATION
    Compared to the existing Endangered Species Act, the proposed legislation
provides broader protection provisions for species at risk and their habitats,
enhanced support for volunteer participation from private landowners and
partners, a greater commitment to recovery of species and more effective
enforcement provisions.

    The significantly improved provisions in the legislation include:
    -   A clear role for science in determining the status of species at risk
    -   Stronger protection measures for species at risk and their habitats
    -   A balance between protection measures and flexibility to accommodate
        other land use considerations, and recognition that such flexibility
        can sometimes help achieve the desired outcome of protection and
        recovery.
    -   Greater transparency through public reporting requirements
    -   Effective enforcement measures
    -   Recognition of Aboriginal and treaty rights protected under the
        Constitution Act, in addition to a commitment to ongoing dialogue
        with Aboriginal peoples as the new legislation is implemented
    -   The creation of a stewardship program for the purpose of promoting
        stewardship and other related activities to assist in the protection
        and recovery of species at risk.

    More information about the proposed species at risk legislation is
available on the ministry's website at www.ontario.ca/speciesatrisk.

    ONTARIO'S SPECIES AT RISK
    Ontario is home to more than 30,000 species of which more than 175 are
considered to be at risk. Species may become at risk due to small or declining
numbers and limited distributions in combination with other factors such as
habitat loss, pollution, competition from invasive species and
over-harvesting.

    Ontario classifies species at risk into the following categories:

    -   Extinct - no longer lives anywhere in the world
    -   Extirpated - lives somewhere in the world, lived at one time in
        Ontario, but no longer lives in the wild in Ontario
    -   Endangered - lives in the wild in Ontario, but is facing imminent
        extinction or extirpation
    -   Threatened - lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered, but is
        likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors
        that appear to be leading to its extinction or extirpation
    -   Special Concern - lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered or
        threatened, but may become threatened or endangered because of a
        combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

    More information about Ontario's species at risk is available at the
species at risk website produced in partnership between the ministry and the
Royal Ontario Museum www.rom.on.ca/ontario/risk.php.

    Contact:
    Debbie Ramsay
    Biodiversity Section
    416-314-1819

    Disponible en français

                               ontario.ca/mnr



    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       SUPPORT FOR ONTARIO'S PROPOSED
                       ENDANGERED SPECIES LEGISLATION
    

    "Conservation Ontario commends the Government of Ontario for undertaking
a review of the Endangered Species Act which will result in improved
protection for species at risk. The Province led a very inclusive consultation
process during the review and the Conservation Authorities were pleased to
participate."
    Richard Hibma, Chair of Conservation Ontario.

    "The new Endangered Species Act is a significant step forward for
Ontarians and the natural heritage we all value so highly. This new
legislation will provide an inclusive, science-based and effective framework
within which to balance different environmental and economic priorities."
    Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence

    "Our panel recommended a science-based, proactive approach to the
protection and recovery of species at risk and we are pleased that our advice
has been accepted. The new program will ensure that the needs of species are
the first priority in listing, habitat protection and recovery."
    Justina C. Ray, Ph.D., Director, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada and
Adjunct Professor, University of Toronto's Faculty of Forestry.

    "This new legislation brings Ontario's protection for endangered plants
and animals into the 21st century. The package of incentives and programs will
ensure that private landowners, who are responsible for the majority of rare
habitats, are valued partners in the delivery of endangered species
protection."
    Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science, Ontario Nature

    "We are delighted that the Ontario government's new species at risk
legislation proposed today includes greater recognition and support for the
essential role private land stewardship plays in protecting and restoring
important natural habitats such as wetlands."
    Ron Maher, Manager Provincial Operations (Ontario), Ducks Unlimited
Canada

    "We congratulate the government for acting on its commitment to update
and expand Ontario's existing species at risk legislation. If passed, this
milestone legislation will provide support to private landowners and
conservation groups for stewardship activities and provide stronger protection
for our native species at risk to help ensure they have the habitat they need
to thrive."
    James Duncan, Acting Regional Vice President, Ontario, of the Nature
Conservancy of Canada

    "OSSGA is pleased that the new Endangered Species Act provides mechanisms
that will permit balanced decisions around the responsible extraction of
essential materials, while at the same time deliver overall benefits for
endangered and threatened species."
    Ken Lucyshyn, Chairman of the Board, Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel
Association

    "Forward-looking jurisdictions around the world have set a standard for
endangered species legislation that includes habitat protection measures and
Ontario's revised Endangered Species Act (ESA) meets this standard. WWF-Canada
works with leading industry partners and we believe the ESA supports
collaborative conservation efforts to protect biodiversity, such as through
Forest Stewardship Council certification."
    Tony Iacobelli, Director, Forest and Freshwater program, WWF-Canada

    "This endangered species legislation is compatible with corporate social
responsibility and is a cornerstone for any progressive society hoping to halt
extinction of species including the spotted turtle and woodland caribou.
Protecting endangered species through effective legislation is the last line
of defense and is only necessary if we have failed to ensure the survival of
species through more proactive measures such as adequate land use planning or
socially responsible industrial management regimes such as the international
Forest Stewardship Certification for forestry."
    Janet Sumner, Executive Director, CPAWS Wildlands League

    Disponible en français

    
                               ontario.ca/mnr



    Fact Sheet
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                     PROTECTING ONTARIO'S SPECIES AT RISK
    

    Ontario is home to more than 30,000 species - all important to the
    biological, social and economic vitality of the province. At present,
    more than 175 of these species are identified as being at risk, which
    means they may disappear from the province if their rate of decline
    continues.

    The following is a sample of species currently protected under Ontario
legislation.

    ATLANTIC SALMON
    The Atlantic salmon is the only salmon native to Ontario. Abundant at the
time of European settlement in the early 1700s, the population began to
decline by the mid-1800s as land was cleared, water quality declined and dams
blocked fish passage. In spite of various hatchery stockings, which began in
1866, the last Atlantic salmon was removed from the Lake Ontario basin before
1900.
    As a top predator, the Atlantic salmon had a key ecological role in
maintaining a healthy native fish community. It was also an important source
of food for both native peoples and early settlers. As such, this species is a
significant part of the natural and cultural heritage of the Lake Ontario
basin. Restoring the Atlantic salmon would be a significant milestone towards
improving Ontario's biodiversity.
    The Ministry of Natural Resources is setting direction for a salmon
restoration program with a number of partners, including the Ontario
Federation of Anglers and Hunters, LCBO and Australia's Banrock Station wine
company. Other partners and sponsors committed to the project include the
Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association, Trout Unlimited Canada, Fleming
College, Trees Ontario Foundation, Fishing Forever Foundation and local
conservation authorities and community groups. This long-term process is
expected to take 15 to 20 years.

    PEREGRINE FALCON
    The peregrine falcon is a fast-flying raptor with long, pointed wings; a
long narrow tail; quick, powerful wing beats, and a distinctive dark facial
mask including heavy dark "sideburns." Adults are slate-gray on the back, with
a light-coloured barred breast. Younger birds are brown with a heavily
streaked breast.
    In the wild, peregrine falcons nest on high, steep cliff edges near lakes
and rivers. Some peregrine falcons have adapted to city environments, where
pigeons and other city-dwelling birds are easy prey and the ledges of tall
buildings provide good nesting sites. The peregrine can dive at speeds of up
to 300 kilometres an hour, literally knocking its prey out of the air.
    The peregrine falcon was once on the brink of extinction, largely due to
the widespread use of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides such as DDT in the
1960s and 1970s. In 1973, it was regulated under Ontario's Endangered Species
Act. Recovery efforts have been underway for more than 25 years, involving the
Ministry of Natural Resources and many partners including Ontario Nature,
Canadian Wildlife Service, Bird Studies Canada, conservation authorities,
naturalist clubs, volunteers and the Canadian Peregrine Foundation.
    Through the combined efforts of the Ontario government and these
partners, the peregrine falcon has made a remarkable recovery. There are now
more than 70 pairs of peregrine falcons in Ontario. As a result of this
success, the species was reclassified from Endangered to Threatened in
June 2006. The peregrine falcon continues to be protected from hunting,
trapping and nest disturbance as a Specially Protected Raptor under the Fish
and Wildlife Conservation Act.

    AMERICAN BADGER
    The American badger is a stout, short-legged carnivore with gray fur and
distinctive black and white stripes on the head and face. The badger is a
powerful digger, using its long front claws to create underground dens or
burrow out small rodents which are its main source of food. Badgers are mainly
nocturnal but are often active in the early morning.
    Small populations of badgers live in tallgrass prairie patches, sand
barrens and farmlands in northwestern and southwestern Ontario. It is likely
that badgers were never seen in great numbers in Ontario and populations have
continued to decline. At present, it is estimated that fewer than 200 of these
animals live in the province. The badger has few natural enemies, but its
habit of travelling long distances in search of food makes it a frequent
casualty of road vehicles. The other main threat to the badger is habitat
loss.
    In 2003, a provincial team of experts was formed to develop a recovery
strategy for the American badger. The team is coordinating research and
monitoring efforts to reduce threats, promote habitat restoration and,
ultimately, achieve successful recovery of this animal.

    PROTHONOTARY WARBLER
    The prothonotary warbler is a brightly coloured songbird that inhabits
swampy deciduous woodlands in the Carolinian Zone of southwestern Ontario.
Both males and females have brilliant golden yellow heads and under parts,
olive-green backs, azure blue wings and tails, and large white tail spots. It
is the only cavity-nesting warbler in North America, often selecting an
existing hole in the trunk of a decaying tree.
    The prothonotary warbler is a small bird, weighing about 14 grams and
measuring about 14 cm long. The male's distinctive territorial song is a loud,
ringing "tsweeet-tsweet-tsweet-tsweet," repeated four to six times.
    The current population of this bird is restricted to five known sites
along and adjacent to the Lake Erie shoreline. It is estimated that perhaps
100 pairs once existed in this region, but today only about 20 pairs occupy
nesting sites in any given year. Factors contributing to the decline of this
warbler include significant habitat loss and degradation, and competition from
other species such as the house wren and brown-headed cowbird.
    A draft recovery plan has been prepared by the Prothonotary Warbler
Recovery Team, led by Bird Studies Canada and in partnership with the Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources and the Canadian Wildlife Service. The long-term
goal is a population of 40 breeding pairs in Ontario.

    GREY FOX
    The grey fox has a salt-and-pepper coat with a reddish chest and sides, a
black-tipped tail, white under-parts and a prominent black stripe running the
length of its back. It is smaller than the red fox, with paw prints resembling
those of a cat with claws showing.
    The grey fox prefers deciduous forests and marshes. It may also be found
in agricultural areas and on the outskirts of towns and cities. The grey fox
climbs trees to escape enemies and preys on small mammals, birds and insects,
mostly at night.
    Little is known about historic population trends of the grey fox.
Archaeological evidence indicates that it may have been almost as common as
the red fox prior to European settlement. Since then, there appears to have
been a periodic influx from the United States, where it is relatively common.
Climate may be an important factor influencing long-term population trends of
grey fox in Ontario.
    The only known resident breeding population for grey fox in the province
is in southwestern Ontario.

    BLANDING'S TURTLE
    The Blanding's turtle is easily identified by its bright yellow throat
and jaw. Its smooth, domed shell has been compared to a military helmet. This
medium-sized turtle prefers shallow wetland areas with abundant vegetation. It
may also spend much of its time in upland areas moving between wetlands. In a
single season, this highly mobile turtle has been known to travel up to seven
kilometres in search of food or a mate.
    The Blanding's turtle is found throughout the Great Lakes Basin. In
Ontario, this includes the southern and central portions of the province
except along the Bruce Peninsula and the far southeast. The total Canadian
Great Lakes/St Lawrence population of this endangered species is estimated to
be about 10,000. This number will likely continue to decline due to ongoing
loss and fragmentation of its habitat.
    The colourful and friendly Blanding's turtle is an easy target for pet
trade collectors. Because the turtle is long-lived and does not reproduce
until about 14 to 25 years of age, this illegal activity can have a severe
impact on the survival of the species in the wild. The loss of even a few
adults can have a great impact on a local population.

    BIRD'S-FOOT VIOLET
    The bird's-foot violet is a small perennial plant that flowers in the
spring and again in the fall. The flowers range from purple to white, and the
deeply dissected leaves resemble the toes of a bird. When the ripe seed pods
open, the tiny copper-coloured seeds may be catapulted up to five metres from
the parent plant.
    In Ontario, the bird's-foot violet is found only in the southwest where
it grows in several small scattered populations in open black oak savanna
habitat. This lightly forested grassy habitat is also provincially rare, as
only a tiny remnant of Ontario's black oak savanna remains from pre-settlement
times.
    The largest populations of this violet in Ontario are found on publicly
owned lands, but threats to this species still include invasive shrubs and the
natural succession of its habitat of open fields gradually returning to
forest.

    For more information about Ontario's species at risk, visit the
ministry's website at www.ontario.ca/speciesatrisk.

    Note to editors: High resolution photos of these species are available at
www.ontario.ca/speciesatrisk.

    Contact:
    Sue Russell
    Species at Risk
    705-755-1789

    Disponible en français

    
                               ontario.ca/mnr
    




For further information:

For further information: Media Calls Only, Anne-Marie Flanagan,
Minister's Office, (416) 327-0654; Jolanta Kowalski, Communications Services
Branch, (416) 314-2106

Organization Profile

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

More on this organization


Custom Packages

Browse our custom packages or build your own to meet your unique communications needs.

Start today.

CNW Membership

Fill out a CNW membership form or contact us at 1 (877) 269-7890

Learn about CNW services

Request more information about CNW products and services or call us at 1 (877) 269-7890