Ontario is simplifying rules for landowners, municipalities and businesses under its Endangered Species Act (ESA), while "maintaining its place as a North American leader in species protection."
But the province is coming under fire from both sides for its moves. On July 1, 65 more species will benefit from habitat protection. Ontario protects about 150 threatened and endangered species, including polar bear, chimney swift, butternut and wolverine. That has sparked worries by industry and local governments, including Renfrew County council, that it could place too many restrictions on development and harvesting of resources.
In conjunction with expanding the number of protected species, the province will streamline its approach to species at risk protection by implementing standardized rules and an online registry for certain low-risk activities. That has caused environmentalists to express alarm that the government is shying away from its promises in this area.
The changes include: making it easier for volunteers and researchers to undertake projects that protect endangered species, simplifying requirements for municipalities to carry out activities that protect human health and safety, such as road repairs, a time-limited transition provision that will allow projects currently in development to continue while mitigating adverse effects on endangered species, harmonizing requirements under the Endangered Species Act and Crown Forest Sustainability Act to preserve protection while avoiding overlap. The existing approval process remains for all other activities.
The province will continue to ensure compliance through education and outreach, as well as monitoring, auditing and enforcement.
The changes, including "sweeping exemptions for industry," have caused some groups to complain the government has "gutted" the law protecting threatened wildlife. More....