New Endangered Species Act Clinging to Life
NEW ACT TO BE GUTTED BY EXEMPTIONS FOR INDUSTRY
At 2:30 this afternoon the McGuinty government took a giant leap backwards in the protection of Ontario's biodiversity by exempting the logging industry (which impacts 45% of the province) from Ontario's new Endangered Species Act, days before it celebrated its first anniversary as legislation.
"This exemption makes the new Endangered Species Act dead on arrival," said Gillian McEachern of ForestEthics. "Exempting the logging industry from the new act is one of the fastest and most effective ways to wipe out Ontario's threatened woodland caribou."
The proposal posted today on the government's Environmental Bill of Rights Registry contradicts the intent of the Endangered Species Act, which was passed last May.
"We hailed Ontario's new Endangered Species Act as a gold standard when it was passed last May. We never imagined government would give a blanket exemption to industry off the bat," said Anne Bell of Ontario Nature.
The Endangered Species Act is set to come into force in a few weeks, on July 1st. At the time of its development last year, the Act provided flexibility measures to deal with legitimate needs for some facilities, including existing hydro dams and aggregate pits. However, today's move by government gives a year long blanket exemption to the industry with the largest impact on ecosystems in the province - the forestry industry.
"The government has royally screwed things up in this first major test of one of its signature pieces of legislation," said Rick Smith of Environmental Defence. "Though we are assured by the government that this exemption for the logging industry is temporary and will not be renewed, the process here has been horrendous and will lead to real environmental harm."
"This Act was supposed to set a new direction for the protection and recovery of endangered species. Allowing business as usual logging to continue isn't a change of direction; it will take us straight down the path to species extinction," said Rachel Plotkin of the David Suzuki Foundation.
The new Act was designed to provide protection for Ontario's approximately 200 endangered species and their habitats. Unless it is effectively implemented, however, the future is bleak for Ontario's species at risk. 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.
"Exempting logging will butcher the law and sign the death warrant for some of Ontario's endangered species," said lawyer Justin Duncan with Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund). "Ontarians should be outraged."
The public has 30 days to comment on the proposal. After that, the government will decide whether or not to approve the exemptions. SOS highly encourages the public to voice their concern on these exemptions through the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry which is available online at:
"This is not a day worth celebrating," Janet Sumner, Executive Director, CPAWS Wildlands League commented, "this is the day the logging industry was placed above the law and species were pushed to extinction."