Redefining Conservation Key to Biological Preservation

Media Release

Today at Queen's Park, Ontario's Environmental Commissioner (ECO) Gord Miller, released his annual 2009-2010 report, "Redefining Conservation". The report is a thorough and critical examination of the government's current management policies for Ontario’s forests, watersheds, and wildlife. The 228 page document is full of caveats, using the International Year of Biodiversity as a way to fuse together the wide range of environmental challenges Ontario is facing. The focus of biodiversity loss being a crisis of global proportions is a critical backdrop for the unabated habitat loss and species decline in Ontario.

Commissioner Miller draws attention to long overdue documents that are essential in providing woodland caribou with the protection they need. "Not only are crucial elements missing, but the Caribou Conservation Plan is also vague and lacks concrete timelines and funding commitments," explains Earthroots Executive Director, Amber Ellis. "We hope that the ECO's report will spur the government to implement a comprehensive monitoring program while clarifying intact caribou habitat that will be protected from industrial development." The ECO report states, "The central pervading assumptions of the conservation plan are that development can be tweaked to mitigate disturbances and, at some point in the future, woodland caribou will re-occupy habitat that has been affected by development. In effect, this approach is a reiteration of the very status quo that has caused the northward range recession of woodland caribou."

 

Five years ago, the government released Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy in an attempt to deal with the human-induced impacts on species like the woodland caribou. The ECO report points out that while the tenets of the strategy were laudable, it was only a five-year plan that expired this year. "As a former member of the Biodiversity Council, I applaud Mr. Miller’s vision of a reconceived Biodiversity Strategy", explains Josh Garfinkel, Senior Campaigner for Earthroots. "As one of the ENGO representatives on the council, we were dismayed by the fact that the strategy failed to outline the critical responsibilities of all the relevant ministries, nor did it detail the specific actions and quantifiable targets required to track progress."

For more than 20 years Earthroots has been pushing for meaningful protection of Temagami’s remaining stands of ancient pine forests while advocating for the growth of a sustainable eco-tourism sector for the region. The ECO report states, "The government has repeatedly promoted the wilderness values of the Temagami area. However, it has impeded initiatives that would both protect them and allow visitors to experience them." Logging of endangered old-growth red and white pine continues in Temagami despite the fact that less than 1% of the world’s original stands remain today. The ECO notes, "Until non-timber values are no longer viewed as a constraint on forestry interests, growth of resource-based tourism will be slow and sustainability of our forests will not be achieved."

The ECO report also highlights the interconnected issues of unsustainable growth and growing water pressures in Southern Ontario. The Commissioner discusses the need for natural heritage planning on the Waterloo and Paris-Galt Moraines due to increasing pressure on local water systems from growth allocated to the area by the Provincial Growth Plan. Moraines act as natural filters that store water, feeding numerous watersheds, and supplying drinking water to surrounding communities. A recent Stats Canada report revealed that renewable water sources in Southern Ontario have been steadily declining over the last 34 years. The Commissioner notes that, "…the Growth Plan fail(s) to require population allocations to be adjusted for communities with watersheds close to or already at carrying capacity..," underlining a key reason for water stress.

Earthroots has been advocating for better protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine, the expansion of the Greenbelt to areas like the Paris-Galt and Waterloo Moraines, as well as much needed reforms to the provincial Permit to Take Water program which has systematically allowed over-use and associated declines in water resources. "These Moraines are the life-blood of Southern Ontario," notes Josh Kohler, Earthroots Southern Ontario Campaigner. "It is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot afford to allow poorly planned growth and mismanagement to continue to degrade our water resources."

For more information please contact Earthroots Senior Campaigner, Josh Garfinkel, at 416-599-0152 ext. 15 (cell 416 562 3894).