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Ontario Nature Blog by Kirsten Dahl - 4d ago

I spent my summers catching frogs with my sister on a small lake in Seguin, Ontario. We did other things too – like swim to the jumping rock and canoe to the island for overnight camping adventures. In the winters we skiied on the lake, marvelling at the giant icicles that formed on the rock faces.

I remember the lake teaming with life. Spring peepers announced that summer was almost upon us, crickets kept us up on those humid August nights, and the loons let us know that another day was over with their haunting calls. The sounds of nature were part of our days and nights but it’s become noticeably quieter over the years.

The United Nations just released a report on the state of biodiversity. The report lays bare the scale of loss of nature and the decline of our ecosystem services. Its conclusions are nothing short of devastating.

The report is full of sobering statistics.

450 scientists from over 50 countries agree that nature’s decline over the past 50 years is ‘unprecedented’ in human history, and list 1 million species at risk of extinction. Natural ecosystems have declined by 47%. 85% of our wetlands have been lost and more than 40% of amphibian species are threatened.

And it’s our fault.

Spotted turtle © Joe Crowley

Human activity has significantly altered 75% of our terrestrial environment and 66% of our marine environment. We have consumed our earth to the point of collapse.

A government that is ‘open for business’ would do well to heed this report. Says the Chair, Sir. Robert Watson, “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health, and quality of life worldwide.” And yet our provincial government has proposed a drastic overhaul to Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. Despite their claims to the contrary, these changes will gut the already weakened protections for Ontario’s most vulnerable plants and animals, giving industry and developers free reign to destroy habitat.

The report suggests that only through ‘transformative change’ can nature be recovered. That we need to remove the subsidies and incentives that are given to the energy, industrial agricultural, fishing and forestry sectors, and invest instead in protecting and restoring nature.

The report also found that nature managed by Indigenous Peoples is declining less rapidly. We need to engage with Indigenous communities, learn from their systems of traditional knowledge and experience of being good stewards of the land.

I’m encouraged by the next generation of youth who are leading the charge for the positive change we need. Youth like members of Ontario Nature’s Youth Council who are leading conservation initiatives in their communities and who are deeply committed to living in more sustainable ways. Inspirational rebels like Greta Thunberg, who has ignited a movement that demands actions to reverse the climate crisis we’ve created.

I also believe that we need to support a robust and independent third sector. Charities, community organisations and not-for-profits that provide vital research, sound the alarm and rally local action when our government drops the ball on the things that we love and don’t want to lose.

We still have time to act but it’s got to be swift. As Greta says, “I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

What can you do right now?

  • Sign our petition to Minister Phillips opposing the changes to the ESA.
  • Send a letter to the editor or op-ed to your local media expressing your concerns.
  • Become a monthly donor with Ontario Nature or another favourite environmental organization working to protect nature and biodiversity.

The post It’s up to us now appeared first on Ontario Nature.

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The provincial government is proposing new approach to getting species off the Species at Risk in Ontario (SARO) list. And it’s not by addressing threats, preventing further declines or implementing recovery measures. Nothing that involves real, on-the-ground improvements. Rather, it would simply require basing species assessments on how our most vulnerable plants and animals are doing outside Ontario, not here at home.

Jefferson salamander © Ryan Wolfe
Status: endangered

This new approach to listing is just one of the many disturbing changes the government intends to make to Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA). Like the other proposed amendments, it’s bound to please developers and industry players looking for ways to circumvent the law’s protective measures. Strangely though, I have recently learned that it holds some appeal even for people in the conservation field who would prefer that recovery efforts be focused only on globally imperiled species.

I strongly disagree this perspective, and here’s why…

1. Over 100 species on the SARO list could be removed and no longer considered ‘at risk.’ Many others could be down-listed from threatened or endangered to special concern. In either case, most of the species currently recognized as threatened and endangered in Ontario – and their habitats – might no longer be protected under the ESA.

Take for example our turtle species, all of which are on the SARO list. Based on their global rankings (Natureserve), the wood turtle could well be down-listed to special concern (and consequently no longer protected from harm or habitat destruction) while the spiny softshell, spotted, Blanding’s, snapping, musk, eastern box and northern map turtles could all be removed from the list entirely. The government could be sentencing an entire order of animals to continued decline.

Blanding’s turtle © Diana Troya
Status: endangered

2. Most of our at-risk species are concentrated in southern Ontario, the most heavily developed and populated part of the province. The proposed change could open the floodgates to further loss and degradation of the region’s remaining woodlands, wetlands, streams and shorelines. Many threatened and endangered species serve as umbrella species for others insofar as protecting their habitats helps other species using the same habitats. We could lose one of our most effective legal tools for protecting entire natural communities.

An example is the least bittern. Currently listed as threatened, this bird often stands in the way of development approvals in wetlands, benefiting many other wetland inhabitants at the same time, from frogs, fish and dragonflies to muskrats, rare orchids and black terns. Removing the least bittern from the SARO list would mean one fewer lines of defence for these other species.

Least bittern © Brandon Trentler
Status: endangered

3. Most of the plants and animals affected are ‘edge of range’ species at their northern limit in Canada. Edge of range species generally are considered important in conservation efforts, particularly in an era of climate change. They may be better adapted to extreme climates than core populations or may have other characteristics that will facilitate adaptation. Excluding them from protection could result in a significant loss of genetic diversity and reduce the ability of species to persist, for example through geographic range shifts.

4. Many of these species are also important culturally, socially or economically. Their continued decline or disappearance from Ontario could be deeply felt by communities and individuals across the province. Take for example American ginseng, a treasured medicinal plant that inhabits the rich, mature deciduous woodlands of southern Ontario. Though legally cultivated, very few viable wild populations remain in Ontario. Under the new rules  it could potentially be down-listed to special concern, as its global status is vulnerable.  Wild populations would then be subject to harvesting, a primary driver of its decline.

American ginseng © Kerry Wixted
Status: endangered

5. The proposed approach would prevent new listings of and thus legal protections for species that are in trouble in Ontario.

For example, a recent study indicates that the American bumble bee is in drastic decline in Canada. Not yet listed in Ontario, its global status is vulnerable, which means it could be listed only as special concern when it is assessed by Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO). In that case, it would have no legal protection under the amended ESA.

I, for one, don’t believe it’s acceptable to sacrifice species in Ontario just because they’re doing better elsewhere. We must not allow the government to wipe its hands of responsibility for our fellow creatures in need and precipitate their disappearance from our province.  

The post Teetering on the edge appeared first on Ontario Nature.

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The provincial government’s proposed omnibus bill makes Ontario a very worrisome place to be.

Funding for flood mitigation across the province is disappearing and a critical tree-planting program will soon end. The Government of Ontario is proposing a drastic overhaul of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) through changes put forward in Schedule 5 of Bill 108, an omnibus bill tabled just yesterday. The ESA – once an exemplar of environmental legislation – is being transformed from a series of overlapping loopholes into one giant sinkhole.

All these changes have consequences beyond the environment. I am the parent of a 9-year-old girl who, because of a very rare genetic disorder, is visually-impaired, developmentally delayed and dependent upon a wheelchair. Nature has played a key role in her health and development since birth.

Regular camping trips and outings to natural areas have exposed my daughter to birdsong and frog calls that have stimulated her cognition and helped her develop listening skills. They have also enabled her to interact with other nature-lovers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. I have no doubt that if we can continue our family excursions, she will have the potential to be a happy, healthy and more independent member of society.

Even with a disorder whose hallmark is regression, my daughter has consistently made developmental gains and her quality of life has continued to improve. Those gains and that quality of life are now in jeopardy because the health of our environment and the species that inhabit it has been deemed expendable.

The provincial government is prioritizing a balanced budget and increased efficiency without considering the best way to achieve those goals. It costs nothing to leave in place wetlands, meadows and forests that provide Ontarians with much-needed clean air, stress relief and recreational opportunities. Not impeding access to natural areas for caregivers and their charges involves no bureaucratic red tape.

If the Ontario government is truly intent on reducing costs and stimulating economic growth, it should focus on measures that improve the health, wellbeing and productivity of all its citizens. Instead, it is eliminating environmental safeguards and potentially increasing my daughter’s future reliance on traditional healthcare resources and government support. This short-sighted thinking frightens me. It should frighten all Ontarians.

Environmental deregulation has a face: it is the face of my daughter.

The post Environmental deregulation has a face appeared first on Ontario Nature.

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In February 2019, we sounded the alarm about the provincial government’s plans to amend the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA). Well, their proposed amendments are in and it’s worse than we predicted.

On April 18, 2019, Ontario’s Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) posted an overview of its proposed changes to Ontario’s ESA. These changes would roll back protections for Ontario’s most vulnerable plants and animals and give industry and developers the green light to destroy their habitats.

In effect, if the changes go forward, the act would be repealed in everything but the name, rendering it pointless. Here are our top 10 concerns:

Eastern cougar
Status: endangered
© Art G 1. “Pay to slay”

MECP wants to allow developers and other proponents of harmful activities to pay into a fund in lieu of fulfilling requirements for on-the-ground compensation. This easy way out reduces accountability and makes it far easier to proceed with activities that harm species at risk and their habitats.

2. Rejecting science

The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) is a committee comprised of qualified scientists who perform science-based assessments of whether a species is at risk. MECP is proposing to broaden COSSARO membership so that it includes those with “community knowledge” – a vague term that could open up COSSARO to those who do not have adequate expertise in species assessment or have a different agenda altogether.

3. Deserting “edge of range” species

COSSARO would be required to base its assessments not on the status of a species in Ontario, but instead on its status throughout its range. For example, southern Ontario endangered species at the northern limit of their range may receive less or no protection, depending on their status outside Ontario. This is especially concerning in the face of climate change because healthy species populations are needed at their northern limits to help species adapt to changing climatic conditions.

Rusty-patched bumblebee
Status: endangered
© Johanna James-Heinz 4. Limiting protections

The Minister would be able to limit ESA protections so that they apply only in specific geographies or under specific circumstances. This could exclude important habitats and species from protection.

5. Ministerial veto of automatic protections

The listing of species at risk would be “de-coupled” from automatic protections for threatened and endangered species and their habitats and the Minister would have greater “discretion on protections.”

This includes allowing the Minister to suspend species and habitat protections for up to three years based on social or economic considerations. Note, such delays would be exempted from Environmental Bill of Rights posting and consultation requirements. This means that the public would receive no notice and have no input on such decisions. Meanwhile, those with political connections could undermine species protections without full public scrutiny.

6. Sweeping authorizations for harmful activities:

MECP proposes to create “landscape agreements” for proponents undertaking harmful activities in multiple locations. Such an approach does not lend itself to addressing site-specific or species-specific concerns and consequently presents unwarranted additional risk for species already in peril.

Jefferson salamander
Status: endangered
© Ryan Wolfe 7. Dodging ESA requirements

MECP wants to allow activities approved under other laws to be carried out without any additional authorizations under the ESA, even if they harm threatened or endangered species or their habitats. This may be the golden ticket for forestry and other industries seeking permanent exemptions from the ESA.

8. Interfering with the listing of species at risk

The Minister would be able to require COSSARO to reconsider its science-based listing decisions. This change would make it possible for developers and others who have the ear of government to derail the listing process if they don’t like a COSSARO decision.

Canada warbler
Status: endangered
© John Benson 9. Goodbye expert input

Currently, the ESA requires that the Minister consult with an independent expert prior to creating regulations that would jeopardize the survival of a species, or issuing permits for harmful activities that would provide a significant social or economic benefit to Ontario. This requirement would be removed.

10. Delays, delays, delays

Multiple delays are proposed for the listing, planning and reporting on species at risk, undermining species recovery. Of deep concern is the proposal to list species nine months after COSSARO makes its assessments public – during this time vulnerable plants, animals and their habitats could be eliminated before protections kick in.  

This week (April 23 – 26) is Constituency Week in Ontario which means that MPPs are at home in their constituencies. Please take this opportunity to stand with us and visit, call or write your MPP to let them know that the people of Ontario are not okay with these proposed amendments.  

The post ESA Review: Ten things you need to know PART II appeared first on Ontario Nature.

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Navigating appeals to planning decisions can be a complex process. When the provincial government recently announced they were shutting down the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre (LPASC), many local citizen groups were dismayed. The LPASC was set up as a service to assist citizens by providing input to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).

Prior to the establishment of the LPASC, presenting at hearings often required the services of lawyers and planning experts. This gave the developers an advantage over local citizen groups that lacked the funding for such resources. The LPASC was able to provide assistance to concerned citizen groups and enabled them to participate more effectively.

Urban sprawl on the Greenbelt © David Coulson Navigating planning policy

The average citizen may only fight a planning decision once in their life and thus have a limited understanding of how to proceed. Laura Matthews, Communications & Stakeholder Relations Lead at LPASC, explains that planning policy is nuanced and it takes experience to navigate this complex process. She says the centre can benefit municipalities and developers as well as residents as it can help mediate and guide people to an early resolution. Everyone benefits when residents have the assistance they need to participate in the planning process.

Here are some examples where support from the LPASC has helped local citizens and citizen groups contest controversial planning decisions.  

Thundering Waters

John Bacher is appealing a development in Niagara Falls in a beautiful forest called Thundering Waters. His fight to save the forests and wetlands is ongoing. (For more information about this appeal, read one of our recent blog posts about the battle for Thundering Waters).

Public notice at Thundering Waters © Joyce Sankey

John says “The hearing was successful since the attempt to dismiss the appeal for lack of evidence was rejected by the hearing officer. The success was because LPASC supplied us with the two letters which were suppressed by the Niagara Falls Planning Department. LPASC also helped me by writing the Case Synopsis which was also important to our case. The synopsis that LPASC wrote based on facts I provided was well written. It is horrible to think what would have happened had not LPASC existed when it did.”

Kitchener vs. parking garage

Dawn Parker is a professor in the school of planning at Waterloo, but she is not a planner. She, along with a group of motivated neighbours, still needed help with their appeal of a five-story parking garage in the city of Kitchener. While they provided strong evidence, phrasing the problems in the appropriate legal language proved difficult. The LPASC helped them with their appeal; giving them full legal support, which they otherwise would have had to pay a high price to obtain.

Parking garage © Jeff Hitchcock

Dawn Parker reports, “It was the buffering and professionalism and timeliness that the support centre provided that led to the negotiation of a settlement. All the parties were happy with the settlement and settling helped to maintain good relationships and friendly conversations.” This resident’s group was not against the development, but only wanted some changes.  Now they have that better outcome with the possibility of mature trees, storm water management and green infrastructure. 

The LPASC will be missed

Everyone in Ontario benefits when all residents have the assistance they need to have a say in the planning process. The Ontario government is closing the centre by June 30th. The LPASC will no longer be accepting new requests for professional services from the public but you can still access some helpful resources on their website.

The post Local Planning Appeal Support Centre Will Be Missed appeared first on Ontario Nature.

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Dear Minister Phillips,

On behalf of the Ontario Nature Youth Council, we would like to thank you for not proceeding with Schedule 10 of Bill 66. The Ontario Nature Youth Council is a diverse provincial network that is inspiring, connecting and educating our communities while protecting wild species and wild spaces. With 120 Youth Council members from 53 communities across Ontario, we put our best selves forward as we contribute to lasting, positive change through a variety of conservation actions in our community and on a provincial level.

Schedule 10 would have allowed municipalities to create “open-for-business planning by-laws” and bypass various provincial legislation, plans and policies protecting water, wildlife, agricultural land and green space, without notice to the public. This disregards the citizens’ right of being informed about actions affecting their neighbourhoods. It is contrary to the government’s responsibility to preserve natural spaces.

Expediting land development and compromising natural space to attract businesses is unacceptable to us. Ontario’s next generation of decision-makers must think far ahead for generations to come. Keeping in mind the impact of our actions today on Ontario’s future, we recognize the need for a healthy, trusting and integrated community as well as a healthy, trusting and integrated environment. The threat was great as companies would have been able to bypass plans in place to preserve clean drinking water from being contaminated by dumps, chemicals, and other rudimentary waste elimination processes.

Through careful and thorough research on Bill 66, it cannot be clearer to us that it deeply contradicts multiple laws which are critical to provincially sustainable planning such as the Clean Water Act, the Planning Act, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, the Greenbelt Act, the Great Lakes Protection Act, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, and the Toxics Reduction Act. We agree with Ontario Nature’s views that this proposed law would have facilitated sprawling and unchecked development, threatened sensitive natural features and water resources upon which we all rely, undermined community input, and sidestepped laws and policies intended to protect the long-term health and resilience of our communities.

It is for these reasons that we strongly oppose Schedule 10 of Bill 66. It should never be considered for future legislation. Thanks again for your decision and we look forward to the removal of Schedule 10 from Bill 66 before it goes to final reading.

We thank you for your time and trust that you will take our views into account for your decision as this bill affects all fellow residents of Ontario, including many of our loved ones and our neighbouring species. We invite you to meet with us to discuss the bill in a non-partisan manner. Should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact one of the undersigned.

Yours sincerely in conservation and on behalf of the Youth Council,

Fei (Sophy) Wu, Toronto

Lucy Tong, Cobourg

Sammie Heard, Waterloo

Bumika Srikanthalingam, Mount Albert,

Ethan Elliott, Stratford

Haidi Wu, Oakville

Isabella Fiore, Newmarket

Jasminder Khehra, Oakville

Jessica Xiong, Toronto

Markus Kangur, Waterloo

Meghna Ravikumar, Toronto

Mikayla Wilson, Stayner

Samantha Mitchell, Tiny

Sasha Latchaev, Toronto

Serena Allidina, North York (Toronto)

Sofia Eklund, Oshawa

Cc: The Honourable Doug Ford

The Honourable Christine Elliott

The Honourable Ernie Hardeman

The Honourable Jim Wilson

The Honourable Jeff Yurek

The Honourable Steve Clark

The Honourable Lisa Thompson

The post Youth Council Open Letter – RE: Schedule 10 of Bill 66 to Minister of the Environment appeared first on Ontario Nature.

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Our blog this week was originally published by Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.

For a very long time, mainstream Canadians were unaware of the horrors and conditions that 150,000 Indigenous children endured in the Indian residential schools over a period of more than 100 years. For many Canadians, the first inkling of the atrocities the children suffered was when then Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered the Statement of Apology on behalf of Canadians for the Indian residential school system in 2008.

Autumn lake view © shutterstock 1982887

The grassroots Idle No More movement raised awareness of Indigenous issues in 2012 with round dances, rallies, teach-ins, and social media. The movement gained significant media attention which brought it onto the radar of mainstream Canada.

The next hit of awareness was in 2015 with the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report and 94 calls to action. The calls to action, in particular, awoke in many individuals, organizations, and governments a realization that they had not just a role to play but a moral responsibility to make amends for the past. Reconciliation.

It’s now three years since the TRC report and reconciliation is a familiar term to most of us. But, there’s still confusion over what it means and who is responsible, which could lead to reconciliation become nothing more than a platitude.

The TRC definition of reconciliation:

 “. . . Reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.” [1]

To flesh out what reconciliation is and is not, here’s a list of considerations that may contribute to understanding reconciliation.

Reconciliation is:

  • Critical
  • Complex
  • Multifaceted
  • Continuous
  • A process
  • About working towards solidarity as a society and country
  • The responsibility of every Canadian
  • Honouring treaties
  • Acknowledging and respecting Indigenous rights and title
  • Acknowledging and letting go of negative perceptions and stereotypes
  • Acknowledging the past and ensuring that history never repeats
  • Learning about Indigenous history
    • Recognizing the intergenerational impacts of colonization, attempts at assimilation, and cultural genocide
    • Recognizing the critical roles, Indigenous Peoples have held in the creation of Canada, their contributions to world wars to protect Canada
  • Taking responsibility as a person, a parent, an employee, an employer to:
    • Never utter, accept, or ignore a racist comment
    • Never utter, accept, or ignore a statement that includes a stereotype about Indigenous Peoples
Canoe in Killarney Provincial Park © Floridastock
  • Respect for:
  • Recognition and support of the deep connections Indigenous Peoples have to the land.
  • Supporting the reclamation of identity, language, culture, and nationhood
  • Healing for all Canadians
  • Good people doing good things
  • Building relationships
  • Never giving up despite setbacks
  • Humility
  • An opportunity to move forward
  • A commitment to taking a role and assuming responsibility in working towards a better future for every Canadian

Reconciliation is not:

  • A trend
  • A single gesture, action, or statement
  • A box to be ticked
  • About blame
  • About guilt 
  • About the loss of rights for non-Indigenous Canadians
  • Someone else’s responsibility
Bruce Peninsula © Beatrice Laporte

Listen to the children in this short video after they learn about Indian residential schools. There is sadness, shock, pain, and awareness but ultimately there is hope and a desire for change.

I believe Canada has moved to a point at which we no longer ask “whether reconciliation is possible” but “how is reconciliation possible.” And from that position, increasingly non-Indigenous Canadians are asking “what can I do?”

Here’s a related article that delves into the controversy around statues of historical figures: Let’s not make reconciliation a political football

Here’s a Personal Pledge of Reconciliation* with Indigenous Peoples to get you started with your commitment to reconciliation. Click the image to grab your form. 

[1] Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015, p. 6

Join us on April 16th for a free webinar about Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas in Ontario (IPCAs).

The webinar will feature 4 panellists who co-hosted a gathering on IPCAs in 2018. They will be discussing the insights and knowledge shared at this event and how we can work together across cultures to protect lands and waters in the spirit and practice of reconciliation.

Space is limited so register today. If registration for the webinar is full, please register for the wait list to receive a recording of the live webinar. Learn more and register today.

The post What reconciliation is and what it is not appeared first on Ontario Nature.

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Dear MPP/Honourable,

Planet Earth is a shared home for humans and millions of other species, and our fates and well-being are interdependent. Yet, as a result of unsustainable human activity, we are now in the throes of the largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs more than 65 million years ago. In response to this crisis of biodiversity loss, the Government of Ontario passed a new Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2007, with support from all parties (only five dissenting votes). Deemed to be a gold standard in species at risk legislation at the time, this law is now under review.

We, the undersigned, are reaching out to all MPPs to urge you to uphold the spirit and intent of the ESA as well as its focus on demonstrable benefit to species, and to ensure that it is not weakened during the ongoing review.

We note, with deep concern, that environmental protection rollbacks – making it easier for industry and development proponents to proceed with activities that harm species at risk and their habitats – appear to be the overall focus and intent of the options put forward for consideration in the government’s discussion paper. Reassuring statements that the review is intended to “improve protections,” “improve effectiveness” and provide “stringent protections” are misleading given the changes under consideration. These include options that would undermine the very cornerstones of the law: science-based listing (including Indigenous Traditional Knowledge), mandatory habitat protection, and legislated timelines for planning and reporting. Proposals to “increase efficiencies” and “streamline approvals” consist of weakening automatic protections for species-at-risk and their habitats, simplifying requirements for industry permits and exemptions to undertake harmful activities, and extending or removing legislated timelines for planning and reporting. They have nothing to do with advancing species recovery, which in most cases requires habitat protection and restoration, and everything to do with allowing private business interests to override those of Ontario’s most vulnerable plants and animals.

While there have been challenges in administering the ESA, these are the result of poor government implementation, not the law itself. In her 2017 environmental protection report, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario provided a detailed analysis of this implementation and concluded that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry had “utterly failed to implement the law effectively” (p. 248). Inadequate notifications and unreasonable delays in processing permits, common complaints of industry, are examples of issues that should be addressed through improved implementation. No amendments to the statute are necessary.

Indeed, when the act has been applied properly, species and their habitats have been protected and development has proceeded. A good example can be found in the upgrading of Highway 69/400 corridor where a four-lane highway replaced a dangerous two-lane one. As part of the ESA permit requirements for this road, fencing and wildlife under and overpasses were constructed. The overall result is lowered risk to endangered species and drivers. Clearly, we can protect species and have sustainable economic development.

There are limits to the Earth’s capacity to sustain human activity. We must recognize these limits and manage human activities with respect for all life, so that all species can thrive and none is driven towards extinction. All humans share this responsibility.

The very presence of species at risk in Ontario underlines the need to change our approaches to using and managing our lands and waters. We ask that you keep the fate of our most threatened plants and animals foremost in your thoughts during the ESA review. Their persistence and recovery are integral to the health, well-being and long-term economic prosperity of the people of Ontario.

Sincerely,

Anne Bell, Director of Conservation & Education
Ontario Nature
Theresa McClenaghan,
Executive Director
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Rachel Plotkin, Ontario Science Campaigns Manager
David Suzuki Foundation
Tim Gray, Executive Director Environmental Defence Liz White, Director
Animal Alliance of Canada
Becky Stewart, Director
Ontario Program
Bird Studies Canada
John McDonnell, Executive Director Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Ottawa Valley Chapter Michelle Kanter, Executive Director Carolinian Canada Coalition Derek Coronado, Co-ordinator
Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario
Paul Berger, Member
Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet
Amber Ellis, Executive Director       Earthroots Paul Mero, Interim Executive Director EcoSpark
Kenneth Wu, Executive Director Endangered Ecosystems Alliance Graham Saunders, President       Environment North Tony Maas, Manager of Strategy Freshwater Future Canada
John Jackson, Chair
Grand River Environmental Network
Graham Flint, President
Gravel Watch Ontario
Patricia Zaat, Country Director        Canada International Fund for Animal Welfare
Graham Saul, Executive Director Nature Canada Steve Hounsell, Chair
Ontario Biodiversity Council
Kathryn Enders, Executive Director  Ontario Farmland Trust
Andrew McCammon, Executive Director
Ontario Headwaters Institute
Alison Howson, Executive Director    Ontario Land Trust Alliance Linda Heron, Chair
Ontario Rivers Alliance
Hilary Chambers, Co-founder & Director                                        Ontario Wildlands Conservancy Julie MacInnes, Wildlife Campaign Manager The Humane Society International/Canada James Snider, Vice-President, Science, Research & Innovation
World Wildlife Fund Canada
Anna Baggio, Director Conservation Planning
Wildlands League
Lena Ross, Founder & Manager        Activism NB John Morgan, Chair
AWARE Simcoe
Deb Sherk, President
Bert Miller Nature Club of Fort Erie
Norman Wingrove,
Acting President
Blue Mountain Watershed Trust
Tom Wilson, President
Carden Field Naturalists
Ron Reid, Carden Program Director Couchiching Conservancy Lois Gillette, President
Durham Region Field Naturalists
Dale MacKenzie, Chair
Eagle Lake Farabout Peninsula Coalition
Paul Pratt, President
Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club
Steve Page, Chair
Friends of Charleston Lake Park
Kathy Strachan, President
Friends of Sauble Beach
Peter Kannar, President
Friends of Second Marsh
Don Scallen, President
Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club
Bronwen Tregunno, President
Hamilton Naturalists’ Club
Ian Keith Anderson,
Chair of the Executive                              Headwaters Nature
Sharon Lovett,
Stewards Coordinator
High Park Nature
Lynn Johnston, President
Huron Fringe Field Naturalists
Sheila Fleming, President
Ingersoll District Nature Club
Anthony Kaduck, President
Kingston Field Naturalists
Felicia Syer Nicol, President            Lambton Wildlife
Harriet Madigan, Representative
Living Fit Women’s Club
Janet McKay, Executive Director           Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests Rick Levick, President
Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation
Michael Runtz, President
Macnamara Field Naturalists
Marcel Bénéteau, President
Manitoulin Nature Club
Brian Bissell, President
Midland Penetanguishene Field Naturalists
Dorothy McKeown, President
Nature Barrie
Migs Baker, President
Nature League – Collingwood
Bernie VanDenBelt, President
Nature London
Inga Hinnerichsen, President
Norfolk Field Naturalists
Cara Gregory, President
North Durham Nature
Jack Gibbons, Chair
North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance
Susan Walmer,
Executive Director
Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust
Donna DuBreuil, President
Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre
Gord Edwards, Board Member
Owen Sound Field Naturalists
Bryan Smith, Chair
Oxford Coalition for Social Justice
David Bywater, President
Parry Sound Nature Club
Marg Reckahn, President              Penokean Hills Field Naturalist Club
Ted Vale, President           Peterborough Field Naturalists Sandra Dowds, President
Prince Edward County Field Naturalists
George Thomson, President
Quinte Field Naturalists
Stephanie Sobek-Swant, Executive Director
rare Charitable Research Reserve
Angus Inksetter,
President 
Saugeen Nature
David Euler, President
Sault Naturalists of Michigan and Ontario
Margaret Prophet, Executive Director Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition Sister Bonnie MacLellan,
Sisters of St. Joseph
Shawn Moreton, Founding Member Solidarity Nipissing
Paul Harpley, President
South Lake Simcoe Naturalists
Mark Cranford, President
South Peel Naturalists’ Club
Bill Ingwersen, Chair of Council
St. Andrew’s United Church – North Bay
Bob Johnstone, President
St. Thomas Field Naturalist Club
Kevin Thomason, Secretary
Sunfish Lake Association
Dave Smith, President
Sydenham Field Naturalists
Otto Peter, President
Thickson’s Wood Land Trust
Lynn Pratt, Executive
Thunder Bay Chapter of the Council of Canadians
Bruce Thacker, President
Thunder Bay Field Naturalists
David Stringer, President
Vankleek Hill and District Nature Society
Tim Tottenham, President
Willow Beach Field Naturalists
Gloria Marsh, Executive Director
York Region Environmental Alliance
Jeanne Bénéteau, President
York Simcoe Nature Club
   

The post Endangered Species Act Review: Joint letter to MPPs appeared first on Ontario Nature.

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This blog is the fourth in a series that will help you go #GreenStepByStep. Read the first three blogs in the series here:

  1. Go #GreenStepByStep
  2. #GreenStepByStep: reduce, reuse, recycle… refuse?
  3. #GreenStepByStep: bugging out

Why would someone want to help the Earth, have compassion for animals and care about the future? When I first got involved in the environmental movement, I thought it was all about helping the things I love (like turtles, oceans, forests and people), but discovered over time that focusing on changing anything other than my own life is not just overwhelming, but irresponsible.

Tend to your garden

It is my belief that we all have a little corner of the Universe, carved out just for us. This is our own little section that is our duty to care for and manage. I like to think of it as tending our own personal garden, with all our combined plots creating the larger garden that is our shared world.

What kind of garden do we want to live in? How is our little slice of the equation helping to contribute to the whole? These are very important questions.

Ghandi has a quote that has been very helpful to me on my personal eco-journey, as a human being and as an environmental advocate…“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”.

Silent impacts

Unfortunately, our recent generations have been born into a world where consumer habits, the way we eat, how we travel and the way we live are largely inherited through our society and the media.

We buy clothing because of brand names, we eat food because “we like it” and it’s what we have always eaten, we buy gifts for people when our culture says it is appropriate and although this is not all bad, it is generally not in alignment with the world we all want to create. What sort of “silent” impact do those choices have on us, and our happiness? Not living in alignment with our true beliefs contributes to that “empty” feeling that is so prevalent in our world, which we then usually try to fill with more things outside of ourselves.

Challenge yourself

I challenge you to write out your vision of what you want the Earth to look like. How you think the Earth should exist for future generations. Then take an inventory of your life in some basic categories: food, clothing, hygiene products, what is in your garbage can right now and how you travel/commute.

Is your lifestyle in each of the above categories in alignment with the world you want to create? If the answer is yes, that’s great and you should skip the next paragraph. If not, start or continue to bring these areas into alignment.

Eat more plant-based meals, choose more eco-friendly clothing options, de-toxify and reduce waste in your hygiene products, look for alternatives with less packaging based on what’s in your garbage, start taking transit and carpooling more. Take care of YOUR corner of the garden.

Yes, the problems we are facing are significant and seem like they need more action than just switching out my laundry detergent and eating a veggie burger, but these are the first steps to changing our world. When we are in alignment with the world that we want to create, we are happier, more sustainable and more effective advocates and leaders.

Taking care of ourselves is our primary job, and when we have done what we can to manage our own garden, then we can start lending out our tools and helping out our neighbours!

Help inspire others to go #GreenStepByStep by sharing the ways you’re making a difference on social media. Don’t forget to use the hashtag so we can help spread the love!

The post #GreenStepByStep: Caring for the planet by caring for yourself appeared first on Ontario Nature.

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This blog is the third in a series that will help you go #GreenStepByStep. Read the first two blogs in the series here:

  1. Go #GreenStepByStep
  2. #GreenStepByStep: reduce, reuse, recycle… refuse?

Insects are everywhere and they play a key role in our ecosystems, but have you ever considered that they could also be the answer to our climate change problem?

“Ew” is the typical response that I receive when I remotely suggest introducing insects, such as crickets, into our diet. I also hear responses like, “how can an insect the size of a loonie help reduce my ecological footprint?”.

Benefits of insect protein

Some arguments suggest that consuming more insect protein will have a positive impact on our environment. If we farmed more crickets than livestock, we could save approximately 12 times the amount of resources, such as land, water and feed. Moreover, if a family of 4 substituted insect protein in one meal once a week they would be saving approximately 650,000 litres of water.

In addition, insect farms are able to house more grams of protein per square foot than traditional livestock farming, saving our natural landscape. And don’t worry, you won’t be missing out on vitamins and nutrients. Insects contain essential nutrients such as B12, iron, amino acids, calcium, Omega 3s, and more.

Insect misconceptions

There is a misconception that eating insects is a new fad. However, eating insects is not new. In fact, it is estimated that more than 80% of the world consumes insects as a part of their regular diet.

Another misconception is that we have to completely replace livestock protein with insect protein, which is not true. However, if we all supplement our diets with more insect protein our environment would be better for it. Whether we know it or not, we are eating insects regularly in our diet anyway. For example, they are a part of red food dye and they’re mixed into our pasta, grains, and flour.

Give insects a try

We don’t have to dramatically change our diet today, but supplementing your diet with some insect protein can reduce your ecological footprint and emissions. You can simply add protein powder to your pancakes, muffins, smoothies or start adding crickets to your salad instead of meat or chicken. These are small steps that will have a positive impact on our environment.

All of us have the power to change our earth for the better and reducing our meat consumption and substituting ecologically sustainable protein sources like insect protein can be a great way to start. Cricket protein flour can increasingly be found in your local grocery store, like Loblaws. You can also order insect protein and other product online from suppliers like Entomo Farms.  

Take the pledge to reduce your environmental footprint by commenting below with ways you’re going to make a difference every day. Help inspire others to go #GreenStepByStep by sharing the ways you’re making a difference on social media. Don’t forget to use the hashtag so we can help spread the love!

The post #GreenStepByStep: bugging out appeared first on Ontario Nature.

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