Species at Risk
COSEWIC considers Monarch Butterfly ENDANGERED
A report yesterday from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife (COSEWIC) in Canada shows that the “status” of the Monarch butterfly needs to be changed to ENDANGERED. In the report: “We need to continue to support the conservation of milkweed caterpillar habitat both here in Canada and along the Monarch’s migratory journey, and we need to support continued conservation of critical overwintering areas. Otherwise, Monarch migration may disappear, and Canada may lose this iconic species.”
Cerulean Warbler sighting sent to MVFN Nature Notebook
Alison Bentley sent in a report June 3, 2016 of a male Cerulean Warbler singing consistently in Maberly, ON. First noted May 29th and every day since.
The image is from https://www.ontario.ca/page/cerulean-warbler. Note that the Cerulean Warbler is a Species at Risk in Ontario – Status Threatened. “In Ontario and the United States, the main threat to this warbler is habitat loss from degrading and fragmenting forests, since it requires relatively large tracts of forest.”
Endangered Species Act Action Alert from Ontario Nature
SHOW YOUR LOVE FOR SPECIES AT RISK BY GETTING INFORMED ABOUT ONTARIO NATURE’S CHALLENGE TO THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT.
On April 19th the Ontario Court of Appeal will hear Ontario Nature’s case challenging a lower court ruling that puts already endangered species at further risk of extinction. The appeal challenges the Ontario Divisional Court’s decision to uphold a provincial regulation that exempts major industrial activities— including forestry, mining, energy, and residential development — from the strict protection standards outlined in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In many instances, these exemptions give industries a free pass to kill endangered or threatened species and destroy their habitat, as long as this harm is “minimized.”
The following link is a reminder from Ontario Nature to speak out about this issue: https://ontarionature.thankyou4caring.org/showyourlove
Background from Ontario Nature website: http://www.ontarionature.org/protect/campaigns/lawsuit.php
- 2007: The Ontario government passes the ESA, considered the gold standard law for species protection in North America.
- July 1, 2013: The provincial Cabinet regulation under the ESA that dramatically weakens protection for Ontario’s at-risk wildlife came into effect. The regulation exempts many major industrial activities from the ESA, allowing them to dodge crucial protection measures. It also significantly reduces government oversight of harmful activities.
- September, 2013: Ontario Nature joins forces with the Wildlands League to sue the government over the regulation.
- May 29, 2015: Ontario’s Divisional Court upholds the provincial regulation.
- September 2015: Ontario Nature and Wildlands League win the right to appeal this very disappointing decision.
- April 19, 2016: The appeal will be heard in Toronto.
Why does it matter?
The survival of Ontario’s most vulnerable wildlife is now weighed against competing industrial interests, which may tip the scale towards extinction. Every single endangered and threatened species in the province is deprived of the full protection of the law.
Who else cares?
Click here to read the letter that Ontario Nature, and more than 50 other organizations, sent to Premier Kathleen Wynne asking that the Endangered Species Act be upheld. Nothing beats these words of wisdom from Ontario Nature’s Youth Council imploring the Premier to stand up for endangered species.
Ontario Pollinator Health Action Plan
Feature photo credit Diana Troya
NOTE: The following combines information just released by the government of Ontario and Ontario Nature:
Ontario has just released its draft Pollinator Health Action Plan for public review on the Environmental Registry. They are seeking public feedback on a draft action plan to improve pollinator health and reduce pollinator losses.
Public comments may be made on the Environmental Registry: Number: 012-6393 until March 7, 2016
Pollinators, including honey bees, are essential to Ontario’s agricultural sector and contribute approximately $992 million worth of economic activity annually to the economy. The province became the first jurisdiction in North America to protect bees and other pollinators through new rules introduced on July 1, 2015, to reduce the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80 per cent by 2017.
Now, Ontario is looking for the public’s feedback on a proposed plan to improve pollinator health that will address:
- Habitat and nutrition
- Diseases, pests and genetics
- Climate change and weather
- Pesticide exposure.
The proposed plan will be posted on the Environmental Registry until March 7, 2016. Additionally, the public can also provide input on protecting pollinator health by completing a public survey.
Supporting pollinator health is part of the government’s plan to build Ontario up and deliver on its number-one priority to grow the economy and create jobs. The four-part plan includes investing in people’s talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in the province’s history, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives and building a secure retirement savings plan.
- Ontario is home to more than 400 bee species, which are the most common pollinators.
- Honey bees and some bumble bees are bred specifically for pollinating plants for food. A foraging honey bee will travel up to 3 km from the colony (and up to 10 km if food is scarce).
- The province recently introduced a new Bee Mortality Production Insurance plan under the Agricultural Products Insurance Act to promote best management practices and allow farmers to manage their risk more effectively.
The plan proposes actions to address four stress sources: habitat loss, disease, exposure to pesticides and climate change.
Read the Ontario government news release here:
Ontario Nature is working with partners to assess the plan and provide recommendations. Learn more and stay informed by joining Ontario Nature’s Alert updates: http://www.ontarionature.org/prot…/campaigns/pollinators.php
Ontario Nature “Along the Snake Fence Way”
By Gretta Bradley
“Along the Snake Fence Way”, is not high art. It probably falls into the category of young adult literature really. It doesn’t require much of the reader. But the author, Vicki Branden’s use of a snake is intentional. If she had substituted cute baby pandas, our horror would have been absolute and it would have been a very different story. Not only would the story have veered into the ridiculous, but the author would have lost an opportunity to ask us to think about our relationship with the natural world. A boy in the story sits down by the fence to watch a snake basking on a rock in the weak spring sunshine admiring its beautiful markings and iridescent sheen. As if a switch has been flipped, the boy is jarred out of his reverie with the arrival of older boys, rocks in hand, intent on “snake bashing.” Now in dangerous social territory, the boy chooses to take a stand for the snake, and suffers for it at the hands of his bigger counterparts. Standing up for creatures that others deem as not worthy of concern is not for the faint of heart.
Dr. Anne Bell, Director of Conservation and Education for Ontario Nature, and guest speaker at the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist lecture series; “Naturally Special Places” spoke this evening on the topic “On Guard for Nature- Ontario Nature’s Fight to Uphold our Endangered Species Act”. Ontario Nature’s stated mission is “to protect wild species and wild spaces”. Constant vigilance of the Province’s efforts to implement the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has occupied a significant part of the organization’s resources. Dr. Bell warned that, unfortunately, according to the 2015 report on Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy, progress to date is not encouraging. There has been no improvement for more than 2/3rds of Ontario’s species at risk. Forest and wetlands along with 22% of Ontario’s species at risk are in decline and some of our rare ecosystems are without protection.
Dr. Bell pointed to poor implementation of the ESA as a contributing factor. The government ministry responsible for the ESA, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), has been cited in a recent report released by Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner (ECO), as just “going through the motions”. The ECO called for meaningful enforcement of the ESA for the protection of our most vulnerable species.
Before launching into the main topic of her talk, Dr. Bell wanted us to know that going to court is a last resort for Ontario Nature. Typically, they fulfill their mission through conservation, education and public engagement. They own and manage 24 nature reserves. They promote citizen science by engaging hundreds of volunteers to gather information on Ontario species. They work with farmers, aggregate producers, and forestry companies etc. to promote sustainable business practices. Ontario Nature also engages youth through their Youth Summit for Biodiversity.
Dr. Bell pointed out that it is their role as environmental watchdog, promoting the creation of strong laws, policies and regulations, which sometimes takes Ontario Nature into the courtroom. In 2007, the Ontario government passed what would be the gold standard of legislation for the protection of endangered species, the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, in 2012, the government brought forward an omnibus budget bill that contained amendments that would significantly weaken the ESA. Mobilizing their Nature Network members and many other environmental groups resulted in the government deciding to remove the amendments from the 2012 budget bill.
The victory was short lived as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry circumvented the process that required the approval of the Ontario Legislature by putting forward a regulation under the ESA requiring Cabinet approval only. The regulation hobbles the effectiveness and contradicts the very intent of a law passed by our elected representatives. Harmful industrial activities have exemptions from its provisions in the forestry, early mining exploration, aggregates, hydro, wind facilities, drainage works, infrastructure, and residential and commercial development sectors. Additionally, it sets a lower standard of protection and drastically reduces government oversight of activities harmful to vulnerable species.
Unwilling to stand on the sidelines, Ontario Nature, with CPAWS-Wildlands League, found themselves in court. The outcome they sought was to have the regulation deemed illegal and of no force and effect. Ontario Nature’s lawyers would argue that a regulation couldn’t be inconsistent with the object and purpose of its enabling statute. The intent of the ESA is to protect and recover species at risk. The intent of the exemption regulation according to the MNRF appears to be increasing administrative efficiency and reducing burdens on businesses engaged in activities that might harm species at risk and their habitats. Additionally, Ontario Nature argued that the Minister failed to fulfil a legal requirement to determine whether the regulation would have a significant adverse effect on each the 155 species that would be impacted by the regulation before recommending it to Cabinet. In the end, the court agreed with the government’s arguments that the Minister did not need to consider impacts of the proposed regulation on individual species, and that the purpose of the Act included the promotion of economic development.
Bloodied but not down, Ontario Nature recently won the right to appeal the decision, something that has never been granted to any environmental group with respect to the ESA. The Ontario Court of Appeal is expected to hear the case spring or summer of 2016.
Not for the faint of heart.
NOTE: To support conservation work for species-at-risk: consider becoming a member of Ontario Nature, or, write to Provincial and Federal MP’s about legislation for species-at-risk.