Ontario Nature Action Alerts
Ontario Nature Notice: Crunch time for snapping turtles (and bullfrogs)!
NOTE: The information below from Ontario Nature references a proposal currently open for public comment on the Environmental Registry. As we have noted previously on this website, the Environmental Registry is an important way for the public to send their concerns, information and feedback directly to people involved in making decisions affecting the natural world in Ontario. Once you register at the Environmental Registry site as a user of the site, your comments can be submitted in confidence and become part of the public record. It is easy to do, and useful. To see the files, and to comment you can do so at these links EBR Number 012-9169 and also EBR Number 012-9170 See all the details from Ontario Nature below . . .
. . . . or, go directly to the Ontario Nature page and sign the petitionto Ontario Natural Resources and Forestry Minister Kathryn McGarry:
“I oppose the proposal to continue the hunting of at-risk snapping turtles. The hunt is contrary to the best scientific evidence and your own ministry’s policy objective of sustaining wildlife populations. Snapping turtles cannot sustain the additional pressure of hunting. I also oppose the proposal to continue the hunting of bullfrogs, a species in decline in many parts of the province. The government must end the hunt now before this animal too becomes at risk in Ontario.”
Ontario Nature: It’s Crunch time:
After years of dithering, Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is poised to make a critical decision about the hunting of snapping turtles. Lamentably, the ministry is proposing to continue the hunt, with the addition of some restrictions. Regardless of added restrictions, the continuation of the hunt runs contrary to the best advice of scientific experts.
Make no mistake; this compromise approach will not work for the at-risk snapping turtle, given its late age of maturity, low egg and juvenile survival rates and exceptionally high adult mortality due to an array of human-caused threats. The proposal is open for public comment only until January 30, 2017.
Let the government know that the hunt must end, period. Go to the Ontario Nature page to sign the petition. Secondly one can go to the EBR registry from using the EBR numbers links included above and comment directly to the files.
The plan to continue the snapping turtle hunt is part of a broader policy proposal, to “streamline and modernize the management of small game and furbearer wildlife species in Ontario.” Bullfrogs are also implicated, along with many bird and mammal species. (More on the bullfrog below.)
Admittedly, the snapping turtle proposal is an improvement on the current deplorable situation. Right now, snapping turtles can be hunted year-round in some parts of the province and from July 15 to September 15 in other parts. The daily bag limit is 2 and the possession limit is 5. The proposal is to reduce the season to run from August 15 to September 15, with a daily bag limit of 1 and a possession limit of 2.
A change for the better, but certainly not what is needed. We need your help to convince the government to proceed to a full ban. Here’s why:
- Snapping turtle populations cannot sustain even small increases in adult mortality. The science is clear. Evidence from snapping turtle studies shows that the removal of adults or older juveniles will result in a population decline. Taking just one or two adults from a population on a yearly basis will lead to decline.
- Turtles are the most threatened taxa globally. Freshwater turtle abundances today represent only a fraction of their historical numbers. In fact, all but one of Ontario’s turtle species are at risk. The vulnerability of several turtle species, including the snapping turtle, was highlighted by a recent decision to list them under CITES (the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species, an international agreement among governments), recognizing the pressure that harvest and trade have on this species.
- Snapping turtles face many threats; hunting adds to the cumulative impact. The main threats are habitat loss and road mortality. Other threats include boat mortality, fishing by-catch, mortality from dredging and construction, invasive species, persecution, illegal collection, exposure to toxic contaminants and more. Hunting is just one more peril that these turtles must face, on top of all the others. It’s completely unnecessary, could easily be addressed by the government.
- The hunt contradicts proposed provincial and federal management objectives, which aim to sustain populations. The hunt is not sustainable. It is in direct conflict with the management objectives of both the proposed provincial policy, which is “sustainable populations,” and the proposed federal management plan which is to sustain or increase populations across the country.
- The snapping turtle is a species at risk. How can Ontario justify a hunt for a species that is on the road to extinction? It is also contrary to the purpose of the Endangered Species Act, 2007, which is to protect and promote the recovery of species at risk. If the hunt continues, Ontario will be one of only two provinces in Canada to allow it. Definitely not in good company.
Please join Ontario Nature in calling for an end to the hunting of snapping turtles and bullfrogs by the January 30 deadline. Be sure to reference EBR numbers 012-9170 AND 012-9169.
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
The following is an Action Alert notice posted by Ontario Nature:
Declaring war on wolves and coyotes?
To comment directly on EBR Registry Number 012-6073 go to the Environmental Registry, create an account and submit your comments online by January 18, 2016
On December 17, 2015, Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) posted a nasty surprise on the Environmental Registry: a proposal to weaken wolf and coyote protection in northern Ontario (EBR Registry Number 012-6073). The holiday timing ensured that as little attention as possible would be given to the issue before the January 18 deadline.
The Ministry is proposing to remove the game seal requirement for wolves and coyotes in northern Ontario. This means that anyone with a small game licence would be legally permitted to kill up to two wolves and an unlimited number of coyotes per year. The excuse? Moose populations are in decline. The reality? MNRF’s proposal to increase hunting of wolves and coyotes is unlikely to benefit moose, and may have other unintended negative consequences.
Removing the requirement to purchase a game seal eliminates the hassle for hunters – anyone can shoot a wolf or coyote, on the spot. At the same time, it eliminates an important source of funding for research and MNRF enforcement of hunting regulations (Game seals cost about $11.00 each for Ontario residents). It also gets rid of mandatory reporting requirements regarding wolf and coyote sightings and hunting effort – information which helps inform management strategies for moose and predators alike.
Is this under-funded ministry needlessly shooting itself in the foot?
Indeed, MNRF’s own report, “Factors that affect moose survival,” suggests that the proposal is unlikely to have the intended impact:
“The number of moose killed per wolf pack will not significantly decrease as the pack size is reduced, so removing just a few wolves from each pack will not decrease overall predation on moose. … Only in limited circumstances may small reductions in pack size result in minor reductions in predation that benefit moose populations in localized areas.”
In the event that large numbers of predators are killed, however, there could well be unintended repercussions. Many scientists have underlined the importance of apex predators such as wolves and their “disproportionately significant” role in the survival of native species and ecosystems. The loss of these so-called “strongly interactive animals,” even locally, can “precipitate ecological chain reactions” (M.E. Soule et al, 2005).
For example, regarding wolf removal in Alberta intended to benefit caribou, S.K. Wasser et al. (2011) warn that a rapid expansion of deer populations is likely, with an increased risk of disease transmission, highly variable predator-prey oscillations and marked alterations in vegetation. They recommend that management “prioritize and exhaust feasible actions to control human use on this landscape before triggering more extreme actions, such as predator removal.”
A similarly cautious approach is surely advisable in Ontario as well. Weakening protections for wolves and coyotes in northern Ontario is a lose-lose proposition: if only a few predators are killed, it won’t do much for t moose; if a substantial number are killed it could well trigger a cascade of problems for moose and other species.
Please join Ontario Nature in urging the MNRF to:
1) maintain existing hunting activity reporting and game seal requirements across Ontario; and
2) determine better ways to deal with the moose decline in northern Ontario.
Re. EBR Registry Number 012-6073
Ontario Nature Action Alert: Bird Fatality Light Awareness Issue
Ontario is proposing to weaken legal protection for migratory birds by exempting commercial building owners from a key provision of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). The proposed regulatory amendment would remove the requirement for owners to deal with light reflected from tall commercial buildings, which is known to lead to the death or injury of millions of birds in Ontario every year.
Please join Ontario Nature in helping oppose this proposal (EBR Registry Number 012-3605)!
In 2013, an Ontario court ruled reflected light from building windows to be a ‘contaminant’ under the EPA. The court confirmed that the Province had the legal authority to require building owners to deal with light reflected from windows that were at high risk of killing or injuring birds. Yet, instead of acting upon the findings of the court, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is proposing to give up its power to protect migratory birds from reflected light.
The 2014 – 2015 Annual Report of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario called out the MOECC for abdicating its responsibility:
“… it appears that the ministry’s preferred approach is to ignore its regulatory responsibility and leave it up to property owners and managers to voluntarily follow guidelines and suggested strategies.” (p. 63)
Voluntary approaches will not address the problem. Based on over two decades of work by the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada, it is clear that most commercial building owners will not take voluntary action.
Millions of birds, including many species at risk, will continue to die if the problem of reflected light is not adequately addressed. Sadly, these deaths are preventave. Technical solutions are available, but they will continue to be ignored without the compliance and enforcement measures in place to drive uptake by commercial building owners.
Join Ontario Nature in urging the MOECC not to proceed with this ill-founded proposal. Let the ministry know that Ontarians expect it to strengthen environmental laws, not to weaken them by changing the rules to sidestep its duties.
Please send in comments by the December 04, 2015 deadline. You can go to the Ontario Nature article to submit comments, being sure to reference Environmental Registry #012-3605. Or set yourself up with a user name on the Environmental Registry and you can post comments confidentially to Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner on this issue (Reference Environmental Registry #012-3605) and other notices posted directly on Ontario’s Environmental Registry site on-line.