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Ontario Nature Action Alerts

Ontario Nature Action Alert

Unfair chase: The spring bear hunt is bad policy founded on bad science

logo_OntarioNatureHomeThe Ontario government is proposing to extend the two-year spring bear hunt pilot for another five years and to expand it into all areas where fall bear hunting is currently allowed (EBR Registry Number: 012-5485). The excuse? Public safety. The reality? Study after study shows that shooting more bears does not reduce human-bear conflicts.
The government’s fall-back rationale is tourism dollars. Accordingly, the plan is to open up the hunt to trophy hunters from outside the country.Black-Bear_and_cub_Missy_Mandel_banner

Ontario’s spring bear hunt was originally cancelled in 1999. Many felt that the spring hunt was not sporting or fair chase as hungry bears came out of hibernation and were attracted to bait stations where they were shot by hunters waiting on platforms – like fish in a barrel. For the next 15 years, black bear hunting was limited to the fall. But in 2014 the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) decided to reinstate a limited spring hunt as a pilot.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s 2014 – 2015 report provides troubling information about the so-called pilot. In reinstating the hunt, the ministry ignored the advice of its own expert Nuisance Bear Review Committee. It failed to put recommended conditions on the hunt such as: prohibiting the killing of all females; providing proof of the age and sex of the bears killed; and timing the hunt to reduce the vulnerability of females.

One thing the ministry did require was that hunters who had purchased a bear hunter licence tag report on their spring hunting activities. But less than 50 percent of the hunters complied with the requirement, begging the question of what the government could actually have learned from the pilot. As noted by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, “incomplete information on the number, age, sex and location of the bears harvested each year prevents the MNRF from effectively evaluating the hunt’s ecological impact and making informed management decisions.”

Indeed, collecting data on two critical factors that are known to lead to an increase in human-bear conflicts – natural food shortages and the availability of garbage – were not part of the ministry’s proposed approach.

Please join Ontario Nature in opposing the unjustifiable extension and expansion of the spring bear hunt. The government should be listening to experts and scientists who have found no evidence that the spring hunt reduces nuisance activity by black bears. Instead, the government should invest in educational programs and solutions to human-bear conflicts that are supported by evidence and science.

Please send in comments by the November 30 deadline. Be sure to reference Environmental Bill Registry #012-5485. Comments can be sent in via the EBR site also at this link. Search for EBR #012-5485.

Message from Ontario Nature


click on logo for Ontario Nature website

Ontario Nature’s attempt to overturn Endangered Species Act exemptions for major industries fails:

Ontario Nature and Wildlands League sued the Ontario government over a regulation which exempts a wide range of resource extraction and other industrial activities from the requirements of the province’s Endangered Species Act (ESA). We were represented by Ecojustice lawyers. The grounds for the suit were first, whether the Minister of Natural Resources failed to assess the negative impact of his proposed regulation on all of the species that it would put in harm’s way; and second, whether the regulation was contrary to the ESA’s main purpose of protecting and recovering species at risk.

On May 29, 2015 Ontario’s Divisional Court upheld the provincial regulation that exempts many major industries — including forestry, energy transmission, housing, oil and gas pipelines, mineral exploration and mine development, transit, wastewater management companies — from the ESA and allows them to kill species at-risk and destroy their habitat.

This is a very disappointing decision. 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. When it was introduced in 2007, the Endangered Species Act was considered the gold standard law for species protection in North America. Unfortunately, recent years have seen the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry shirk its duties to protect at-risk wildlife.

Some of Ontario’s 155 at-risk species threatened by the regulation include the American eel, Blanding’s turtle, lakeside daisy, eastern hog-nosed snake, Acadian flycatcher and the iconic woodland caribou.

While this is a setback, Ontario Nature remains committed to protecting endangered species.

  • Working with farmers through the ALUS Program to advance our common interest in stewardship for grassland species at risk, like the bobolink.
  • Promoting natural heritage systems planning at the municipal and regional level, including through the 2015 coordinate review of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, Greenbelt Plan, Niagara Escarpment Plan and Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
  • Working with our Youth Council to protect pollinators – several of which are at risk – and calling for restrictions on toxic pesticides, especially neonicotinoids.
  • Advocating for new protected areas and sustainable management in the boreal forest, home to the threatened woodland caribou and many other species at risk.
  • Protecting rare and vulnerable habitats for endangered species on and in areas around our 24 nature reserves.
  • With the help of thousands of volunteers, compiling data on endangered reptiles and amphibians to inform conservation and recovery plans.

We are reviewing the decision with Wildlands League and Ecojustice and considering our options.


Ontario Nature Action Alert – Nix the Neonics

Ontario is poised to take a significant step forward to protect bees and other pollinators by restricting the use and sale of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics). The draft regulation is now open for public comment (Environmental Registry #012-3733). Please join Ontario Nature in supporting restrictions on neonics and asking for even tighter measures to control their use and sale in the province. The deadline for comments is May 7, 2015. Click here to submit your comments through the government of Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights.

There is no doubt that restrictions on neonics are needed. This was confirmed last year by the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides in its Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems, Science continues to emerge confirming the widespread, negative impacts of these pesticides. Significantly, this month the European Academies Science Advisory Council released a report outlining the severe negative effects of neonics on beneficial organisms that play a fundamental role in pollination, pest control and soil formation. Globally, these “ecosystem services” are worth billions of dollars every year to agricultural production.

Simply put: bees, birds, butterflies and other organisms that benefit food production end up the unintended victims of neonics. Sometimes these pesticides kill them outright. In other cases, the pesticides weaken their ability to resist disease, to reproduce, to feed, to navigate, to learn, and so on – a slower but sure path to the same sad end result.

The most widely used insecticide in the world, neonics are water soluble and persistent (i.e., lasting months and even years in the environment). In short, they are a sure recipe for trouble in farm fields and beyond.

Ontario’s proposed regulation confirms the province’s intent to reduce the number of acres planted with neonic-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80 percent by 2017. Ontario Nature supports this target as a reasonable and precedent-setting first step.

Particular strengths of the regulatory proposal include requirements for vendors to make untreated seeds available for sale, and to submit annual reports on sales and pest assessments to the government. Farmers must complete training programs on alternative pest management and ensure that independent, third-party assessors identify pest problems to authorize the use of neonics. Together, these measures will help ensure a transparent, accountable approach to neonic reductions.

Nevertheless, there is room for improvement. The draft regulation restricts only three of the five neonic active ingredients currently registered for use in Canada. While the other two ingredients are not currently used as seed treatments, such products may be registered in future. The government should take a more inclusive, precautionary approach so that restrictions automatically apply to new types of treated seeds, as they may pose equal or even greater risks to pollinators and the environment.

Further, the regulation sets out a slow five-year phase-in of the requirement for independent, third-party pest assessments. We are concerned that this will mean the 80 percent reduction target is not met by 2017.

Finally, there is no public reporting requirement on progress made towards reducing the sale and use of neonics. Given the public interest in achieving reductions, this information – which the government will be gathering – should be made readily available to the citizens of Ontario on an annual basis.   

Together we can ensure that Ontario is a North American leader in addressing pollinator decline. The first critical step is to reduce the use and sale of neonics. Please send in comments by the May 7 deadline. Be sure to reference Environmental Registry #012-3733.

For a copy of Ontario Nature’s full submission, please email me at .


Dr. Anne Bell
Director of Conservation and Education
Ontario Nature

The following information was provided by Ontario Nature as an Action Alert:

Pollinators are critical to our ecosystems. They are unsung heroes – and they’re in trouble! The combination of habitat loss, pesticide exposure, climate change and disease is devastating insect pollinators, both wild (e.g., wild bees, butterflies and moths) and domestic (honeybees).

Rusty-patched bumblebee. Photo Ontario Nature

Rusty-patched bumblebee. Photo Ontario Nature


Pollinators are responsible for an estimated one out of three bites of food that people eat, which is worth billions of dollars to the North American economy. Pollinators ensure the reproductive success of plants and the survival of the wildlife that depend on those plants for food and shelter.

Link to province’s proposal to protect pollinators.

Link to Ontario Nature press release on the government proposal.

Ontario Nature and its Youth Council have initiated a campaign to protect Ontario’s pollinators. Taking a leadership role in this biodiversity crisis, Youth Council members delivered over 1,200 signed postcards to Queen’s Park, asking the Premier to restrict the use of neonicotinoids, the harmful insecticides known to severely affect bee populations. Council members have also been speaking at events, writing blogs, hosting pollinator workshops and creating videos that will be used to demonstrate how Ontario citizens can create pollinator habitat in their backyards and beyond. Working alongside our Youth Council and in partnership with farm, health and other environmental organizations, Ontario Nature is: Advocating for change, particularly the banning of neonicotinoid pesticides in Ontario. Encouraging fellow Ontarians to plant pollinator gardens and native plants. Raising awareness of our pollinators’ plight through media, social media, events and gatherings.

For more information on the youth-led pollinator campaign, please contact Sarah Hedges at

Message from Ontario Nature

Action Alert:

PLEASE NOTE: for up to date information regarding this Ontario Nature Action Alert, go to Ontario Nature’s website.

Canada’s most recognizable butterfly is in trouble. You now have the opportunity to speak up for monarch butterflies and urge the federal government to strengthen its draft management plan for this iconic species. While the plan certainly proposes some strong conservation measures, it is weak in terms of its overall objectives, targets and deadlines for action. We must do more for the monarch. The public consultation period on the draft plan ends on December 8, 2014.

Kens monarchphoto by Ken Allison

The monarch was listed as a species of special concern under the Species at Risk Act in 2003. It has declined dramatically over the past 15 – 20 years and is threatened by many factors including loss of breeding, nectaring and overwintering habitat, and the widespread use of pesticides and herbicides. Last winter, monarchs occupied just 0.67 hectares of their overwintering habitat in Mexico, only about 10 percent of their ten-year average of 6.39 hectares (1994 – 2014).

For many years, conservation efforts focused on habitat loss in the Oyamel fir forests of Mexico. While large-scale illegal logging has now been largely addressed, small-scale logging is an ongoing concern. But, there is a growing recognition that the reduction of milkweed in the monarch’s breeding habitats in the United States and Canada is also driving monarch declines.

The draft management plan identifies broad strategies and conservation measures needed at the international, national and local levels. But to be effective it needs to be significantly strengthened in the following ways.

1. The first objective of the plan should aim to recover Canada’s monarch populations, not just to “maintain the current Canadian contribution to the overall North American monarch population” (p. iii), as stated in the draft plan. Given that this species is known to be in decline, aiming only to maintain the current population simply enshrines a low and unacceptable baseline. Instead, the objective should be to halt the decline and increase the population within ten years.

     Recommendation 1: Revise the first objective so that it reads: “to mitigate threats to the monarch butterfly and ensure that there is sufficient breeding, nectaring and staging habitat in Canada to recover Canada’s contribution to the overall North American monarch population;”

2. The strategy dealing with Conservation and Management of Breeding and Nectaring Habitat (section 6.3, Table 5) does not address the use of pesticides in agriculture. The use of glyphosate herbicide in conjunction with glyphosate-tolerant crops is a key threat to the eastern population of monarchs.

     Recommendation 2: Under the Conservation and Management of Breeding and Nectaring Habitat strategy, include measures to address the impacts of pest control products used in agriculture.

3. The timelines for action under the Conservation Measures and Implementation Schedule (Table 5) are vague and distant (2019 and beyond). There are no responsibilities or roles assigned to any parties, including federal or provincial governments. Similarly, the indicators listed under Measuring Progress (Section 7) lack baselines, concrete targets and deadlines. A plan without these important features provides a very weak framework for decisive, timely action and for measuring solid progress.

     Recommendation 3: Revise the Conservation Measures and Implementation Schedule so that it includes more precise timelines as well as clearly defined roles and responsibilities to ensure timely and effective implementation of the plan. Similarly, revise Section 7 so that it includes baselines, concrete targets and deadlines for assessing progress.

Please join Ontario Nature in requesting a more robust management plan for the monarch butterfly. Remember, the deadline for comments is December 8, 2014.

Your comments can be submitted online:

Or you can direct your comments to:

Recovery Planning
Environment Canada
15th Floor,
Place Vincent Massey
351 St. Joseph Boulevard
Gatineau, QC
K1A 0H3

Please see the sample letter below to send to Environment Canada.

“Dear Environment Canada, 

I urge you to strengthen the draft management plan for the monarch by:

1. setting a clear objective to recover populations in Canada and increase their numbers within ten years;

2. including measures to address the adverse impacts of pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture, a known threat to the species; and

3. including concrete targets, clear roles and responsibilities, and precise timelines for action and for measuring progress.

A plan without these important features provides a very weak framework for decisive, timely action and for measuring solid progress.”

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