by Cheryl Morris
On Thursday, November 19, 2015, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will host the third presentation of this season’s lecture series, reflective of the theme “Naturally Special Places”. This event will be held in the Social Hall of Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte Ontario at 7:30 pm.
The guest speaker for the evening will be Dr. Anne Bell, Ph.D., Director of Conservation and Education for Ontario Nature. She has entitled her talk “On Guard For Nature—Ontario Nature’s Fight To Uphold our Endangered Species Act”. “Ontario’s naturally special places provide habitat for over 200 species at risk. These plants and animals and the places they rely on for survival are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act (ESA)”, states Dr. Bell. At-risk species include the Blanding’s Turtle, Gray Ratsnake, Rapids Clubtail dragonfly, Eastern Meadowlark, and the iconic Woodland Caribou.
When it was introduced by the Ontario government in 2007, the Endangered Species Act was considered the gold standard law for species protection in North America. However, in 2013, the province introduced a “regulation” which exempts major industries from the law’s protective requirements. “Major industries” include forestry, pits and quarries, mining, and hydro and residential development. In many cases, industries were given a free pass to kill endangered or threatened species and destroy their habitat, as long as the harm was “minimized”. “This is a disappointing decision for Ontario’s endangered and threatened wildlife”, stated Ecojustice lawyer Lara Tessaro. “The Endangered Species Act is intended to put species first—not to let their survival be balanced against competing industrial interests. That would tip the scale towards extinction.”
In an article submitted by Dr. Bell for Ontario Nature, she writes “Environmental protection is the key to a sustainable, prosperous future…MNR is proceeding with a “transformation” plan premised on weaker environmental standards and a dramatic reduction in government oversight of activities affecting our lakes, rivers, forests and wildlife…The government tells us we can’t afford to implement the ESA in the way it was intended. Yet what we really can’t afford is to sacrifice long-term economic, social and environmental health with short-term cost-cutting measures that undo important environmental protections.” The cost-cutting measures described by the MNR were preceded by severe budget cuts to MNR and Ministry of Environment. Since 1993, the ministries most responsible for managing and protecting ecosystem services—MNR and Ministry of Environment—had seen their budgets drop by 64%. They are the two most poorly funded ministries in Ontario.
In September 2015, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted Ontario Nature and Wildlands League the right to appeal the government regulation which would limit species protection by the ESA. The appeal will be argued by lawyers from Ecojustice, including Lara Tessaro, who states “The Court has signaled that our clients’ legal challenge to this regulation, which deprives endangered species of the law’s protection, is important to Ontarians”. During her presentation on November 19, Dr. Bell will explain the ins and outs of this legal challenge and provide an update on the case.
Please join MVFN for this very important presentation. Refreshments and discussion will follow the talk. There is a non-member fee of $5. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley at firstname.lastname@example.org.