Open Letter to the Honourable Bill Mauro, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry of Ontario
Dear Minister Mauro:
Re: Is OMNRF the best custodian of the Endangered Species Act?
“The current massive degradation of habitat and extinction of species is taking place on a catastrophically short timescale, and their effects will fundamentally reset the future evolution of the planet’s biota.” — National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)
“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.” — Chief Seattle (1780-1866, Washington State, U.S.)
The very excellent 2007 Endangered Species Act (ESA) was intended to enable the Province of Ontario to do its part to protect biodiversity within our borders. Unfortunately, as of March of last year, we can now lay shameful claim to the fact that there are over 200 species in Ontario listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern.
A recent report released by Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner stated that your ministry is just “going through the motions” with respect to honouring your responsibility to ensure species protection. This attitude of token acknowledgement of the ESA is borne out by your ministry’s decision to eviscerate it by adding the Exemption Regulation of 2012 via the Cabinet to exempt industrial activities from the many provisions in the ESA, thereby drastically reducing government oversight of these activities, which threaten fragile species.
It appears that your ministry sees the 2007 ESA as an impediment to administering your other areas of responsibility, such as forestry, fisheries, mineral aggregates and petroleum resources. There is also the pressure of increasing Ontario’s GDP to satisfy investors and taxpayers that the government is helping Ontario to prosper.
Developing Ontario’s economy at the expense of biodiversity (and the protection of habitats of endangered species on which biodiversity depends) is an extremely short-sighted approach, and sacrifices long-term environmental health, social well-being, and economic prosperity for short-term profits. Species extinction also has important implications for economic and social development. At least 40 per cent of the world’s economy is derived from biological resources. In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change.
If your ministry is unable to safeguard Ontario’s biodiversity by properly implementing the 2007 ESA, perhaps it is time to consider whether it would be more appropriate to transfer this responsibility to another government ministry; for example, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
Please explain to me how your ministry plans to ensure that the Endangered Species Act will be implemented as it was originally written, thereby giving endangered species the protection they need and deserve.
Thank you for devoting your time to my letter. A reply is requested.
Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario
Hon. Glen R. Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
Open letter to local and provincial newspapers