March 6, 2006

Ontario's species at risk need more protection than current law provides, says new analysis

Ontario's Endangered Species Act provides inadequate protection for most of the province's species at risk, says a new analysis released by a coalition of environmental groups. The act, passed in 1971, does not cover all the species listed by scientists as being endangered, nor does it adequately protect those relatively few endangered species covered under it, says the study.

The Wildlands League, Ontario Nature, Environmental Defence, Sierra Legal Defence Fund and CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) released the findings to launch a new campaign titled Save Ontario's Species (SOS). Its goal is to strengthen Ontario's endangered species law to cover all endangered species and to protect their habitats.

Under the legislation as it stands, 77% of identified endangered species receive no protection, says the study. The groups further point out that endangered species are disappearing from the province. For those species for which trends are known, 76% are either already gone from Ontario or are on their way to disappearing.

"Ontario's endangered species are facing unprecedented decline, from habitat loss, pollution and climate change," said Wendy Francis, director of conservation and science with Ontario Nature. "The Ontario government must act now to ensure the survival of rare plants and animals across Ontario."

Key elements of a renewed Endangered Species Act would include: mandatory protection of endangered species and their habitats; a science-based process for listing species under the legislation; a requirement to prepare and implement recovery plans; and provision for sufficient funding to carry out species recovery and protection programs.

The provincial government signed the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk with the federal government in 1996, and has pledged to update and strengthen the Endangered Species Act, says the coalition. Through the Save Ontario's Species campaign, the groups are urging the province to fulfill its obligations. The campaign is also being supported by Forest Ethics and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.

More information is available on the campaign Web site, www.saveontariospecies.ca.

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