by Wendy Francis

On March 20, Minister of Natural Resources David Ramsay introduced Bill 184, which contains a number of improvements to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Ontario Nature, along with other members of the Save Ontario’s Species coalition, applauded the government for taking this step toward much needed protection for Ontario’s endangered plants and animals.

Nearly 200 species are at risk in Ontario. Only 42 of them receive protection from the province’s 36-yearold ESA. Although progressive when enacted, the 1971 ESA is a narrow, inflexible law that fails to recognize the role that proactive stewardship can play.

Bill 184 introduces important changes to the act. The bill confirms that the decision about which plants and animals are endangered is solely a scientific one, not a political one. It expands legal protection to all categories of species at risk. In addition to outlawing harm to endangered species and affording protection of their habitats, the bill requires the preparation and implementation of recovery plans for endangered plants and animals. It also encourages stewardship action among farmers and other landowners and provides flexibility in the management of lands on which species at risk reside. Most importantly, the government introduced a four-year $18 million stewardship package to support stewardship initiatives. These measures are necessary if the new ESA is to be effective, and will make Ontario’s ESA the most progressive endangered species law on the continent.

If Bill 184 does not pass third reading before the house rises in late May or early June, we may not get another chance to strengthen Ontario’s ESA. The October 2007 provincial election will intervene and possibly change the face of politics in Ontario. As ON Nature went to press, a number of forces – including the forest industry, northern municipal leaders, developers and some farming organizations – were aligning against Bill 184 in a campaign of misinformation and delay tactics. Ontario Nature and others have worked long and hard to secure public support to get Bill 184 passed. Let’s hope we were successful.