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Ontario: ECO Report Suggests ‘Small Steps Forward’ Are Not Enough To Counter Threats to Environment, Biodiversity

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Last month, Dianne Saxe, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner, issued a report sub-titled: Small Steps Forward, which notes that "much remains to be done" to improve environmental protection and conservation in the province.

The Commissioner’s two-volume 2015/2016 Environmental Protection Report notes that "while the Ministry of Environmental and Climate Change (MOECC) has, at last, begun posting public progress updates on its outstanding applications for review, it is still responsible for more than 400 outdated Environmental Registry proposals, depriving Ontarians of their legal right to seek leave to appeal on many important decisions."

The inner workings of the EBR registry also come in for criticism in the report, which claims that it is "hobbled by obsolete software and often frustrates public participation."

The report also chides the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF) for failing to use the legislative tools at its disposal to provide effective conservation for Ontario’s species with the result that: "invasive species continued to be a serious threat while some practical and inexpensive precautions were ignored."

Among other things, the Report recommends that:
  • the MNRF should fix deficiencies in Environmental Registry notices for Aggregate Resources Act instruments to ensure the public’s right to be notified and comment;
  • all prescribed ministries should establish processes to ensure that decision notices are posted as soon as reasonably possible after decisions are made; and 
  • the public should be alerted to poor water quality after wastewater overflows and bypasses - specifically, the MOECC should work with Toronto Water to implement procedures for public notification of sewage bypass events as soon as possible.
Recommendations with regard to invasive species management point to the fact that a new Invasive Species Act, 2015 has, so far, resulted in little action.

The Commissioner strikes an urgent tone:
"The Ontario government should take actions now to restrict known pathways of invasive species spread, including: prohibiting the sale of invasive plants; requiring boats to be cleaned and inspected before entering new water systems; and banning live bait from protected areas.

"The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry should tackle invasive species in parks now by... developing prevention, detection and management plans; and allocating funds for ecological restoration that are not tied to visitor revenue."

Urgency is also a keynote when the Commissioner reports on wildlife declines in Ontario, especially highlighting drastic declines in moose and bat populations.


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