Provincial review of Endangered Species Act sparks concern
Conservationists are worried that protections will be weakened, says Thunder Bay scientist
A Thunder Bay scientist is encouraging people to have their say over the next few weeks, about the province's Endangered Species Act.
On January 18, the Ontario government announced its plan to review the protections, stating in a release that it's "taking steps to improve" the act, and soliciting public input on a discussion paper.
But what the government is saying in that paper is raising alarm bells for conservationists, said Constance O'Connor, the freshwater scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada.
"You know they haven't actually said anything that they're proposing, they're just gathering information," she said.
"But based on the questions that they're asking and the sort of target areas that they're exploring, what I'm concerned [about] is that they're actually going to weaken [the act] even more. And it looks like they're trying to make things easier to get exemptions."
That's worrying, because a 2013 revision already provided more leeway for industry, she said.
O'Connor said she would welcome a review that might strengthen protections for vulnerable species, but other recent moves by the government have left her with little hope that will happen.
"I think that that's maybe one of the reasons that I'm most concerned, is that this follows on the tail of a series of changes that really weaken environmental protections, and weaken transparency, reduce accountability of the government," she said.
O'Connor, who is based in Thunder Bay, said caribou, wolverines and lake sturgeon are among the "iconic northern species" that might be affected by any changes to endangered species legislation. More than 200 species are considered at-risk in Ontario.
The public has until March 4 to comment on the revision. O'Connor said she's hoping that people will speak up.
"I think people are worried. And so I think that if people are worried it's important that you make your voice heard," she said.