Biodiversity Matters

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The year 2011 marks the first year of the United Nations Decade for Biodiversity. In pursuit of new global targets for the year 2020, governments around the world are engaging in new strategies for the protection and restoration of biodiversity. In this part of the Annual Report, the ECO examines several opportunities for the provincial government to engage solutions for protecting Ontario’s biodiversity.

Ontario’s commercial fisheries have long been without publicly available policies to explain their management. The ECO is encouraged that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) introduced a new draft strategic policy for commercial fisheries in 2010 and intends to further develop a transparent policy framework in future years. However, cage aquaculture in the province continues to lack essential policy and oversight, despite previous assurances that the ministry would correct this issue.

MNR also had several opportunities this year to engage solutions for the protection and recovery of species at risk under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA); the ministry finalized its response statements to the recovery strategies for 13 endangered and threatened species. The ECO is disappointed with these statements, which are supposed to detail what the government will and will not do to protect and recover these species at risk.

In this part, the ECO also reviews public concerns over MNR’s management of species at risk. Two applications for review raised legitimate concerns over the legal hunting and trapping of two species of special concern: snapping turtles and eastern wolves. An application for investigation concerning the alleged destruction of threatened eastern cougar habitat in the Timmins area led the ECO to question MNR’s narrow interpretation of what constitutes damage or destruction of species at risk habitat under the ESA. And an application for review of the management of the forest-dwelling boreal population of woodland caribou led the ECO to conclude that the critical conservation measures necessary for this threatened species’ recovery have not yet been taken.

Finally, a long-term commitment to biodiversity protection in the province will require innovation in how Ontarians live with, and in, nature. Integrating a living component into our planning and building not only will enrich the biodiversity on the landscape but save us energy and money. The question is: do the various ministries that can build and support “green infrastructure” see that they have a role?

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Next section: Ontario's Commercial Fisheries Policies

This is an article from the 2010/11 Annual Report to the Legislature from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.

Citing This Article:
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 2011. "Biodiversity Matters." Engaging Solutions, ECO Annual Report, 2010/11. Toronto: The Queen's Printer for Ontario. 25.