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There will be serious repercussions to the habitats of endangered species if the province bends over backward to accommodate industries, warns an environmental NGO.
Wildlands League, a leading Ontario conservation agency, resigned from the Endangered Species Act Panel earlier this week and wrote to Premier Kathleen Wynne outlining its concerns.
“If the regulations your government is about to enact go forward as contemplated, we fear that the act will be neutered; species survival will be jeopardized,” Janet Sumner, executive director of the league, told Wynne in the resignation letter.
She also said the ministry of natural resources seemed to be offering too many exemptions. But Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti says that is “unequivocally untrue.” “We believe we have reached a very effective balance in the proposed regulatory changes that will continue to safeguard Ontario’s endangered species,” he said.
The ministry embarked on “modernization of approvals” under the Endangered Species Act in September 2012 and invited organizations to be part of a panel. The modernization includes streamlining the way the ministry issues permits and licenses.
(The list of endangered species is updated every few years and so implementation is continuous. There are about 65 species, including the woodland caribou, which are scheduled to get general habitat protection by July 1, 2013.)
But the league says under the guise of streamlining, the ministry is giving permanent exemptions to projects that are in the works and not even encouraging industries to come up with alternatives that could be better for endangered species.
One of the main concerns the league has surrounds the Ring of Fire, the northern Ontario belt that is currently home to a mining exploration project.
Anna Baggio, the league’s director of conservation planning, said if the proposals go through, a mining company would be able to build a mine and a road without looking at alternatives that could be better for the caribou population in that area.
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