Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce: Endangered Species Act – A Letter to the Government of Ontario
Dear Premier Ford, Minister Phillips, and Minister Yakabuski:
Permanent Recognition of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act as an Equivalent Process to Endangered Species Act
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the 10th Year Review of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act: Discussion Paper, ERO number 013-4143. We look forward to working with your government to improve the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and ensure a balanced approach between a healthy environment and a healthy economy.
The most important action the government must take is a permanent recognition of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA) as an equivalent process to the Endangered Species Act (ESA); either through a perpetual Section 55 Regulation or legislative change to the ESA. The CFSA already provides landscape, stand, and site-level direction for managing, conserving, and protecting species at risk. Having two acts attempting to accomplish the same outcome represents the single greatest piece of red tape and duplication to this sector.
Once this essential first step has been accomplished, we must also ensure the following requirements be embedded in a new, modernized ESA:
- Consideration of climate change on habitat in all species at risk policy
- Cumulative impact of all species at risk policy on a healthy economy
- Socio-economic impact analysis must be completed and shared with impacted stakeholders and First Nations prior to any species at risk policy being implemented
The sector will continue to operate under the CFSA which, by law, requires, forestry operations to follow an approved forest management plan. Guides delivered under the CFSA include operational prescriptions and conditions, which may include reserves, modified operations, or specific conditions on road use and construction in the area near a species at risk and their habitat.
Once a permanent Section 55 Regulation has been passed, or other legislative change made to the ESA recognizing equivalency between the two acts, more work must be done on species at risk policy currently being delivered under the CFSA. Overly precautious timing restrictions on forest operations for wood or Blanding’s turtle, for example, is currently putting people out of work for weeks to months at a time; this is while the sector operates under an existing regulation and through the CFSA.
It is our understanding that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is responsible for species at risk prescriptions currently being delivered under the CFSA. It is our expectation that unworkable prescriptions, such as the turtle example provided above, will be addressed and improved regardless of any future changes made to the ESA.
We have expressed to the previous Government a need to fulfill its duty to consult with First Nations relative to any developments that take place within our territory. We have clearly outlined the lack of information and consultation regarding species at risk prescriptions and the potentially devastating socioeconomic impacts associated with other policy proposals. Despite our efforts requesting the Crown to act honourably through meaningful and advance consultation, the previous Government attempted to rush unbalanced and potentially damaging policy through the approval process without providing adequate information or meaningful consultation with First Nations. It is our expectation that moving forward, your government will take a different approach.
Further, we remain extremely concerned about role of the Federal Government and potential negotiations with Ontario on Conservation Agreements. For example, a MNRF socio-economic analysis determined that up to 2800 jobs could be lost and 8 mills could close as a result of the province meeting the federal disturbance thresholds for caribou. It is our expectation that Ontario will consult with us well in advance of any draft and will not enter into a Conservation Agreement with the Federal Government that will result in lost jobs and lost opportunity.
In order to avoid catastrophic socio-economic impacts, we need permanent recognition that the CFSA is an equivalent process to the ESA, while developing workable species at risk policy, and sending a strong message to the Federal government that Ontario will manage our own resources.
We would be happy to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss the best path forward to ensuring positive outcomes for species at risk while keeping people in this province working.