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On January 18, 2019, the Ontario government gave notice on the Environmental Registry that that they were conducting a ten [10] year review of the Endangered Species Act, R.S.O. 2007 (the “Act”) (which came into effect on June 30, 2008).

A Discussion Paper produced by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, has also been posted to inform public comment during the review.

As the Discussion Paper explains, the Act protects species that are listed as “endangered” or “threatened” from being harmed, harassed or killed, and their habitats are protected from being damaged or destroyed.

The Act also recognizes that where activities may have impacts that cannot be avoided, an authorization or compliance with a regulatory provision can allow those activities to occur with conditions to protect the species’ health (e.g. creating and following a mitigation plan).

The Act’s listing process is scientifically driven, and there are two committees that provide the government with related expertise and advice:

(1) The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO): an independent committee with up to 12 experts that use best available scientific knowledge to assess native plants or animals that may be at risk, and to provide a classification.

(2) The Species at Risk Program Advisory Committee (SARPAC): an advisory committee with up to 12 representatives from conservation, business and aboriginal groups that provide advice on matters including species at risk policies, best management practices and stewardship and recovery approaches under the Act.

As the Discussion Paper sets out, since coming into effect, the Act has been criticized for “being ineffective in its aim to protect and recover species at risk, for being unclear, administratively burdensome, time consuming and costly for applicants, and for creating barriers to economic development.”

The Discussion Paper provides a series of Discussion Questions under four areas of focus: (1) “Landscape Approaches”; (2) “Listing Process and Protections for Species at Risk”; (3) “Species Recovery and Habitat Regulation”; and (4) “Authorization Process”.

The government proposal summary says that the review is intended to “improve protections for species at risk” while also looking for ways “to streamline approvals and provide clarity to support economic development.”

Comments can be submitted to the government until March 4, 2019.

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