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Faculty researchers urge protection of Ontario's endangered species

November 17, 2006

Source: University of Toronto

Evolutionary biologist helps lead the chargeNov 17/06by Sonnet L'Abbé (about) (email)

A group of U of T researchers have joined with fellow scientists to urge Ontario to "fill in the numerous gaps in species conservation" policy as the provincial government moves this month to update its Endangered Species Act.

Recently, members of the Ontario Scientists for Endangered Species Conservation sent a letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty and to David Ramsay, minister of natural resources, which suggests that the province take a leadership role in protecting endangered species and makes numerous recommendations on how to strengthen the power of the act to preserve Ontario’s natural heritage.

"In terms of being stewards of our species, we haven’t been doing all that well," said Professor Mart Gross of ecology and evolutionary biology who helped spearhead the group letter. "Of the 13 species that have gone extinct in Canada, six have gone extinct in Ontario, including the passenger pigeon and eastern elk."

Gross explained that there are 182 species at risk in Ontario, but only 42 species are actually protected, and that the current process for determining which species are deemed endangered needs more input from the scientific community. He hopes his group’s recommendations will assist the province in its efforts to catch up with federal legislation passed in 2003.

The key points of the letter are that:

° Ontario must adopt a science-based definition and listing of species at risk, as Ontario’s current act lists only a fraction of the province’s ‘endangered’ species;° new legislation must include habitat protection, as habitat loss is the major agent of species loss;° a flexible exceptions process must be put in place to respond to socioeconomic considerations and address any pressing protection issues that may arise;° recovery plans for all endangered species must be developed and implemented; and° a preventative approach must be taken to keep species from becoming threatened.

"We want to support the premier in taking action to preserve huge part of Ontario’s culture," said Gross. "Our animals are part of Ontario – they’re on our coins, they’re in our art, they’re important to us."



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