Ontario’s Species-at-Risk Act Threatened

The Ontario government wants to water down the province’s Species-at-Risk Act in order to push through its plans to build Highway 413, a mega-project that will cut through 220 wetlands, 85 waterways, the Greenbelt, and the protected habitat of 11 at-risk species, including those of seven birds.

Claiming that the new highway is necessary to facilitate access to new housing north of Toronto, the Ford government is introducing amendments to the Ontario Species-at-Risk Act that reduces by half the amount of time a habitat can be protected. Currently the Act states that if a species-at-risk has occupied a particular habitat in the past 20 years, that habitat must be protected and/or restored. The new legislation would reduce that period to 10 years.

That would mean the end of measures to protect 11 at-risk species, including the Chimney swift, the Barn swallow, the Olive-sided flycatcher, the Bobolink, the Bank swallow, the Eastern meadowlark, and the Wood thrush.

‘This is exactly the kind of project that is threatening rare bird species in Mexico,” says Rodrigo Lopez, author of The Rose-bellied Bunting, and PIBO’s guest birder at this year’s Springsong. On Sunday, May 12, on Pelee Island, Mr. Lopez will deliver a talk on the dangers of such disregard for critical bird habitat. “Governments need to recognize the importance of preserving as much natural habitat as possible,” he says, “not only for bird conservation, but for humans as well.”

The Eastern meadowlark is one of 7 at-risk species threated by Ontario’s proposed Highway 413.
Illustration by Alfred Dugès.