June 15, 2009
Early in 2006, the Ontario government announced its plan to review and update existing species at risk legislation in response to recommendations made in Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy. The intent of the new legislation was “to provide broader protection for species at risk and their habitats, and to include requirements for recovery planning, assessment, reporting and enforcement.”

Bill 184, The Endangered Species Act, received first reading in March 2007 and Royal Assent in May 2007. The Act came into force on June 30, 2008, under the control of the Ministry of Natural Resources. The comprehensive legislation is designed to protect not only species of vascular plants, but also mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects…virtually any living organism deemed native to Ontario.

In its review, the provincial government needed to be sensitive to many other existing pieces of provincial and federal legislation related to species at risk. As a result, the Act has the potential to affect each and every Ontario resident. Given the scope of this undertaking, a very broad range of stakeholders was invited to participate in a series of public meetings. Landscape Ontario had an active voice in the process. Concerns were expressed and duly documented regarding what the association felt were serious flaws in the legislation, possibly resulting in a negative impact on members. As much as many stakeholders would have liked to have the legislation amended to address their concerns, this is almost impossible once a bill has been proclaimed. However, the regulations that follow the Bill and guide its implementation are more flexible. LO representatives continued to state the association’s position and provide viable, positive alternatives that would mitigate unreasonable and punitive parts of the legislation and, perhaps more importantly, contribute to protecting species at risk and lead to their recovery. As it now stands, the reporting and documentation requirements for anyone growing and selling any plants listed in the appended schedules of Bill 184 are not particularly onerous, but they must be completed. Members with land holdings that include non-cultivated lands will need to be aware and sensitive to those parts of Bill 184 and its regulations that address habitat protection.

From the earliest discussions, LO representatives maintained the stewardship and custodial roles that LO members play in preserving the environment and LO’s professional members should be seen as part of the solution, not the problem. For complete copies of Bill 184 and its regulations go to www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Species/index.html.