Losing Our Touch
The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario released Part 2 of his 2011/2012 Annual Report to the Legislature on October 2nd, 2012.
Birds and Bats Need More Protection from Wind Power
The benefits of wind power are substantial. Although the impact of wind turbines on birds and bats is minimal, relatively speaking, these risks can be further reduced by strategically locating the turbines away from sensitive locations. The ECO is pleased that the Ministry of Natural Resources’ (MNR) recently released guidelines give special consideration to the potential negative effects of wind turbines on birds, bats and their habitats. However, the ECO is troubled by the gaps in these guidelines that leave some birds and bats vulnerable. Read more in Section 3.2 of the report.
Ontario Needs to Better Prepare for Increased Dry Spells and Droughts
Ontario is not immune to the threat of drought. Severe low water conditions can cause significant social and economic stress for farmers, businesses and residents, as well as affect aquatic ecosystems. Following a dry summer, the Ministry of Natural Resources published an updated Ontario Low Water Response Plan to improve the province’s low water response process. While these amendments made modest improvements, the ECO is concerned that the heavy reliance on voluntary measures and the prohibitive hurdles to obtain a Level III declaration (highest drought alert level) both remain. Moreover, the ECO found that while some aspects of MOE’s permit to take water (PTTW) process have improved, the ministry continues to fail to deliver on numerous core commitments including having regard to ecosystem needs and cumulative impacts in decision making, and promoting water conservation and transparency in the PTTW issuing system. Read more in Section 4.1 and 4.2 of the ECO’s 2011/2012 Annual Report.
Government has “Nothing To Report” from Required Wildlife Monitoring Program after 18 Years
Commercial timber harvesting occurs on over 270,000 square kilometres of publicly-owned Crown forests. The Provincial Wildlife Population Monitoring Program was established to monitor the status of forest wildlife populations, in order to inform Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) forestry policy. The ECO concludes that MNR’s wildlife monitoring program is in a state of abject failure: no consistent list of species has been monitored, and very limited long-term trend information has been collected. After 18 years, the program has failed to achieve its objectives – MNR still has nothing to report. Read more in Section 2.6 of the ECO’s 2011/2012 Annual Report.
A Terrible Waste – the Environmental Costs of Throwing Our Food Away
We may feel guilty for social and economic reasons when we throw away uneaten food. But very few of us consider the environmental costs of tossing that bruised banana. Statistics Canada estimated that, in 2007, Canadians wasted the equivalent of 183 kilograms of food per person. Another study estimated that 40 per cent of food produced in Canada each year – valued at a staggering $27 billion – is not consumed. As a result, valuable resources that went into the production, packaging, transportation and storage of disposed food have been squandered. The ECO believes the province has a role to play in providing consumers with the knowledge, tools and incentives to reduce food waste. Read more in Section 7.1 of the ECO’s 2011/2012 Annual Report.
The Province’s Forgotten Fauna: Marine Mammals in Ontario
Some Ontarians may be surprised to learn that Ontario has more than a thousand kilometres of marine coastline. The shores of Hudson Bay and James Bay host a variety of marine mammals, including polar bears, seals, walruses and whales. Though living far from the public eye, these animals comprise an important part of Ontario’s biodiversity. Unfortunately, these marine mammals face numerous threats, including a warming climate. Ontario has a responsibility to safeguard these mammals by addressing threats under its control including habitat loss and hunting. Read more in Section 2.9 of the ECO’s 2011/2012 Annual Report.
Protecting Algonquin’s Brook Trout from Commercial Timber Harvesting
Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is a freshwater fish native to Ontario. Algonquin Provincial Park holds the highest concentration of natural brook trout lakes in the world. In 2011, two applicants requested that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) review Algonquin Park’s forest management policies, asserting the need for more stringent rules for commercial timber harvesting in the park. The ECO strongly urges MNR to undertake a comprehensive public review of its policy to allow logging in Algonquin – the only protected area in Ontario that permits commercial timber harvesting. In addition, the ministry needs to evaluate the effects of forestry and aggregate extraction practices on the park’s brook trout populations. Read more in Section 2.7 of the ECO’s 2011/2012 Annual Report.