Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ontario budget: Liberals plan downgrade to at-risk species protection- Canada

Another sad day for Canada's natural heritage

The cash-poor McGuinty government plans to downgrade individual at-risk species protection, according to its austerity budget unveiled Tuesday.

The proposal would mandate the Ministry of Natural Resources to place a “stronger focus on ecosystems than on individual species,” while shrinking the number of smaller field offices – and staff – across the province.

With the province reeling under a massive deficit projected to hit $16 billion this year, the Ministry cuts would save $11.2 million over the next three years, including $7.5 million in 2014-2015. The Ministry as a whole would see its expenses dwindle from $713 million to $687 million.

The Liberals call the cuts “consistent” with improvements in science and technology. Through a series of tweaks to environmental legislation, the Ministry would “shift away from a species-by-species approach” to conservation. The Liberals would amend the Endangered Species Act to take a “risk-based approach” to assessing imperiled species.

While the criteria that defines at-risk species would not change, and nothing stands to be delisted, it remains unclear which species, exactly, will be affected. Wildlife monitoring programs, for example, might be scaled back and the Ministry is prepared to tolerate the possibility of losing up-to-date data.
The plan falls in line with wider proposed cuts inside the Ministry. The province would take a big-picture approach to resources management, cutting away species- and site-specific conservation measures and “deliver its service on larger geographic scales.”

Josh Tapper The Star.com Staff Reporter

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