Yesterday, Ontario Nature – one of the province’s most prominent conservation organizations – held a ‘Rally for Nature‘ at Queen’s Park where the organization announced its Charter for Biodiversity. More than 6,000 people across Ontario have signed onto the charter, asking the provincial government and all candidates running in the October election to stop the ongoing loss of biodiversity in Ontario.
Speaking at the Rally for Nature were Tim Grant of the Green Party, Rosario Marchese with the NDP and Sarah Thomson of the Liberal Party in addition to Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature. Each candidate described what actions their party would take on behalf of endangered species and important habitats.
Over the past two centuries, southern Ontario has lost more than 70 percent of its wetland habitats, 98 percent of its original grasslands and approximately 80 percent of its forests. More than 200 plant and animal species in Ontario are now classified as species at risk. Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, pollution and over-consumption of natural resources drive the decline of biodiversity, understood as the variety of all life on earth.
“As a society, we cannot allow the ongoing degradation of Ontario’s important landscapes, plants and animals,” says Caroline Schultz. “The health of our population depends on the health of our ecosystems. We need decision makers to take meaningful steps towards the conservation of our woods, water and wildlife.”
The Biodiversity Charter for Ontario (pdf) outlines 10 ways the Province can stop the loss of wild species and wild spaces by 2020. These steps include supporting the establishment of a network of natural areas across southern and eastern Ontario; adopting an approach to conservation so that common species remain common; and reducing the release of contaminants through meaningful implementation of the Toxics Reduction Act and the Toxics Reduction Strategy.
Currently, ‘Ontario Nature’ is working towards the conservation of these species:
Woodland caribou: In Ontario and nationally, woodland caribou are classified as threatened with extinction. Ontario’s woodland caribou have lost 50% of their historic range since 1880 – a staggering 35,000 square kilometres per decade. If this rate of loss continues, scientists predict that the species may disappear from Ontario by the end of the century. Ontario Nature is urging the government to regulate the caribou’s range under the Endangered Species Act.
Snapping turtle: The snapping turtle is Canada’s largest freshwater and terrestrial turtle. The animal is listed as a species of special concern both federally and provincially. Nevertheless, Ontario permits the hunting of snapping turtles. Ontario Nature has requested a policy review of this allowance as the organization believes the practice will cause a severe decline in a species already threatened with population losses.
Redside dace: The redside dace is listed as an endangered species both federally and provincially. Ontario Nature has been actively involved in the protection of this small fish. The survival and recovery of the redside dace is linked to improving the water quality of streams throughout the Greater Toronto Area.
Butler’s gartersnake: Habitat modification and the draining of wetlands have threatened the survival of this species. Butler’s gartersnake is endangered federally and provincially, and is found in fewer than 50 sites in Ontario. Ontario Nature opposes the proposed permit granted for the developers of the Windsor-Essex Parkway, as the development site is located within the habitat of the Butler’s gartersnake, and would result in severe fragmentation of one of the most important areas needed for the survival and recovery of this species.
Photo (Agawa River in Ontario): Wikimedia Commons