Environmental and conservation groups today called for a review under the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights of provincial forestry policies that allow for the destruction of over 45,000 migratory bird nests each year, as well as dramatic habitat declines, from industrial logging operations.
The demand was filed with Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner by Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal) and comes on the heels of a report by NAFTA’s environmental watchdog that confirmed the widespread destruction of bird nests and highlighted serious deficiencies in Ontario’s forest management system.
“Although Ontario would prefer to duck this issue, it simply cannot escape the fact that logging companies are destroying tens of thousands of bird nests every year,” said Liat Podolsky, a Researcher with Ecojustice. “Protecting wildlife in our public forests needs to be a priority, not an afterthought.”
The CEC report projected habitat declines for certain migratory birds of up to 35% in Ontario’s Crown forests. Under the provincial forest management regime, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) issues licenses to companies if satisfied that logging will be done sustainably and without declines of wildlife on a provincial scale. In practice the MNR does not have the resources to properly monitor the impact of logging on wildlife.
“Unfortunately, due to current policy and lack of capacity, the province is very much in the dark about the effects of logging on biodiversity,” said Trevor Hesselink of Wildlands League. “It makes sense for logging companies to do the logging but not for the MNR to rely on the same logging companies to do our wildlife protection – these are important responsibilities that cannot be delegated or ignored.”
Earlier this year the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario published findings about ongoing funding shortfalls at the MNR and the consequent negative impact on its ability to carry out wildlife monitoring.
“The problem is the lack of direction from the top,” said Jennifer Baker of Ontario Nature. “The government may be saving money by depriving MNR of the funds it needs to protect wildlife, but our wildlife will pay a heavy price, which is a loss for all of us.”
“We’re asking the province to better protect wildlife habitat now so that the birds in our forests will still be abundant and diverse well into the future,” said Albert Koehl, a lawyer with Ecojustice.
The Application for Review is filed on behalf of a coalition of Canadian conservation groups, including CPAWS Wildlands League, Ontario Nature, Earthroots, ForestEthics, Greenpeace Canada, Nature Canada and Sierra Club of Canada.