After receiving an open letter from more than 2,700 people, Ontario government indicates appointments to key species at risk committee are coming soon

The Ontario government has been dragging its feet on an important aspect of its own endangered species law.

Specifically, the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) is currently three members short of its eight-member quorum to hold meetings. We need COSSARO to meet and get down to the business of protecting endangered species in Ontario, and that means the Minister needs to appoint at least three more members to the committee.

So last month, we put out a call to the Ecojustice community and asked you to help us remind the Ontario government that we are keeping track of the numbers.

Your response was remarkable.

More than 2,700 people signed an open letter to Bill Mauro, the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, sending a crystal clear message that we expect Ontario to live up to the promise of its own law.

It looks like we got his attention. Minister Mauro has responded to our letter, writing that applications for new Committee members are being reviewed. He also said that a new Committee chair “will be announced soon.”

This is a good sign, and shows that public action can remind governments of the imperative to live up to their commitments. We won’t be satisfied, however, until the Committee meets its eight-member quorum. As of today, the Committee still has only five active members — the same number of members it had as when we first wrote to Minister Mauro.

Remember, without new appointments the Committee will not be able to meet, assess and classify species as endangered or threatened. These classifications are the key step in providing legal protection for Ontario’s most vulnerable species and their habitats.

Species coming up for assessment at COSSARO’s next meeting include the Yellow-banded Bumble Bee, whose numbers have “steeply declined” in recent years, and the Eastern Wolf, of which fewer than 500 remain according to Ontario’s own estimates.

Let’s keep the pressure on.

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Photo by Joel Kluger (Canis latrans) via Flickr