ESA changes end caribou battle – by Ron Grech (Timmins Daily Press – June 4, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – Forestry and municipal officials are hailing a provincial decision which they say finally balances the needs of both environment and industry. “After fighting all these years, this sounds too good to be true,” said John Kapel, sawmill operator and owner of John Kapel Enterprises in Timmins.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources announced Friday it will harmonize requirements under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Crown Forest Sustainability Act. which will reduce red tape and eliminate overlapping regulations.

This is a move the Ontario Forest Industries Association has been asking the government to do for the last six years. The change comes into effect July 1.

Jamie Lim, OFIA’s chief executive, told The Daily Press, “The changes that are being made are based on the recommendations that were brought forward by the ESA panel in January,” which was made up of a varied range of stakeholders. “It will certainly assist in simplifying the rules not only for forestry but also municipalities and other sectors.”

Not everybody is happy. Immediately following the announcement, environmental lobby groups jointly issued a press release decrying the government’s decision.

Anne Bell, director of conservation and education with Ontario Nature, in an interview with The Daily Press, accused the MNR of “essentially caving to industrial interests.”

She said, “The MNR sees industry players as primary clients and they’re dealing with an industry that’s responsible for exploiting resources as well as protecting them. And I think there is a conflict in its (MNR’s) mandate.”

Bell believes the prospects of future development in the mineral-rich James Bay lowlands may have helped to influence the government’s decision.

She said these changes have “definitely got implications for opening things up around the Ring of Fire.”

Lim said the negative response from groups like the David Suzuki Foundation and Ontario Nature is no surprise considering those groups were given a free hand in drafting the original ESA.

“It’s no secret that these special interest groups wrote the Endangered Species Act back in 2006,” said the former Timmins mayor. “They put out an Ivey Foundation report taking credit for the fact they wrote the act. It was a very lopsided act, the way it was written, very difficult to implement on the land base.

“So I think what the government has done is brought forward changes that brings much needed-balance into the implementation of the Endangered Species Act.”

Dan McDermott, director of the Ontario chapter of the Sierre Club Canada, suggested in the jointly issued release by environmental groups that the government’s decision will make woodland caribou vulnerable to extinction.

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