Bill aims to make MNR consider farmland loss in species protection plans
TORONTO ó The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) may soon face one more hurdle before it can tell farmers what to do about bobolinks or loggerhead shrikes nesting in their fields.
An amendment to the Endangered Species Act could soon force the MNR to make the socioeconomic reality of habitat protection and species recovery plans clear: they could put people out of work and take productive land out of use.
MPP Laurie Scott, the Progressive Conservative critic for natural resources, says the addition of the bobolink to the species at risk list, despite the agricultural exemption until November 2014, was the lightening rod for the issue. Its breeding period coincides with hay cutting in mid-July and farmers would be prohibited from cutting hay until the young have fledged.
The MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock says it could force farms out of business.
"Is it worth having less food production in Ontario or could we find someplace else that tall grass grows for the bobolink to nest? You just canít come with a stroke of a pen and wipe out peopleís livelihoods," says Scott, whose private memberís bill passed second reading by a single vote in early May.
To those that say it doesnít go far enough, Scott says good policy has to start somewhere and while compensation was high on her list, private memberís bills canít propose government spending. But if the bill heads to a legislative committee, as Scott hopes it will in the fall, the wider debate could see the amendment strengthened.