Public consultation on the proposal for this decision was provided for 45 days from March 13, 2015 to April 27, 2015.
Additionally, a copy of all comments is available for public viewing by contacting the contact person listed in this notice.
The comments were generally supportive of the proposal. Some suggestions for change were provided. The following is a summary of comments on this proposal and MNRF’s response:
• Several comments suggested the policy should require a study proposal to be submitted prior to a decision being made on whether or not the legislative requirements of an overall benefit permit will be met. The revised policy guidance requires that the relevant details of a study proposal, including study question and general methodology, be established prior to the review and assessment of the permit application. This will enable peer-review to allow the inclusion of adequate and appropriate permit conditions related to the study.
• Comments were received that suggested the policy should stress the importance of including Indigenous community input. The revised policy recognizes that in circumstances where a study is proposed to occur within First Nation and Métis communities’ traditional territories, it is recommended that opportunities for engagement of Indigenous communities be outlined during development of the study.
• Comments were received that suggested that requiring peer-reviewed publications could cause delays in distributing results and that consideration should be made for the caliber of publication. The revised policy clarifies alternate approaches to ensuring scientific credibility (e.g., peer-review, making results publicly available) and a reference to “reputable” journals was added.
• Various comments suggested additional clarity was needed relating to the circumstances in which scientific studies would be considered appropriate in an overall benefit permit. The revised policy contains clarification to confirm that overall benefit actions such as filling knowledge gaps must be combined with other actions within the overall benefit plan and/or the application of the study outcomes to provide a tangible benefit to the species.
• Several comments recommended articulating circumstances of when a scientific study would not be considered as part of an overall benefit permit. As a result, the final policy confirms that in circumstances where the study question being proposed is not relevant for the protection or recovery of the species, the scientific study cannot contribute to the broader overall benefit plan, regardless of whether the other requirements related to scientific credibility and making results available are met. Clarification was added regarding the nature of relevant scientific studies and that scientific studies may only be relevant for species with a knowledge gap that is impeding protection or recovery efforts. Similarly, clarification was added that considering the relevance of the study question must also consider whether there is sufficient time or opportunity for the knowledge acquired through the study to benefit the species. For longer-term studies, there may be a requirement to report on progress and interim results.
• Various comments requested clarity of MNRF’s role in peer-review of the scientific study proposal and the selection of reviewers. The revised policy clarifies the role of MNRF staff, and recognizes that MNRF retains decision-making responsibilities under 17(2)(c) of the ESA.
• Several comments requested clarity regarding the sequencing of the scientific study process as part of an overall benefit permit. The revised policy guidance provides additional context about how the guidance relates to the initial activity assessment and the broader overall benefit plan. In addition, a figure was added displaying the process alongside the overall benefit permit process.
• Several comments were received about how the policy guidance on scientific studies relates to the accumulation of Traditional Ecological Knowledge. The guidance has been scoped to establishing requirements for scientific studies that follow the western scientific methodology. Additional considerations relating to the collection of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as part of an overall benefit permit are considered out of scope for this policy guidance. A statement has been added to the final policy to clearly recognize that Traditional Ecological Knowledge can contribute to scientific studies, and that there is an important role for Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, as recognized in section 3.1.