The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is seeking public input on a proposal for a regulation amendment to provide a 10-year exemption for agricultural operations with regard to Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark, commencing December 30, 2015.
Ontario Regulation 242/08 (General Regulation), includes provisions that allow certain activities to proceed that would otherwise contravene the species and habitat protection provisions of the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA).
Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark are grassland birds that are listed as threatened species on the Species at Risk in Ontario List (SARO List). These two bird species nest in high densities in agricultural fields and the breeding period for both species, from May to July, broadly coincides with the time of year that hay is harvested and livestock are pastured. Recognizing that agricultural lands provide the greatest percentage of Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark habitat in Ontario and that the successful recovery of the species depends on the agricultural community, the government passed regulations in 2011, 2012 and 2014 that collectively provided an exemption from the ESA’s species and habitat protection requirements for specific agricultural activities with respect to Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark until December 31, 2015.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has collaborated with the Ontario Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Rural Affairs, and conducted extensive analyses, including consideration of the recovery strategy recommendations, evaluation of the Round Table report, and the results of public engagement on these documents and with the agricultural sector.
Based on this, a 10-year exemption for agricultural operations is proposed through an amendment to Ontario Regulation 197/11, complemented by the Government Response Statement (GRS) for Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark that focuses on establishing a province-wide grasslands stewardship initiative to enhance, protect and maintain grassland habitat across Ontario. Implementation of the proposed regulation would be supported by an explanatory bulletin that explains the intent and interpretation of the regulation.