Conservation Current

Endangered Species
Act 2007

TOC is pleased to hear that Ontario has recently passed its new Endangered Species Act. An Act that increases the number of protected species and includes mandatory habitat protection, an essential component for the many birds on the list.

But see Other Issues below.

Other Conservation Issues Top

Changes to the
Endangered Species Act

On June 6, the TOC received an email alert from Ontario nature about the new Endangered Species Act. In part it said “ On May 15, 2008, the Ontario government posted a long list of exemptions to the province’s fledgling Endangered Species Act (ESA) on the Environmental Registry website. ... [The exemptions include those for pits and quarries, development and forestry.] ... These exemptions are open to public comment until June 16, 2008 and Ontario Nature urges all its members and supporters to notify the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) that they will not stand for the Act being hamstrung by exemptions that undermine its true purposes.”

Please consider making a public response yourself as outlined in the material to the right.

Clare Mitchell the Nature Network and Regional Programs Manager for Ontario Nature writes: “Looking for something to do this weekend? How about printing the attached Endangered Species Act (ESA) postcard, signing it and putting it in the mail? This postcard addresses some of our concerns with the exemptions being proposed. Postcards must be postmarked by June 16th, 2008.

How to print the attached postcard:

  • use slightly heavier weight paper, brightly coloured will make it stand out more!
  • print the attachment – it is designed to print 2 postcards (either select 2 sided printing or print 1 side and then return the paper to the printer and print the other side

Lynne Freeman has sent the following letter on behalf of the TOC.

June 13, 2008
Regis Cornale
Issues Management Coordinator
Ministry of Natural Resources
Natural Resource Management Division
Fish and Wildlife Branch
Species at Risk
300 Water Street
Peterborough Ontario
K9J 8M5

Dear Mr. Cornale,

Re: EBR Registry No. 010–3320

The Toronto Ornithological Club represents professional ornithologists and serious birders in the Greater Toronto Area. As naturalists we witness first hand every year the continued decline of bird and other animal species along with the habitats that they need to survive. We understand from many hours spent in the field how vital habitat protection is for the continued existence of species that have evolved over millions of years. Time is vital – we cannot afford to wait.

We applauded the passage of the Endangered Species Act and congratulated your government on this forward–looking legislation. However, we are dismayed with the proposed exemptions to the ESA, especially for the forestry industry.

We ask that you:

1. Withdraw the forestry exemption. Logging, logging roads and any disturbance to forest habitat is a risk for species that depend on this habitat.

2. Provide explicit protection for the 42 species directly referenced under the old ESA.

3. Withdraw the transitional exemption for hydro, pits and quarries. Ensure that efforts to provide overall benefit are in place before allowing exemptions.

Once habitat is lost, it cannot be easily restored. We do not agree that any hoped for economic benefit to any of the industries asking for exemptions is justified. Please ensure that we do everything that we can to ensure that future generations will be able to marvel at the diversity and beauty of the other species with which we share this planet.

Yours truly,

Lynne Freeman
Conservation Committee
Toronto Ornithological Club

Carden Alvar Top

December 2007

A session of the Carden Alvar Advisory Committee was held in November and the Committee advised that the progress of final approvals for the creation of the Carden Alvar Provincial Park has been delayed due to the provincial election and change of Ministers .The survey however is complete and the management plan requirements in place.

A broad integrated Carden conservation strategy is being developed that includes consultation with a wide range of interests in the alvar. This will include a review of species at risk that includes bird species. Both OFO and TOC will participate in this review.

The dates for the spring bird counts have been set for May 31st and June 7th. All interested TOC members should provide their names to Margaret Kelch or Don Barnett.

In addition a week of bird point counts will be done at 160 sites for the IBA records. Twenty volunteers will be needed during the week of May 31st. Interested birders should contact Margaret or Don.

The 2008 Carden Nature Festival will be held June 6 ,7 and 8.

Cormorant Management Top

April, 2008

Parks Canada has issued the following material as the next stage in the process for dealing with the Middle Island cormorant problem.

Project Description Draft

Draft EA Screening Report

Protocol Review Form

December, 2007

The TOC has sent an email letter to Tammy Dobie and Marian Stranak of Parks Canada outlining our position related to the Middle Island Cormorant Management options presentation.

November, 2007

If you wish to send an email protesting the proposed Cormorant cull at Middle Island you may want to use the sample provided here. Just cut and paste from the Word document into the appropriate places in your email.

October, 2007

The following are highlights from an article commissioned by the AOU in response to the Double–crested Cormorant Management Plan of 2003 in the United States.

Alternative Management Plans Proposed

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) generated six alternative management options (A – F) that were evaluated on their anticipated abilities to reduce conflicts associated with Double–crested Cormorants, increase management flexibility, and conserve “healthy” Double–crested Cormorant populations. All alternatives require some form of permit application for lethal take, and all allow for nonlethal management methods. In addition, all alternatives require long–term population monitoring.

Alternative A: No Action – This option would leave in place current management policies and practices, which can include non–lethal management techniques, and depredation permits, particularly at aquaculture facilities. Depredation includes shooting adults and young, and destroying eggs and nests.

Alternative B: Non–lethal Management – This alternative would no longer allow lethal take of cormorants or eggs, but would allow continued use of non–lethal control methods (e.g., harassment, habitat modification).

Alternative C: Increased Local Damage Control – This alternative would expand current wildlife damage management to include a broader range of resource conflicts, including lethal control at winter roost sites in 13 states and allowing lethal take at public fish hatcheries (which was prohibited before), and would relax restrictions for take at aquaculture sites and at any site where there is information or judgment that cormorants are detrimental to any resource. This would include detrimental effects on everything from endangered species to vegetation under roost sites, as long as the actions did not affect the viability of the Double–crested Cormorant.

Alternative D: Public Resource Depredation Order – This alternative facilitates increased killing at any life–history stage by allowing a greater array of agencies to authorize depredation orders, including killing birds “about to commit” depredation, or killing birds to prevent depredation, of public fish resources or any other resource (e.g., habitat). It expands lethal control as a management option from 13 to 24 states, including “all lands and freshwater”, and includes public and commercial aquaculture facilities. It also allows take during the winter months (October–April) at roost sites near aquaculture facilities.

Alternative E: Regional Population Reduction – Under this alternative, the United States would be divided into an unspecified number of regions, and in each region a committee would develop Double–crested Cormorant population goals. These goals would be based on “multiagency reviews”, and “other” values would be considered in setting population targets. Control efforts would be fairly open ended, allowing lethal techniques to be used anywhere – nesting, roosting, and wintering sites, aquaculture facilities, and apparently anywhere else cormorants might be found; non–lethal techniques would be allowed, but would be voluntary. The objective would be to achieve the population goal as quickly as possible.

Alternative F: Regulated Hunting – Federal and state wildlife agencies would collaborate to create open seasons and bag limits for hunting Double–crested Cormorants. Hunting seasons would coincide with waterfowl hunting seasons. All other actions allowed under Alternative C also would be allowed.

The USFWS selected Alternative D for proposed action. It will require new regulatory strategies, allow depredation permits on public and private lands, expand lethal take allowed near aquaculture facilities, create new depredation orders, allow lethal take of nests, eggs, young, and adults, and allows for the possibility of creating regional population objectives like those discussed under Alternative E. On 18 November 2003 the USDA/APHIS/WS issued a Record of Decision in which they adopted the Envirnonmental Impact Study (EIS) prepared by the USFWS but decided to implement Alternative E instead of Alternative D. This decision followed earlier advocacy for flyway–level management (Glahn et al. 1999).

AOU Committee Objections

The panel’s review concluded that the Draft and Final EIS are flawed for the following reasons:

1) the scientific evidence supporting the proposed action is weak;

2) the analysis of the data is simplistic;

3) the management plan proposed by USFWS is inadequate and has a poorly evaluated potential to be effective;

4) the consequences of the proposed action on the cormorants are unknown, and appear to be punitive instead of mitigatory;

5) the assessment of success is unclear; in the Draft EIS (DEIS), success is based on public perception and not on scientific results. The Final EIS (FEIS) is not clear on how success will be assessed; and

6) there is no adequate mechanism for monitoring the population effects of the plan, nor for deciding when to terminate management actions. Furthermore, we find that the FEIS fails to discriminate effectively between facts and opinions, uses economic arguments without sufficient demonstration of their accuracy, and disregards geographic scale.

AOU Committee Findings and Recommendations

In conclusion, we find that

(a) there is no good evidence presented in the FEIS that cormorants cause significant fisheries problems except at aquaculture and hatchery sites;

(b) the solutions proposed, primarily increased take, would likely be ineffective at aquaculture and hatchery sites yet potentially destructive to continental cormorant populations;

(c) how ‘success’ of a control program would be defined is unclear; and

(d) there is no monitoring program in place or proposed that could evaluate success, or detect effects on continental cormorant populations.

Consequently, it appears that what the USFWS plans to do constitutes persecution of a bird species rather than a solution to the real problems of declining fisheries and depredation at aquaculture and hatchery sites. We have several recommendations for helping to resolve these issues.

(1) Public perceptions and public attitudes related to the natural history of cormorants need to be addressed. It would be a mistake, in our opinion, to proceed with a purely biological approach to a problem that likely is substantially one of sociology and economics. We suggest that a pro–active program of research, public education, and outreach be undertaken. It is possible that scientific research on the environmental sociology of cormorant–human interactions, performed by sociologists, would provide substantial benefits.

(2) Serious attention must be given to finding innovative and economically appropriate methods for excluding piscivorous birds from fixed site facilities, such as aquaculture ponds and hatcheries, or reducing the attractiveness of such sites. Applying existing methods has often been ineffective, especially at large and extensive aquaculture ponds, developed before avian piscivores were recognized to be such a problem. New solutions are needed and radical redesigns should be considered. Methods being examined include buffer ponds containing fish species more preferred by cormorants, fish refugia, as well as wires and nets. (These last excluders can create hazards of entanglement and death for diverse fish–eating birds) Detailed studies of what attracts cormorants (and other piscivores) to particular ponds (looking at the ponds from a cormorant–perspective) might lead to effective changes in feeding regimes, water–depths, or other unanticipated features.

(3) Further study is needed to understand better the causes and possible mitigation of declining yields in sport–fishery. Single–factor explanations for complex phenomena are unlikely to be helpful in finding solutions to problems that affect people’s recreation or livelihoods.

(4) Management planning would benefit from new data collection on fish take by cormorants, in a variety of regions, including species and size/age classes, and the relationship between local take and fish densities and dynamics at larger (fish population) spatial scales. These data then could be incorporated into computer simulations of likely population responses by both fish and cormorants. These models also need better data on cormorant movement behaviors and likely responses to the creation of population sinks if significant cormorant shooting occurs at aquaculture facilities, and should be specific to each management region.

Lake Ontario Park (including Leslie Street Spit/Tommy Thompson Park)Top

July 2008

Two upcoming events open to the public.

Public Forum

Waterfront Toronto would like to invite you to the next Public Forum for Lake Ontario Park. The design team, led by Field Operations, will present the Master Plan for Lake Ontario Park.

Over 900 acres, the park will become a regional destination and landmark on Toronto’s revitalized waterfront. Public input is an important part of the planning and design process with Waterfront Toronto, and we encourage you to join us at our third Public Forum on this project.

Date: Thursday, July 10, 2008
Time: 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Open House)
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. (Presentation & Facilitated Discussion)
Location: The Solarium – Polson Pier (formerly known as The Docks)
11 Polson Street, Toronto

Lake Ontario Park Site Walk

Come explore the future site of Lake Ontario Park by joining us on guided walking tours.

Date: Sunday, July 13th, 2008
Time: Departing at 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. & 3:00 p.m.
Location: Cherry Beach (located at the foot of Cherry Street)

Tours will commence from the Cherry Beach Lifeguard Station and conclude at Leslie Street. Please dress appropriately as this is a walking tour. Don’t forget comfortable footwear, water and other necessary supplies to keep you protected from the elements! Parking is available at the foot of Cherry Street. If traveling by transit, take Bus Route 172. For more information or to be added to the project mailing list, please contact Amanda Flude at 416–214–1344 extension 276, or

June 2008

June 8, 2008

James Roche
Project Manager
Planning and Design
20 Bay St. Suite 1310
Toronto ON M5J 2N8

Dear James,

The Toronto Ornithological Club (TOC) appreciates the continued opportunity to participate in the consultation related to the draft master plan for Lake Ontario Park. I received a copy of the latest draft last week and would like to share the Club’s views with you.

Our past submissions have focused on the importance of the base lands in particular to the birding experience in Tommy Thompson Park and Lake Ontario Park. As the draft plan indicates the base lands are a key link in the greenway leading from the lake to the Don River valley. They are as a result a special habitat for migratory birds and we are pleased to see this mentioned in the report in addition to the Important Bird Area (IBA) designation for the Spit at large.

It is the latter point that we believe needs to be stressed. As this habitat is small, and consistent with the earlier observations we have made, its scale makes any further fragmentation a serious risk to its viability. As I mentioned in our March correspondence and the late April teleconference with you, Joanna and Richard we continue to be concerned about the plans to further segment the base lands with the proposed ‘discontinuous wetland waterway’ or ponds. We appreciate the potential contamination issues and look forward to hearing the results of the soils investigations in the next phase of the park planning. The sustainability of the water in these ponds is an issue that requires much more research we feel. Perhaps there are other options that require exploration as methods to address the contamination.

During our teleconference you mentioned, and the draft report shows, a commitment of your team to continued participation of stakeholders including the TOC in the detailed design phase of the base lands and we encourage you to do that.

We are pleased to see the inclusion of a Park Lighting Guidelines section to the report and that large areas of the Park are to remain dark .This is essential to bird migration safety. Perhaps you could include in this section a commitment to comply with the recently City accepted Green Standard Bird Friendly Guidelines document.

In addition to lighting the continued prohibition of dogs on the Spit and in the base lands is exceedingly important to protecting migratory and resident birds. We could find no such commitment in the document.

In conclusion James we at the TOC appreciate the challenge in balancing the multiple stakeholder interests in Lake Ontario Park and appreciate our continued inclusion in the planning and design process.


Margaret Kelch Conservation Councillor

April 2008

The TOC continues to make input to the ongoing design process for Lake Ontario Park. The good news is that the previously proposed channel across the baselands has now been removed and replaced with smaller scattered water ponds .TOC has recently corresponded with the Waterfront Toronto team expressing our pleasure at this modification but also cautioning that the sustainability of such small water bodies be carefully reviewed. In addition we continue to express our views that artificial ’round’ boardwalks are not appropriate for this natural area.

The next stakeholder meeting is to occur on May 6, 2008 when all interests will be present to review the latest plan modifications.

March 2008

March 24, 2008

Mr John Campbell
President and CEO WaterfrontToronto
20 Bay St. Ste 1310
Toronto ON
M5J 2N8

Dear Mr. Campbell,

The Toronto Ornithological Club would like to commend you and the Lake Ontario Design team for the recent adjustments to the plan shared at the February 21st 2008 Stakeholder Meeting.

We are very pleased to see the critical changes made to the base lands in the form of removal of the channel .This will assist greatly in preserving the integrity of the small but very productive base lands within the Park .We would however ask that the feasibility of the ponds now being presented be carefully evaluated. Are such small, potentially stagnant, water bodies sustainable?

The inclusion of the urban wilderness image in the presented materials, with the natural pathways and illustration of passive recreation pursuits such as walking and birding, are very positive additions to the plan and entirely consistent with our view of Tommy Thompson Park and Lake Ontario Park.

With respect to the notes of the February 21st meeting on page five I believe it was I who made the comments related to the issue of scale and how small the base lands truly are representing a very delicate critical mass related to the current natural activities including birding that take place there. In the same vein I believe I reiterated that the boardwalks shown, particularly the artificial circular walk, are inconsistent with the ’urban wilderness’ objective of the park.

On page 8 of the presentation I had raised the issue of the ’recreation’ objective and that we be very clear that these recreational pursuits be consistent with those allowed in the Tommy Thompson Park Master Plan. Joanna had requested that we offer some alternate wording which I am doing here. It would be helpful to have the recreation be prefaced with the word passive or naturally based. This is very important when it comes to birding, as Tommy Thompson is currently designated as an Important Birding Area which has a variety of criteria critical to its retention .The continued prohibition of dog walking and lack of motorized vehicles is also essential to keep the type of habitat that exists here.

Finally, there is the ongoing issue related to sports fields and their placement and potential lighting .We were very pleased to see the movement of most of the fields near Cherry St. and are asking that the remaining field near the Hearn be reviewed in terms of its potential impact on the birding habitats. If any night lighting is being contemplated we would ask that it be consistent with the new City of Toronto Green Standard Bird Friendly Guidelines.

The Toronto Ornithological Club would like to thank you for the improved consultation process and the positive changes seen in the recently shared materials.


Margaret Kelch

Conservation Councillor

December 2007

Waterfront Toronto continued its consultations related to the Lake Ontario Park Master Plan(which includes Tommy Thompson Park) through the month of November by holding three task group meetings focused on the three unique areas within the Park, the Baselands, the Bar and the Bay. TOC was represented at the Baselands meeting. Input from these sessions will be incorporated into the revised materials and further review will occur over the next month or so. Public release of the plans is expected in the Spring of 2008. TOC, TFN and Friends of the Spit continue to work together to ensure the bird habitat issues are understood by the project team.