Photo: Has Ontario's Environment Commissioner snapped?

(Credit: wmacphail via Flickr)

By Rachel Plotkin

Ontario's Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller has never been known to pull his punches. His job is to monitor how well the provincial government is doing its job at protecting the environment. His current assessment: He is nervous that Ontario has lost momentum and has an unfortunate "culture of inaction and procrastination." Ouch.

While Ontario has done many good green things in the recent past, in his just released Annual Report, the Commissioner notes that the province only recycles a paltry 23% of the waste produced by its residents. And it continues to chronically under-fund the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Natural Resources — spending less than 1% of its resources on these essential agencies.

While this will spur much media and political gamesmanship in the coming days, one rather buried item in the long list of issues raised in the report drew my attention; Miller's recommendation to ban the hunting of the snapping turtle in protected areas.

These marvelous, fierce looking creatures have survived for more than two hundred million years — yes, they roamed the earth with the dinosaurs and are still around!

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Yet, the snappers may soon be extirpated (a fancy word for locally extinct) in Ontario. Much of the threat to snappers comes from us paving over our wetlands and them not being snappy enough to avoid cars speeding along roadways near where they nest.

Currently, anyone with a recreational fishing license is allowed to "bag" up to two snapping turtles per day during "game reptile" hunting season, despite being listed as a species of Special Concern under the province's Endangered Species Act; a far from cautionary approach to species at risk management.

The Commissioner doesn't buy the province's stall tactic of waiting until 2014 to come up with a plan to deal with snapping turtles. He wants an immediate ban on hunting Snapping Turtles in protected areas.

So let's hope that Ontario can get back on track. In the meantime, the province would do well to listen to the Commish. It's time to stop the hunt and save the snappers.

November 29, 2011

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1 Comment

Nov 30, 2011
10:50 PM

Hi, I think the issue with the snapping turtles among other reptiles and amphibians (salamanders) is a no brainer. Like frogs they are so vunerable to just habitat alone. They could have one or two bad years which they have had. We could lose them within 5 years. i am speaking with experience. I live in southern niagara and I see every season a very noticable decline. Some of the dozen of so snapping turtles I see flatened every year are 40 to 50 years old. Hard to get back!! We need to start putting a heck of a lot more than 1 or 2 % back into protection. We cant dismiss reasearch either cant help if we are just guessing, awarness is a big tool we overlook as well. Scott Blair PortColborne Niagara Region

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