In December, 2021, the Ontario government made a number of regulatory changes under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (“ESA”), including changes to enable the payment of species conservation charges to the Species at Risk Conservation Fund and to streamline certain conditional exemptions for activities impacting prescribed species at risk.
These changes are a continuation of the government’s recent amendments to the ESA, which were initially introduced in 2019. One of the most significant changes for business is the introduction of a new option that allows proponents undertaking authorized activities to contribute to a fund, the Species at Risk Conservation Fund (the “Fund”), instead of themselves completing beneficial actions for species that are impacted by their activities. The Fund will be administered by a new Crown agency, the Species at Risk Agency (the “Agency”) which is tasked with the protection and recovery of prescribed species at risk. The government’s rationale for the creation of the Agency and a Fund “option” is that, by pooling funds, the Agency will be able to support actions that are large-scale and long-term for the protection and recovery of prescribed species at risk. Species that are subject to the coordinated recovery and protection actions funded by the Fund are referred to as “Conservation Fund Species”.
Revenue to the Fund will come from species conservation charges related to conservation fund species, which may be required by permits issued under the ESA, agreements entered into under the ESA, and activities that are undertaken which impact Conservation Fund Species where the proponent has the option and has chosen to pay the conservation fund fee rather undertaking beneficial actions for the species.