Ontario Enacts Invasive Species Legislation

By Zachary Sheldon

The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is an invasive species that has killed millions of ash trees in southwestern Ontario and other regions. Image Credit: U.S Department of Agriculture, licensed by cc 2.0

The Invasive Species Act received Royal Assent on November 3, after passing through the Ontario legislature on October 21. The act creates a framework to identify invasive species and mechanisms for detecting invasive species in Ontario. It also contains provisions to prevent invasive species from establishing into or spreading through Ontario as well as to remove and eradicate invasive species already in the province. By passing the Invasive Species Act Ontario has become the only jurisdiction in Canada to enact standalone invasive species legislation.

The act enables the Lieutenant Governor in Council to classify an invasive species into two categories: prohibited and restricted. Prohibited invasive species are barred from entry into Ontario and owning or trading any members of these species is prohibited. Restricted invasive species are prohibited from being brought into provincial parks or conservation refuges and they cannot be deposited or released anywhere in Ontario. Owning or trading a restricted invasive species is subject to restrictions and may be prohibited.

Two special preventative measures to help deal with invasive species are included in the legislation. Under certain circumstances, a prevention and response plan can be prepared to react to an invasive species threat. The plan sets out specific measures for the early detection of the species, preventing establishment of the species in Ontario, and methods to control and eradicate the invasive species. The other measure allows the Lieutenant Governor in Council to designate certain areas as ‘invasive species control areas’. When designating the area the Governor specifies control measures to prevent the target invasive species from spreading into the area.

Invasive species are a major threat to native wildlife populations and their habitats across the globe. The National Invasive Species Council states that estimates of the damage from just six invasive species totals $74 billion a year.

Zachary Sheldon is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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