Report on environment efforts unflattering

by Jeff Helsdon | September 13, 2023

Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s report “The State of the Environment in Ontario” presented a picture of how the province is doing in protecting the environment for future generations. That picture is not rosy.

The report’s sections on water quality and nature and wildlife feature factors that are of most interest to anglers and hunters.

The section on water quality identified Lakes Erie and Ontario as being more polluted than Lakes Huron and Superior. Erie’s algae blooms were mentioned as an example, and although phosphorus input is decreasing, it’s not meeting targets. More surprising is two indicators for water quality for rivers and streams were “fairly poor” to “very poor.” Chloride levels, from road salt, were a concern in both inland lakes and rivers and streams. 

On the positive, dissolved oxygen — an indicator for the survival of fish and other aquatic organisms — is improving in Lake Simcoe but it is still shy of targets. Overall water resources have improved in many ways over the past 50 years, however. 

Habitat was one concern for wildlife. Although the Ministry of Natural Resources set targets in 2017 to stop wetland loss in southern Ontario by 2025, and to see an increase by 2030, progress has not been tracked. The number of hectares of forest lost each year is almost four times the number of new hectares. The majority of that deforestation has been in southern Ontario, where the rate doubled from 2009.

Lysyk also noted the province has not met biodiversity strategy targets set in 2011 to conserve at least 17% of land and water systems through well-connected networks of protected lands. Although there is not a lot of tracking of vertebrate populations, one species where there is data is moose. The moose population is within the range of the province’s target upper and lower target limits. The last year with data in the graph tracking populations was 2021. The graph showed the 2021 population higher (low 90,000s) than the period in the mid-1980s (high 80,000s) when data tracking started, but below the peak of more than 115,000 in 2004. To read the fill report visit here.

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