Ecosystem conservation (endangered or threatened species)

The rules for groups and organizations that work to protect, maintain, enhance or restore an ecosystem that could affect species at risk or protected habitat.

Effective July 1, 2013.

The law

Ontario’s Endangered Species Act protects endangered or threatened species — animals and plants that are in decline and disappearing from the province.  

Certain groups and organizations that work to protect, maintain, enhance or restore ecosystems that are native to Ontario can do so, even if the work affects endangered or threatened species.

You need to register the work and follow certain rules.

Source law

This is a summary of the provincial laws. You can find a complete set of provincial rules related to this activity in:

  • Endangered Species Act, 2007
  • Ontario Regulation 242/08 (general)

Who’s eligible

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources
  • conservation authorities
  • municipalities
  • Aboriginal bands
  • universities and colleges
  • an incorporated non-profit or a registered charity (or its trustee) focused on natural heritage work or ecological conservation

What kind of work

To be eligible, the work must:

  • protect, maintain, enhance or restore a native ecosystem (e.g., restore tall grass prairie)
  • be unlikely to have a lasting adverse effect on the local population of the species (as determined by an expert and provided in writing)

The rules

You must:

  • be eligible to do the work (and the work must be eligible)
  • register the work and the affected species with the Ministry of Natural Resources (before work begins)
  • take steps to minimize effects on species and habitat (e.g., avoid work during mating or nesting seasons)
  • create and implement a mitigation plan for each affected species
  • report sightings of rare species (and update registration documents, if needed)
  • monitor:
    • how the work affects the species
    • what steps you took to minimize effects to the species and how effective they were
  • create and maintain a final report that:
    • describes the work and its purpose
    • summarizes the results and effectiveness of the work
    • provides recommendations on how similar work could be done in the future

Report a species sighting

If you see or encounter a member of the species, you must inform the Natural Heritage Information Centre — within 3 months of a sighting or encounter.

To report a sighting:

  • fill out a Rare Species Reporting form online
  • complete each section in the report
  • hit the submit button to send in the report

Report a rare species

Contact the Natural Heritage Information Centre

How to register

Step 1: Download the Natural Resources Registration Guide

  • print a copy or
  • open the guide in a new window or tab

Natural Resources Registration Guide

Step 2: Create a ONe-key ID and Natural Resources client profile

You need a ONe-key ID and a Natural Resources client profile to register online. ONe-key is a secure account that gives you online access to Ontario government programs and services.

Once you have a ONe-key ID, you will be asked to create a business profile for Natural Resources registrations. This profile type is used by:

  • businesses
  • non-profit organizations
  • municipalities
  • government agencies
  • ministries

Individuals are ineligible fo this activity.

Open a new window or tab to create a business profile.

If you already have a ONe-key ID:

  • sign in to ONe-key
  • confirm your Natural Resources business client profile

Open a new window or tab to sign in as a returning business.

Step 3: Register an activity

  • select My Services from the main menu
  • click on Create New Registration
  • select Notice of Activity and Other Notices under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) from the registry options
  • select Ecosystem Protection – Activities to maintain, enhance or restore native ecosystems
  • register the activity
  • submit the registration

Step 4: Receive confirmation

  • receive an official Confirmation of Registration by email
  • keep a copy as proof of registration
  • registration is free

If you can’t apply online:

  • download the registration form and user guide
  • print, complete and mail the form
  • wait for confirmation

Notice of Activity and Other Notices under the ESA form and user guide

Minimize effects on a species

You must take reasonable steps to minimize effects on the species:

  • use experts who specialize in the species and this type of ecosystem work
  • train people doing the work (e.g., how to identify species and minimize effects of work)
  • avoid work during certain sensitive periods (e.g., reproduction, hibernation)
  • keep individual animals out of the work area (e.g., put up a fence)
  • allow adequate time for an animal to leave the area
  • relocate plants or animals to a nearby, safe location, if needed
  • take steps to avoid the spread of disease (among the species or to other species)
  • control erosion and sediment (e.g., stabilize banks)
  • ensure that species can continue to move from one area of habitat to another
  • monitor the effect of the work on the species
  • document the steps you took to minimize effects on a species

Mitigation plans

Mitigation plans should include the best available information on a species.

You can get this information from:

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources
  • Aboriginal traditional knowledge
  • community knowledge (e.g., local nature clubs)

A plan must:

  • be prepared by an expert on the species
  • be updated every 5 years
  • describe the work, including:
    • its nature and purpose
    • all stages of the work
    • timelines (e.g., start and end dates)
  • list geographic location(s) where work will occur
  • list each endangered or threatened species likely to be affected by the work
  • describe the impact of the work on each listed species
  • say how you will minimize the effects of the work on the species
  • outline how you plan to monitor the effects of the work on the species
  • contain an expert written opinion that confirms that work:
    • is unlikely to have a lasting adverse effect on the population of the species
    • will not decrease the size of the species population over the next 10 years or 3 normal life spans of the species (whichever is shorter)
    • will not prevent members of a species from mixing with other local populations or moving between areas of habitat

Deadlines for plans

In most cases, you must have your plan prepared before the work you do affects a species or its habitat.

If another species appears in the work area, you have 60 days to complete a plan (if work will continue for at least another 60 days).

You must keep a plan for 5 years after work finishes — and give a copy to the Ministry of Natural Resources, if asked.

Reporting process

You must maintain a record with the:

  • effects of the work on the species
  • steps you took to minimize adverse effects on the species
  • names of the experts who supervised the work

You must prepare a final report, within 180 days of finishing work. The report must:

  • describe the work and its purpose
  • say how you minimized adverse effects on the species and how effective the work was
  • include a copy of the record created during the work
  • summarize the results of the work and how effective it was overall

When you need a permit

You could still need a permit if work will take place in:

  • fens
  • bogs
  • sand barrens or dunes
  • beach bars
  • alvars
  • cliffs
  • talus

To apply for a permit, contact a local Ministry of Natural Resources office.

Find an MNR district office

Identify a species at risk

If you are unsure about a certain species — and would like help identifying or confirming what it is — you can see photos and get more information on the Endangered Species website.

Get more details about a species

Updated: December 4, 2013