The law

Ontario’s Endangered Species Act protects endangered and threatened species — animals and plants in decline and at risk of disappearing from the province.

If you plan to build a new subdivision or piece of infrastructure that will affect a newly protected species or habitat, you need either a permit or to follow certain rules.

These rules depend on:

  • when the project was approved
  • when work began or work begins
  • a project’s current status
  • the type of project
  • when a species was listed as threatened or endangered

Source law

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

This page is for informational purposes only. You should not rely on it to determine your legal obligations. To determine your legal obligations, consult the Endangered Species Act, 2007 and its regulations.

If you need legal advice, consult a legal professional. In the event of an error on this page or a conflict between this page and any applicable law, the law prevails.

Types of projects

These projects may fall under these rules:

  • residential, commercial and industrial development, including subdivisions
  • roads, utilities and drainage ditches
  • renewable energy facilities such as wind turbines, solar panels and hydro dams
  • transit, electricity and waste management projects
  • advanced mining exploration, mine production and rehabilitation activities
  • activities authorized by a permit under the Endangered Species Act before June 30, 2013

The rules

You must:

  • register the activity and the species affected with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks:
    • before work begins
    • immediately, if work has already started
  • take steps to minimize effects to a newly protected species or habitat
  • create and implement a mitigation plan for each species
  • report sightings of rare species (and update registration documents, if necessary)
  • monitor and report on the effectiveness of these actions
  • prepare an annual report on the plan’s effectiveness

Timing considerations

If a species became newly protected on or after January 24, 2013

Your project must be approved to a certain stage either before the species was listed or within two years of the new species listing date.

You must also:

  • start construction within the following specified timelines:
    • For species listed in 2013:
      • Within 5 years of the date the approval was obtained; or
      • By June 30, 2015, if you reached the final stage of approval before June 30, 2010
    • For species listed in 2014:
      • Within 5 years of the date the approval was obtained; or
      • By June 30, 2016 if you reached the final stage of approval before June 30, 2011

If a species was previously listed and its habitat became newly protected on June 30, 2013, or the species is the Massasauga (Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Population).

Your project must be approved to a certain stage and work must begin by June 30, 2015.

Approval stages

The approvals process depends on the type of project. Approvals are set out in section 23.13 of Ontario Regulation 242/08 (General).

Report a species sighting

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

Learn how to report a rare species

Contact the Natural Heritage Information Centre

How to register

Learn how businesses and individuals can register regulated activities online that involve species at risk.

Minimize effects on a species

You must immediately:

  • avoid work that could affect a species during its reproduction and rearing seasons
  • prevent a species from entering the area (e.g., put up a fence)
  • give the species time to leave the area before starting work
  • protect threatened or endangered plants or move them if it is necessary and feasible
  • get advice/ help before you move an animal or plant

Within 2 years you must:

  • restore habitat that is damaged, if it is feasible
  • create or enhance habitat (e.g., create nesting habitat in another place)

Woodland caribou (forest-dwelling boreal population)

You must not carry out your activity in an area that is being used — or has been used in the past 3 years — by Woodland caribou to reproduce or rear its young.

Mitigation plans

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

You can get this information from:

  • the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
  • 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 area of the project (and include a map)
  • describe the stages of the activity (including start and completion dates)
  • say how you will minimize effects on the species
  • outline how you plan to monitor the effects on the species

Deadlines for plans

You must complete the plan:

  • 2 years from the date you register
  • before you restore, create or enhance habitat

You must keep plans:

  • while you are working and
  • for 5 years after you stop working

You need to give a copy to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks within 14 days, if asked.

Special requirements (new renewable energy projects)

Before you can build a new facility, you need to:

  • prepare a mitigation plan before you apply for Renewable Energy Approval to the Ministry of the Environment
  • if you’ve already applied:  prepare a mitigation plan before your renewable energy application is approved. Submit your mitigation plan to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks promptly after it is prepared.

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks must approve a mitigation plan before work begins that would contravene the ESA. These special requirements do not apply if your renewable energy application was approved on or before July 1, 2013.

Reporting process

You must prepare an annual report that includes:

  • how you minimized effects on a species
  • where the steps were taken (specific locations)
  • how effective those steps were

You must keep the report for 5 years — and provide a copy to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, if asked.

When you need a permit

You may need a permit if your work affects:

  • a species listed before January 24, 2013, if the species is affected as well as its habitat (unless your activity is eligible under a different exemption)
  • Massasauga (Carolinian population)
  • Massasauga (Great Lakes/ St. Lawrence population)
  • Mottled Duskywing
  • Riverine Clubtail
  • any species listed after the date identified in section 0.1 of O. Reg. 242/08

You could still need a permit for projects that are not covered by the rules and timeframes as set out in the regulation. For example:

  • a project has not reached a certain stage of approval
  • construction has not begun within 5 years of an approval
  • a project affects Woodland caribou areas used for reproduction/rearing
  • A project impacts habitat that is newly protected and the project hasn’t reached the required stage of approval

To apply for a permit: contact the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

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