By Gerald Rollins
The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has recognized the
role agriculture plays in providing habitat for bobolink and
eastern meadowlark, and the conflict this causes between habitat
conservancy efforts and normal farming practices.
In recognition of the need to balance the protection of these
birds with the interests of Ontario farmers, the Ontario
government has granted producers a three-year exemption to
current bobolink species and habitat protection provisions under
the Endangered Species Act until October 31, 2014 and has
proposed that the eastern meadowlark be added to this exemption.
This exemption is in place for agricultural operations ONLY. The
successful recovery of bobolink and eastern meadowlark will
require the support and participation of the agricultural
This exemption will allow farmers to continue their current
agricultural practices without fear of liability (for 3 years).
You will NOT be fined or charged for cutting your hay and
accidentally killing or damaging a bobolink or an eastern
meadowlark or their nest.
The Ontario government has created a Bobolink Round Table
Advisory Group to provide advice and recommendations on how to
best develop a long-term plan and recovery strategy that
recognizes the needs and concerns of all stakeholders. The
purpose of this advisory group is to seek collaborative, win-win
solutions to balance the needs of agriculture and grassland bird
conservation before the exemption expires.
This advisory group is comprised of agricultural
associations, biologists, nature groups, Ontario Ministry of
Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and MNR and is
co-chaired by the former Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA)
President, Bette Jean Crews and Jon McCracken from Bird Studies
Gerald Rollins (OCA Director) sits on this advisory group for
the Ontario Cattlemenís Association.
OCA is concerned about the lack of detail outlining options
for stewardship programs and compliance incentives to be tied
with this exemption. Grassland agriculture, particularly the
provinceís cow-calf sector, plays a critical role in providing
habitat for bobolink and eastern meadowlark.
The advisory group is currently investigating ways to
conserve these grassland species without delaying or creating a
negative impact on agricultural commerce, particularly haying.
We are confident that a mutually beneficial solution will be
reached. Both MNR and OMAFRA are well aware of the importance of
agriculture to the sustainability of these birds. You canít
sustain bobolink and eastern meadowlark without grassland
agriculture, which is why the province has enlisted our input on