Read the new report - Roads: More than lines on a map. Click here for more information
Today, there are approximately 62,000 kilometres of logging roads in Ontario’s southern Boreal forest – a distance more than one-and-a-half times the circumference of the Earth. Roads carve up wildlife habitat into pieces too small to support some large mammals. The presence of humans cause some animals to avoid roads, thus making the remaining habitat patches even smaller. The run- off from road construction and pollution from vehicles damage streams. New roads allow motorized access to previously remote, wilderness areas. Without carefully planning where roads will go and where they will not, the northern boreal forest will follow the same pattern as the south, and Ontario will lose its opportunity to plan proactively for conservation and communities.
Roads are one of the least understood sources of impacts on wild places and wild species. Few people appreciate the dramatic impact of roads.
But despite their low profile, roads – particularly poorly planned roads – are a real and growing threat to wild places.
Roads obviously serve many useful purposes, from allowing access to resources to reducing the isolation of remote communities – including the social and economic costs associated with such isolation. But too often we don’t take the time to look at how we can reduce the many impacts of roads – from breaking apart large areas of intact forest to directly destroying wildlife habitat and spreading pollution – before construction begins.
Worse yet, we have rarely made a comprehensive and proactive effort to balance the need for roads with the need to maintain our shrinking areas of intact forest habitat. As a result, we have rarely put in place proper safeguards for large roadless areas outside of parks and protected areas – places that are becoming increasingly scarce in almost every province.
We only have to look at species such as woodland caribou to see the mark left by roads on our natural areas. Woodland caribou have disappeared from close to half of their traditional habitat range over the past decade in the face of a rapidly spreading network of roads and development.
We can – and must – do better.
Read more on the impact of roads