Ontario’s Boreal Woodland Caribou Still at Risk
Toronto – In its third annual review of government action to conserve Canada’s boreal woodland caribou, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) finds there has been spotty progress – with too few jurisdictions showing significant leadership in protecting the species that long graced our 25-cent piece. Ontario is one of the jurisdictions CPAWS identifies as lagging in terms of action on the ground.
Under the federal Species-at-Risk Act, all provinces and territories are required to have plans in place to recover their boreal caribou populations by 2017, based on the 2012 Final Recovery Strategy for Boreal Woodland Caribou.
“In Ontario, we are deeply concerned that the situation for boreal caribou has not improved in the past 12 months,” says Anna Baggio, Director, Conservation Planning for CPAWS Wildlands League, the Ontario chapter working on large scale wilderness.
Across Canada, CPAWS observed positive government policy actions in 2015 on boreal caribou conservation in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The organization also noted early positive signs of change in Alberta’s new government’s approach to boreal caribou habitat conservation, but gave all other provinces and territories much more mixed reviews, with the biggest concerns reserved for British Columbia and Ontario.
“We’ve had six years of promises and talking from Ontario and not one hectare set aside for caribou habitat protection,” says Baggio.
To draw attention to the ever increasing footprint industry has on caribou habitat and the Boreal Forest CPAWS Wildlands League is releasing a new video today showing impacts from mineral exploration in the Ring of Fire. While alarm bells are only starting to be rung about the consequences of industrial activities in the Far North, further south the situation is grimmer as at least 3 caribou populations are suffering a long-term decline. These are populations with long history of forestry, road building & other development.
“Collaboration among industry, indigenous groups, municipal leaders and conservation groups in north eastern Ontario is working and making a difference in the Kesagami Range,” says Dave Pearce, Forest Conservation Manager with the group. “In the north west, the situation is quite different” Pearce added.
Boreal Caribou occupy about 2.4 million km2 of Canada’s boreal forest – less than half of their North American range in the 19th century. The biggest threat to their survival is habitat fragmentation, which increases access by predators. Scientists consider boreal caribou as bellwethers of the health of the boreal forest, which also cleanses our air and water and stores vast amounts of carbon within its soils, moderating climate change.
In Ontario, boreal woodland caribou have lost about 40-50% of their original range. The species is considered threatened under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and Canada’s Species-at-Risk Act.
“Until Ontario turns the tide on increasing disturbance in caribou habitat, the long-term survival of this species is in jeopardy,” Baggio said.
View the new video here https://vimeo.com/148702660
CPAWS’ full national report at: http://bit.ly/1N6sZYY
For interviews, contact: Anna Baggio, Director, Conservation Planning 416-453-3285 mobile