Forests with multiple tree species are 70% more effective as carbon sinks than monoculture forests, study finds
Originally published in the newsletter of the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists: Nature Northwest February 2023, Vol 77(1):15-19.
Its about time the under-appreciated black spruce (Picea mariana) receives the attention and recognition it deserves. It’s resilience, economic importance and pan-Canadian distribution make it the stalwart, humble and inspirational icon of the Canadian boreal forest. Let’s celebrate its’ many contributions to Canadian life and psyche. Forget the geographically limited sugar maple and picturesque wind-swept white pine and let us respect black spruce as the most important and consequential Canadian forest tree.
The black spruce is resilient and has robust, diverse and effective survival strategies. It reflects the legendary Canadian resilience demonstrated by indigenous peoples and early immigrants to cope with harsh and varied environmental conditions and a raw and rugged physical landscape.
See Full Article here too, with more photos. (Thanks to Gerry for permission to reprint this article.)
" ...the black spruce is an iconic Canadian tree species and deserves to be recognized as such. It should be our National Tree."
Thunder Bay newswatch: A provincial workshop on caribou conservation showcased challenges in agreeing to solutions, while a threatened federal protection order looms.
(Ian Kaufman-reporting) THUNDER BAY — A provincial workshop held in Thunder Bay this week illuminated a challenging road ahead in reaching agreement on adequate protections for the threatened boreal caribou. The issue has wide implications not just for the future of the caribou, but for forestry, mining, and hunting in Northern Ontario.
Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault warned earlier this year Ontario is not effectively protecting some boreal caribou habitat, pointing to exemptions under Ontario's Endangered Species Act allowing mining exploration, for example.
Guilbeault said he was required under the Species At Risk Act to recommend a habitat protection order, but the feds gave Ontario until April 2024 to present a plan showing that's not needed. Just how far a protection order would go in limiting activities like resource extraction isn’t clear, but Ontario politicians and industry players responded with alarm, saying it could devastate mining and forestry in the North.
That issue loomed over a workshop organized in Thunder Bay this week by Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to discuss a way forward.
Dougall Media reporters were not allowed to observe the workshop, but spoke with several participants, who described it as a productive, but sometimes tense, conversation between researchers, environmental advocates, political leaders, and industry players with competing values and priorities.
Marathon Mayor Rick Dumas, representing the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) at the meeting, said northerners are sensitive to environmental pronouncements from outsiders. “When you [have] people from the south telling people in the north how we're going to protect your lands, we get our backs up,” he said.
“We're the real environmentalists — we’re the real protectors of the land, because we live here. We want to make sure our landscape and our future for our children and grandchildren are sustainable, but we want to do it in a practical, common-sense way.”
The woodland caribou are listed as threatened both provincially and federally. Researchers estimate there are roughly 5,000 left in Ontario.
The population was once widespread north of Lakes Huron and Superior, but human settlement largely shrunk its range to areas north of Sioux Lookout, Geraldton, and Cochrane, along with some isolated populations along the Lake Superior shoreline and islands.
The province and feds agreed to collaborate on protecting woodland caribou last year.
he agreement generated pushback, with environmental groups charging it ran counter to the Species at Risk Act by prioritizing economic considerations.
Northern Ontario municipalities, by contrast, called the agreement too aggressive, saying it could stifle mining and forestry they depend on.
“We all want to protect the species at risk… but the reality is we also have to protect the species at risk which is us, the humans that live on the landscape,” said Dumas.
Because caribou have virtually disappeared in areas along Lake Superior in the “discontinuous zone,” Dumas argues the province should focus conservation efforts further north, where they’ll also impact industry less.
“We live in the backyard, and I’ve said through this session, there is no caribou on the mainland in the discontinuous zone,” he said. “If there’s no caribou, why are we having impacts? Why don't we focus on areas where the caribou will thrive?”
John Kaplanis, executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Sportsman's Alliance, agrees.
"If we're going to buy into the climate change theory, it dictates the caribou range is going to get pushed north," he said. "If that happens — and it is happening, apparently — then much of what we're doing in the southern range is all for nothing."
"There's not much in the short term we think is worthwhile to do, especially if it impacts our communities so dramatically."
John Fryxell, a biology professor who leads the Fryxell Lab at the University of Guelph, expressed some understanding for that argument. “My personal feeling is recognizing that some sites are going to be very difficult to recover might be a reasonable assertion, if it's balanced with increased efforts in other locations where we're perhaps not dug into such a deep hole,” he said.
Rob Rempel, a retired Ministry of Natural Resources wildlife ecologist who now heads FERIT Environmental Consulting Services, agreed restoring caribou populations further south is a tall order. “There's a lot of logging and other activity going on there, [and] to re-establish care would require a large, large intervention,” he said. “In other areas… the interventions might be a lot less to have a very positive impact on caribou.” “That's really not a science question, in a way,” he added. “It's a decision society and its decision-makers must make: where do we put our effort?”
Kaplanis said hunters also worry about how conservation efforts will impact species like moose, wolves, and black bears, who he said have been made “scapegoats” for caribou decline.
“The big concern has been how it relates to moose management,” he said. “Our position is moose in the continuous caribou range are already at very low densities.”
Researchers say evidence has clearly established competition with moose and wolves is a major factor in caribou decline, but add that’s largely driven by resource extraction — and now exacerbated by climate change.
The combination of a warming north and forestry that replaces older growth forests, friendly to caribou, with new growth more amenable to moose, is increasing moose populations and shifting them north, Rempel said. That in turn fuels an increase in the wolf population, which has increased predation on caribou. He added features like logging roads, while small on the landscape, can have a big impact. Wolves use the pathways to travel large distances more quickly while hunting, giving them an advantage.
Fryxell called strategies like closing off old logging roads one solution, though even that comes with trade-offs. “Those access routes are something people love — it lets us have recreational opportunities, but at the same time it makes it much easier for wolves to have a very high impact,” he said. Rempel acknowledged tension between conservation and economic interests. “I think that definitely complicates efforts,” he said. “The best science-based approach might be that we should stop all logging… but that’s not a reality, because people are important too, communities and economies are important.”
Daniel Fortin, a Laval University biology professor, said the workshop aimed to identify strategies that balance the two.
Some potential actions include habitat restoration, eliminating vegetation preferred by moose to reduce the moose and wolf populations, and leaving larger patches of forest untouched during logging.
Fortin pointed to a federal Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou that suggests leaving a minimum of 65 per cent of caribou habitat undisturbed.
NOMA has argued following the standard could devastate the region’s economy.
Fortin said the correlation has been strongly established by research, however.
“If you log over 35 per cent, on average, you could expect your population has probably a 40 per cent chance to decrease,” he said. “If you log at 40 per cent, it's probably a 50 per cent chance.”
While deep divisions remain on some issues, workshop participants expressed optimism.
“I hope this meeting we've had, as painful as it can be to confront these facts, is the first [step] to try to come to grips with that,” said Fryxell. “We have a lot of sharp dialogue for sure, but at the end of the day, I think we all have a common vision of the kind of northern landscape we'd like to leave for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
Ontario fails, Canada hesitates and caribou lose.
It’s been this way for over a decade since the Government of Canada told Ontario to comply with the federal recovery strategy for boreal caribou. Two months ago, the federal minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) declared that critical caribou habitat is not being effectively protected in Ontario, creating an opportunity for the federal government to compel Ontario to halt and reverse caribou decline. (In fact, the federal government previously made this assessment in 2021, but cabinet failed to act.)
This week, Canada once again wavered and, instead of stepping into provincial jurisdiction to protect caribou habitat from further degradation, granted Ontario yet another extension to show compliance with federal protection standards. We expect that over this next year Ontario will once again fail in its mandate to take meaningful action to recover caribou. It’s likely that instead of protecting critical caribou habitat, it will call upon its industry partners to tap former industry scientists, who will once again declare that what caribou need most is more logging. It’s time their longstanding assertion—that logging vast tracts of remaining critical habitat will lead to caribou recovery—should, as they say, “go the way of the dodo.”
The legal and policy frameworks that apply to boreal caribou in Canada are complex, and this complexity is used by industry and provincial governments to justify the continued lack of effective habitat protection. In Canada, provincial and territorial governments have constitutional rights to manage forestry resources. However, while each province has made the commitment to establish legislation and programs that provide for protection and recovery of species at risk, the federal government has the power to intervene in provincial jurisdiction if at-risk habitat is not effectively protected.
Over decades, industrial logging has steadily eroded the older conifer forests boreal caribou rely on for survival. The meta-analysis conducted by caribou researchers for the federal boreal caribou recovery strategy showed a significant relationship between levels of cumulative disturbance in a caribou range and calf survival, a relationship that multiple regional studies have reaffirmed (e.g., COSEWIC, 2014; Hervieux et al., 2013; Rudolph et al., 2017). Research in 2020 concluded that, based on a nationwide analysis representing the full spectrum of regional variation in environmental conditions, “anthropogenic disturbances are the primary agent contributing to boreal caribou declines across Canada.” Of the 51 existing caribou populations, only 15 are considered self-sustaining; that is, likely to persist without human intervention to restore their degraded habitat (and a halt to new degradation).
To give caribou a chance at long-term survival, the recovery strategy directs provinces to reduce disturbance levels—the combination of roads, clearcuts, seismic lines and other developments—in caribou ranges.
Since provincial and territorial governments also receive taxes from industrial activities, this can and often does lead to, at best, contradictory mandates: to recover declining wildlife and expand industrial activity. Today, six of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories still have no specific laws devoted to species at risk conservation. Laws that do exist, such as in Ontario, have been poorly implemented and often rolled back. For example, despite the lack of evidence that forest management is supporting caribou recovery, in 2020, after years of aggressive lobbying, the Government of Ontario granted the forest industry a permanent exemption from having to comply with the province’s Endangered Species Act—essentially removing any regulatory requirement for the industry to prioritize recovery. In addition, when Ontario released its Forest Sector Strategy in the same year, it announced that it would endeavor to almost double industrial logging in the province by 2030.
Why is protection being delayed?Despite broad agreement among caribou experts about how forest management should be undertaken to sustain boreal caribou and advance their recovery (e.g., through limiting cumulative disturbance within caribou population ranges), significant barriers exist to implementing these strategies.
Ideologies of development and growth without limitsCanada uses natural resources faster than the environment can regenerate them. In North America (and elsewhere), the benefits of continual economic growth are accepted as self‐evident and are for the most part unexamined in mainstream discourse. Industry has co-opted the term “sustainable” to focus primarily on job creation and retention, the so-called “third pillar” in the sustainability stool, while environmental and social needs are often simplified, considered secondary or disregarded altogether. Frequently, significant public resistance arises when actions are taken to establish limits to industrial or other development expansions, even when scientific evidence has shown that much of our consumption is wasteful, unnecessary and does not meaningfully contribute to our quality of life. This sense of the limitless bounty of nature can be traced back to the frontier mindset of colonialists in Canada. The country was established on the false belief that the land was terra nullius, “nobody’s land,” wide open for exploitation. Its large size, with an abundance of water and vast tracts of forest, has given rise to the perspective that significant negative ecological impacts are unlikely and can always be mitigated.
Fear of job lossFor local communities that have historically depended on natural resource extraction, a significant level of precariousness is associated with a reliance on global commodity markets. Job loss can be cyclical, and when large industrial facilities such as mills or mines close, the impacts can be devastating to small, resource-dependent communities that aren’t buffered by much economic diversity. Globalization, shifting demand and automation have impacted these industries significantly.
“...the substitution of routine tasks by machines has been happening steadily in the logging and forestry sector. The advent of skidders, mechanical harvesting, and remote chipping has modernized bush operations. GIS, telemetry, and satellite imagery have also optimized harvest planning and access development. Remote sensing of harvesters can grade, sort, and scale product in one operation. These technologies have led to a significant reduction in employment in the logging and forestry industry.”
Northern Policy Institute (2019)
Ineffective systems to address cumulative disturbanceThe combination of human activities on a forest results in cumulative disturbance. Yet, the separation of government ministries, and lack of regional planning, mean that the overall impact of development is often not coordinated or adequately addressed. Unless landscape-level planning, including regional and strategic impact assessments, is prioritized to put limits on how disturbance accumulates, we will continue to see caribou decline. Recently, cumulative disturbance has been further exacerbated by wildfires, about half of which are directly human-caused or appear to be part of climate change trends toward drier summers in many parts of the boreal forest.
Wildlife populations in Canada are under stress from many factors, including climate change, pollution, invasive species and overexploitation, among others. Yet habitat loss and degradation continue to be key drivers of decline for most species at risk in Canada. Caribou conservation efforts can also help achieve other biodiversity and environmental goals. Setting aside large tracts of boreal forests from industrial development to achieve caribou conservation can help to deliver on Canada’s international protected areas commitments (e.g., Global Biodiversity Framework) and potentially on its climate obligations.
Nearly 800 wildlife species are at risk of extirpation (local extinction) or extinction in Canada. Research has shown that boreal caribou can serve as a focal or “umbrella” species, as the key driver of caribou decline, habitat fragmentation, also negatively affects many other species.
“Protection of the Boreal Caribou’s critical habitat is expected to improve outcomes for 80 other listed species at risk, benefit 90 percent of the bird and mammal species that live in the boreal forest, and provide protection of soil carbon storage hotspots.”
Environment and Climate Change Canada (June 15, 2023)
This means that, if provinces and territories can manage the boreal forest (the vast majority of which is public/Indigenous homelands) for caribou survival and recovery, these decisions should benefit other wildlife that rely on unfragmented older, conifer forests, too.
Instead, loss and degradation of habitat continues. This most recent delay will enable thousands more hectares of caribou habitat to be logged, in addition to forests that burn. It also puts Canada further behind in addressing the biodiversity and climate crises.
Julee Boan and Rachel Plotkin have published a chapter explaining the drivers of delays in protecting critical caribou habitat in the book, Transformative Politics of Nature: Overcoming Barriers to Conservation in Canada. Pre-orders for the book are available at University of Toronto Press and Amazon.
OTTAWA — The federal government has established a timeline for Ontario to take additional steps to protect the boreal caribou and its habitat.
The species was declared to be threatened since 2003.
Stephen Guilbeault, minister of environment and climate change, announced last week that Ottawa is giving the province until April 2024 "to demonstrate equivalency of approach between provincial measures and the federal framework."
According to Guilbeault, that timeline was previously agreed upon mutually.
The minister said that after determining earlier this year that some portions of the boreal caribou's critical habitat on non-federal land in Ontario is not adequately protected, he has recommended that a critical habitat protection order be issued as required under the Species at Risk Act.
Click on the link above for the rest of the article.....
WABAKIMI SONG METERS – HOW WE USE THEM AND WHAT WE LEARN FROM THE DATA: Report from Wabakimi Provincial park Biologist
More analysis from Julee Boan, with the NRDC!
his blog was coauthored with Rachel Plotkin, Boreal project manager with the David Suzuki Foundation in Canada.
Whenever a conservation agreement — a recovery tool under Canada's Species at Risk Act — is announced, it is hailed as a breakthrough. Conservation agreements are intended to signal that the federal government and a partner (e.g., provincial or Indigenous government) are committed to undertaking joint actions that benefit species at risk and enhance their chances of survival.
It has now been a year since Canada entered into such an agreement with Ontario for boreal caribou, on Earth Day, 2022. At the time, environmental lawyers and watchdogs expressed deep concern that the agreement would likely do more harm than good. The “caribou in the room” was that, more than a decade after the federal boreal caribou recovery strategy and accompanying guidance were published, Ontario continued to willfully ignore the fundamentals of critical caribou habitat protection, which are predicated on enforcing limits to cumulative disturbance. The conservation agreement risks the possibility of providing green cover for the province.
So, have caribou’s chances of survival been enhanced under the agreement?
Regrettably, the last time Ontario released any information on the condition of caribou populations was almost a decade ago. The province conducted “Integrated Range Assessment Surveys” between 2010 and 2013 to calculate caribou population size, recruitment rates, survival, population trend and probability of occupancy. The final reports were released in 2014 and survival rates showed disturbing trends of decline.
Despite the lack of evidence that forest management is supporting caribou recovery, in 2020, the Government of Ontario, after years of aggressive lobbying, granted the forestry industry a permanent exemption from having to comply with the province’s Endangered Species Act – the only tool with the capacity to prioritize species recovery.
It is well documented that industrial disturbance in the mature, unfragmented forests on which caribou depend is most likely driving their decline. As such, to understand how caribou are faring under the agreement in the absence of population trend data, we must turn to the province’s management of caribou habitat as the best proxy. In other words, we can look at how disturbance levels have or are likely to change under the conservation agreement in forests where logging and mining occur. According to recent research, “the 65% undisturbed critical habitat designation in Canada's boreal caribou Recovery Strategy may serve as a reasonable proxy for achieving self-sustaining populations of boreal caribou in landscapes dominated by human disturbances”, while acknowledging that some populations may be more or less vulnerable.
In most ranges, the cumulative disturbance has increased; Ontario’s forest management policies continue to lead to more fragmentation of caribou habitat. (Although Ontario hasn’t publicly reported this range disturbance data since 2018.) On the ground, a number of new forestry cutblocks and roads in undisturbed caribou habitat are planned in current Forest Management Plans, as illustrated in our map below.
Map of northern Ontario, Canada. (See Above) Dots show approximate location of new roads and logging planned in undisturbed caribou habitat by 2030. Remaining caribou range is shown in green and existing main roads are shown in red. Data Source: Ontario GeoHub (April 2023) and Ontario Forest Management Plans (Natural Resources Information Portal, April 2023, https://nrip.mnr.gov.on.ca/s/fmp-online?language=en_US).
Ontario’s failure to take the necessary steps to recover caribou and protect existing habitat has not gone unnoticed by the federal government, which has assessed that the province is failing to effectively protect critical habitat. The assessment triggers a mandatory recommendation to Cabinet for federal intervention (called a critical habitat protection order), so we can assume that such an order is either being pulled together or has already been presented.
On the heels of the federal environment minister’s assessment, Ontario committed $29 million to put toward caribou research, monitoring and protection. However, how those funds will be spent remains ambiguous. Resources are necessary to finance caribou recovery, but what Ontario has put on the table lacks a plan and targets for habitat protection and cumulative effects management.
In the absence of the effective protection of critical habitat in Ontario, the federal government must stop the ongoing loss. Despite the predictable fear-mongering by forest industry lobbyists, if Cabinet issues a protection order, it lasts only five years, providing time for the province to put its funding to good use. Since Ontario has declared it could sustainably double the amount of logging in the province, industry’s bemoaning that protecting more caribou habitat will “devastate” northern economies has been met with considerable skepticism.
Federally, the government has committed to halt and reverse nature loss, an essential measure to forestall an imminent sixth extinction crisis. It has the authority under the Species at Risk Act to intervene, and a recent Commissioner on the Environment and Sustainable Development report has critiqued the ministry’s failure to issue these orders. Further, despite the growing use of conservation agreements to advance caribou protection across Canada (eleven conservation agreements have been signed for boreal and southern mountain caribou since 2019), none of these agreements have met the important criteria to protect critical habitat in alignment with the Species at Risk Act.
A pause on new roads and logging in undisturbed areas until critical caribou habitat is effectively protected, while third-party monitoring is conducted to update our understanding of the condition of caribou populations, could slow declines and provide the needed pivot toward recovery.
It’s time for the Ontario government to share how the $29 million will be spent to protect caribou habitat and monitor populations and for Canada to show leadership by implementing a protection order.
April 22nd EARTH DAY Action Request
To: FOW members and supporters
Fr: FOW Conservation Committee
Re: Contact: Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault
Copy to: Ontario Environment Minister David Piccini
Dear Minister Guilbeault,
I am writing to request that you issue a federal protection order for a 5 year moratorium on new woodland caribou habitat degradation/roads on forests like Ontario’s Wabadowgang Noopming WHILE the province of Ontario conducts population surveys with their recently announced $29 million in funding.
(Include any key points as per our backgrounder below)
Steven.Guilbeault@parl.gc.ca Or mail to: House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0A6
Please send a copy to:
David Piccini, david.Piccini@pc.ola.org; Or mail to: Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, 5th Floor, 777 Bay St., Toronto, Ontario M5B 2H7
Please consider a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper.
FOW CONSERVATION UPDATE – April 2023
Friends of Wabakimi are deeply concerned about the continued loss of essential habitat for woodland caribou and associated wildlife species. Boreal caribou are listed as a threatened species under Canada’s Endangered Species Act as well as by Ontario and other provinces.
Ontario defines threatened as “….likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors threatening it.”
The recently adopted 10-year forest plan for the Wabadowgang Noopming forest continues new roads, clearcutting and habitat destruction immediately adjacent to Wabakimi Provincial Park and other surrounding parks & conservation reserves. Two MNRF maps show the areas planned for road building and clearcuts in the near term. (Map 1, Map 2)
FOW actively participated in this forest planning process. The FOW supports challenges to this forest plan as unsustainable for wildlife, habitat and recreational values. The loss of boreal forest habitat is concerning others as well. Here’s a summary of what we know.
Canada’s Federal environment minister Steven Guilbeault has told Ontario they are not effectively protecting the habitat of boreal caribou. Currently Mr. Guilbeault is pressuring Quebec to protect caribou. An Environment Canada five-year federal protective order is one possibility which raises the issue to high prominence; but the practical effect is unclear. (The minister recommends and the federal cabinet decides…a process that’s not public.)
This is after Ontario signed a Boreal Caribou agreement with the federal government with lofty goals of collaboration, monitoring and protection. Immediately, this was criticized by the Wildland League (CPAWS chapter), as lacking actual habitat protections.
On March 15, 2022, Ontario’s minister of environment, conservation and parks David Piccini pledged $29 million over four years to support habitat restoration and protection and research. Lakehead University in Thunder Bay is slated to receive significant funding. Which department will receive the funds and how will this be spent? While monitoring of woodland caribou populations is clearly needed; will it make any difference if habitat loss continues? FOW is reaching out to Lakehead to learn more.
Julee Boan, now with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDE), and previously with Ontario Nature addressed these issues recently and noted Ontario’s weakened Endangered Species Act and the intense push-back from the timber industry.
Our understanding now is that the federal government is still looking for ways to work with Ontario in some sort of cooperative sense.
FOW’s (and others’) position is that there should be a moratorium on new caribou habitat degradation/roads (through the protection order for 5 years) WHILE the province conducts population and habitat surveys with their $29 million in funding.
Ontario Nature Protected Places campaign. FOW has previously proposed areas near Wabakimi Provincial Park further protection, i.e. conservation reserves. These are now indicated on Ontario Nature’s story map.
Protection and Preserving the Boreal Forest
The bigger issue is the boreal forest and ongoing threats. As noted by Environment America, the boreal forest is the Amazon of the North, essential for global climate health. Trees that have grown for decades in the boreal forest (the largest intact forest on Earth, stretching from Newfoundland to Alaska) are chopped down to make tissue products that are used for mere seconds.
Canada is one of 105 signatories to The Glasgow Declaration on Forests, announced in 2021 at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (COP 26). It calls for halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030, and that achieving our global climate targets requires protecting and restoring forests.
The European Union (EU) issued a new regulation last December to not allow products coming from areas of deforestation as well as “degradation.” The EU is a consumer of wood pellets from Ontario and Canadian forests.
Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) has given the industry’s FPAC $750,000 of public money to promote that Canadian forests are not degraded. (NRCAN is the federal ministry that promotes Canadian forest products. NRCAN lobbied against the EU regulation.)
FOW supports petitioning the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, (a consortium of federal and provincial officials), for a clearer definition of “forest degradation,” which should state, “Forest degradation is evidenced by widespread decline in bird habitats and populations, significant habitat fragmentation and shifts in age structure in forests managed for timber extraction, and the fact that only 15 of Canada’s 51 boreal caribou herds have sufficient habitat remaining to survive long-term.”
Environmental and NGO organizations advocating for woodland (boreal) caribou and their habitats include:
David Suzuki Foundation
Ontario Nature (protected places)
Environment North (based in Thunder Bay, ON)
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
The Narwhal (independent environmental journalists)
PEW Memorial Trust
World Wildlife Fund Canada
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
Alberta Wilderness Association
As if these challenges are enough, the province of Ontario is encouraging a mining boom in the boreal forest. Several large projects are proposed in areas both immediate east and west of Wabakimi Provincial Park. Research is needed to understand the environmental risks and economic alternatives.
Summary of Public Comments - NEW
(Paddlers! Have you seen woodland caribou or signs, in SE Wabakimi P.P., Tamarack Lake, Lookout River & Boiling Sands Rive;, Crown land routes- Collins, Fawn, Doe, Tunnel Lake, Rushbay, Vale Creek, D’Alton, Caribou and Little Caribou, Linklater, Raymond River, Big Lake, Big River, Pawshowconks etc. We have do citizen monitoring! We need photographs, video and anecdotal evidence of caribou in these areas. Please let us know! Send to email@example.com)
The Friends of Wabakimi participated in this 10 year forest planning process administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) as detailed on our Conservation Page. The Wabadowgang Noopming Forest (W.N.) is immediately adjacent to Wabakimi Provincial Park; just north and SE of Armstrong, Ontario. It was split off the larger Nipigon Forest and has operated under a two-year contingency plan since.
MNRF has now issued their near final determinations. (See their determination here) This is after FOW participated in the Dec. 6th in-person Issues Resolution Meeting with MNRF staff and many other interested parties.
(Update: Logging/road map 1; Logging Road Map 2)
We achieved some modest goals: 1) A primary logging road was rerouted to lessen the long-term impact on the D’Alton Lake area, currently subject to ongoing harvest. 2) Small increases in buffers around known canoe routes. 3) Made known to MNRF and all parties that there’s a growing constituency that supports canoe routes and essential habitat protection.
But the overall end result promotes forest harvest activities and road building into virgin forest with little regard for the long-term impacts on woodland caribou.
One distressing feature of the MNRF’s decision is the lack of any established monitoring. Referring to the area SE of Tamarack Lake, the decision says, “As there is no known and verified caribou values present in this area at this time there is no area of concern prescription applied for caribou in this location of the forest.” How would they know? No monitoring has been done in recent history. Essentially, MNRF is flying blind when it comes to the long-term impact on essential woodland caribou habitat. They’ve made it clear it may be up to us to provide knowledge of caribou presence.
The FOW Board reviewed these issues at their last meeting and determined, after some strenuous discussion, to support Bruce Hyer and other advocates in efforts to question and potentially challenge this plan insofar as the plan is not sustainable for caribou, park values, ecological values, general recreation, and remote tourism. That could entail being a “Friend of the Court” for an injunction proceeding or filing a petition under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
Regardless, FOW has strived to build good relations with local communities, First Nations, and land managers such as the MNRF. We will continue to do that in the hope that better understandings and collaborative solutions are possible.
What else can we do now or in the future??
FOW Requests Issues Resolution Meeting with MNRF Regional Director -- advocates for road building restrictions & protecting caribou habitat
Fr: Vern Fish, Friends of Wabakimi - President,
Dave McTeague, Friends of Wabakimi - Board Chair
Maurice Poulin, Board of Directors
To: Mitch Legros, Ministry of Natural Resources & Forest
Jeff Cameron, Wabadowgang Noopming Forest Plan Author
Re: Request for Issue Resolution
Date: November 6, 2022
As you will recall, we have been long concerned about, and commented upon, proposed roads and logging in and near three areas adjacent to Wabakimi Provincial Park and inside the special land use zone of CLUPA 2616.
The Crown Forest Sustainability Act directs the Minister to not approve plans which cannot be shown to be sustainable for all forest values. We believe that our suggestions above will result in an FMP that is more sustainable than the proposed draft plan. What are the next steps? What other information do you require?
Vern Fish Dave McTeague Maurice Poulin
President Board Chair Board Member