March 21, 2022
To: Public Input Coordinator, Species at Risk Branch, Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks; 435 James St South, Thunder Bay, ON P7E 6T1 Canada firstname.lastname@example.org
Strategic Priorities Directorate; Canadian Wildlife Service; Environment and Climate Change, Canada 15th Floor, Place Vincent Massey
Gatineau, QC K1A 0H3 email@example.com
From: Friends of Wabakimi, Vern Fish-President
Re: Proposed Conservation Agreement for Boreal Caribou in Ontario.
The Friends of Wabakimi is an Ontario Non-profit corporation based in Thunder Bay, Ontario with over 260 members. We advocate for canoe routes and habitat protection in the Greater Wabakimi area which includes numerous provincial parks, conservation reserves and five managed forests.
Our Mission Statement:
Through volunteer stewardship and collaboration with other stakeholders, the Friends of Wabakimi will participate in the planning processes to advocate for protection and preservation of the diverse natural, cultural, recreational and historical resources of the Wabakimi Area.
Friends of Wabakimi appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Conservation Agreement for Boreal Caribou in Ontario. https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-4995 Friends of Wabakimi and our precursor organization, The Wabakimi Project, have paddled and mapped canoe routes in this large area. We’ve seen the beauty of the boreal forest up close, and the occasional caribou as well.
While this proposed agreements states many important goals and plans; we’re not clear on the implementation steps to accomplish them. Our concern is that another agreement serves to “check off the box” with little actual progress to protect boreal woodland caribou as a keystone species; an indicator of the overall health of the ecosystem and the boreal forest.
We would be interested to know what concrete action steps have been taken in the Alberta/Canada agreement to date?
Currently, we’re deeply involved in the planning process for the Wabadowgang Noopming Forest 10-year plan. This prime caribou habitat is bordered on three sides by Wabakimi and Whitesands Provincial Parks. The planned timber harvest is certain to continue the fragmentation of this key forest.
Our forest plan comments (found here) support efforts to minimize the impact of forest harvest and promote restoration of the harvested units. What’s not at all certain though, is that once the boreal caribou leave the disturbed areas, will they ever actually return? Enhanced monitoring might answer that question, but by then it could be too late.
Friends of Wabakimi have proposed three areas for new Conservation Reserves in the Wabadowgang Noopming Forest, areas which are known for woodland caribou habitat. Further, Friends of Wabakimi has proposed new Conservation Reserve for the Misehkow Valley area, which is NW of Wabakimi Provincial Park, south the Albany River Provincial Park and bordered on the west by the Caribou Forest. And we’ve proposed the modest addition of Survey Creek adjacent to the Obonga-Ottertooth Provincial Park.
These modest areas of proposed protections would be an important, but by no means adequate, for the future of boreal woodland caribou. We urge both the respective Ontario and Canada ministries to consider our proposals and similar proposals, which would protect the forest from the fragmentation that threatens boreal woodland caribou.
However, the forest planners and Ontario’s MNRF say that new Conservation Reserves are beyond their mandate and scope. But clearly, this is within the scope of the Species at Risk Branch of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. Serious consideration of these proposed Conservation Reserves should be included in the implementation plans for this Ontario/Canada agreement.
In regards the proposed Ontario/Canada agreement: