Threatened [caribou] species – by Ron Grech (Timmins Daily Press – September 23, 2011)

Ron Grech is a reporter for The Daily Press, the city of Timmins newspaper. Contact the writer at

Local Liberal candidate stands by government’s commitment to caribou conservation

Mill closures and job losses will be the price for the province’s caribou conservation plan, says sawmill owner John Kapel.

It’s a major concern,” said Kapel, owner of Little John Enterprises in Timmins. “They’re going to be losing just in the Abitibi River Forest 65% reduction in some years which is a huge drastic volume. There will be mills closing, the way I see it. It’s a very serious issue.”

Two weeks ago, Northeastern mayors held a joint press conference in Timmins expressing alarm over a plan to reduce available harvestable land on the Abitibi River forest by 25% immediately and 65% after 20 years.

The Ontario Forest Industries Association has confirmed there are other forests similarly affected. The latest Kenogami forest management unit near Nipigon is looking at a 21% reduction in wood volumes. Lac-Seul forest management unit, located in the Sioux Lookout area in Northwestern Ontario, has a 22% reduction in amount of land available to access wood.

The latest forest management plans for Kenogami Forest near Terrace Bay, and the Lac Seul Forest near Sioux Lookout each propose harvest reductions of more than 20%.

All of these reductions are attributed to the province’s new direction to reintroduce woodland caribou in regions where they haven’t been seen in generations.

“That would like going to some community in Alberta and saying we’ll have no more oil from this area because the buffalo are coming back,” said Kapel.

Provincial election hopefuls for Timmins-James Bay were asked about the impact Ontario’s Endangered Species Act is having on forestry during the all-candidates meeting in Timmins Wednesday night.

As expected, Liberal candidate Leonard Rickard defended the government’s measures to preserve caribou though he suggested it may require further consultation and fine-tuning.

“I’ve had the chance the last few days to meet with Mushkegowuk Council, with the Hearst Forest Management Group,” Rickard told the audience at the O’Gorman High School theatre. “Nobody in any of those meetings has said to me that caribou conservation isn’t a priority. They’ve all agreed it’s an important issue that we need to address it.

“The Liberal government itself has committed to finding a more balanced approach. We’ve agreed that we need to listen to the stakeholders and that I think we’re going to have a very responsive solution to this very important issue.

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