NEWS RELEASE: Santa Won’t Be Counting on Ontario: Ontario’s Boreal Woodland Caribou Still at Risk

TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2015 /CNW/ – 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.

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COUNTING CARIBOU – by Ontario Forest Industries Association (May 2015)

How Did Canada’s Most Populous Ungulate End Up On Ontario’s Endangered Species List?

The caribou is the most abundant wild hoofed animal in Canada. With 3.89 million caribou spread across the country, there are more caribou than deer, moose, and elk combined. It is globally abundant, too, since the caribou of Canada is the same species as the reindeer of Eurasia. So how did the most widespread and populous ungulate end up on Ontario’s Endangered Species List? It’s all about how they were counted.

There are five subspecies of caribou in Canada, with “woodland caribou” being the most widespread. It lives in mountainous areas, mature forests, and very sparse forests, where its preferred food – lichens – are abundant. Woodland caribou number about 1.28 million in Canada, according to the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Canada. Accordingly, it is far too numerous for the subspecies to be considered at risk as a whole.

However, the woodland caribou subspecies has been subdivided into two ecotypes: the “forest-tundra ecotype,” which moves between habitats; and the “forest-dwelling ecotype,” which prefers to live in the woods. One of these ecotypes is less populous, and therefore considered threatened. Needless to say, if any animal population is subdivided enough times, the result is bound to be a very small population that can be considered at risk, threatened, or endangered. That could be what has happened with woodland caribou in Ontario.

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Not here, not now: Nunavut residents, others, still wary of uranium project – by Thomas Rohner (Nunatsiaq News – January 22, 2015)

“Will the caribou be safe? Will it be safe to eat?” Too many unaddressed community concerns persist for many Kivalliq residents, and others, to support Areva Resources Canada’s proposed uranium mine near Baker Lake.

That came across loud and clear from a number of organizations who submitted comments and recommendations on Areva’s final environmental impact assessment of the proposed Kivalliq project to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

How Nunavut’s first uranium mine might affect nearby caribou herds, the absence of a project timeline, and the likelihood that this project would lead to other uranium mining and exploration in the area top the list of unaswered questions.

“In a nutshell, our concern is that there are uncertainties that have not been addressed in the final statement, that we have raised,” said Ross Thompson, executive director of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board, in an interview Jan. 22.

The NIRB received comments and recommendations on Kiggavik from the caribou management board, along with 15 other local, territorial and federal agencies, as well as from a Baker Lake land claim beneficiary.

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Northwestern Ont. transmission line may threaten caribou habitat (CBC News Thunder Bay – December 16, 2014)

A new report says caribou in Ontario’s boreal forest are facing increasing man-made threats — and specifically points out a proposed transmission line running between Dryden, Ignace and Pickle Lake.

Anna Baggio of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Wildlands League said the route would disturb prime caribou habitat.

“Let’s not place permanent infrastructure in these really hammered southern caribou ranges,” she said. “And if you have to build some of this infrastructure — if it’s an absolute imperative — then at least situate it along an existing highway.”

Baggio said the province needs to do a better job of living up to its commitment to protect woodland caribou. “If we can protect woodland caribou habitat, then we can protect the habitat of a whole other suite of species,” she said.

“If we don’t do a good job on Boreal caribou, it’s sort of like a canary in the coal mine for us … It shows us that our practices and our intentions in the Boreal forest are not where they need to be.”

Baggio said the notion of ploughing “a transmission line through some of the best remaining intact caribou habitat … is perplexing.

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