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Let's help save the endangered Ontario boreal caribou - logger
By Tony Kryzanowski
Kudos to the Ontario government for taking a level-headed approach to addressing issues related to maintaining adequate habitat for the endangered boreal caribou and taking action to save the endangered Ontario logger.
At the end of January, Ontario announced a proposed three-pronged approach to protecting caribou habitat. It identifies three zones and what types of activities will be allowed in those zones.
The first is a conservation zone, where development could take place if certain conditions are met to protect caribou habitat. The second is a protection zone, where development could take place with authorization under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The third is a Far North zone, where protection and conservation zones would be identified in accordance with community-based land use planning.
Individuals and groups had until March 10 to present feedback on the proposal. The process included meeting with key groups including First Nations, industries, and municipalities.
What I found interesting were the various responses to the government’s proposal; they called into question who really can be trusted within Ontario’s environmental community. Sometimes, they seem terribly prone to delivering shrill, one-sided responses without taking into account the actual soundness of their arguments.
Here’s an example of the type of inflammatory language in a press release issued under the banner of several environmental organizations, some of whom also happen to be signatories to the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA). The CBFA signed last year by 21 major Canadian forest products companies and nine leading environmental organizations already commits industry to suspend logging on nearly 29 million hectares of boreal forest—representing virtually all boreal caribou habitat within company tenures—to allow for intensive caribou protection planning while maintaining essential fibre supply for uninterrupted mill operations.
“Logging, roads and mining throughout the southern boreal forest have squeezed caribou out of its habitat,” claims Anna Baggio, Director, Conservation Land Use Planning with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Wildlands League.
“Now pressure is mounting in the northern reaches of its habitat as well, where rampant exploration activities outpace progress in land use planning,” said Baggio. “How will the caribou survive that?”
Rampant, you say. Seriously? I bet a lot of forestry-reliant communities wish it were rampant. In that case, it might be possible for unemployed forestry workers to save their homes from foreclosure.
“How can the ESA possibly be upheld if industry isn’t required to comply with this vital piece of legislation when it comes to caribou habitat? This will set a dangerous precedent for the future of Ontario’s threatened species,” says Amber Ellis, Executive Director of Earthroots.
I agree with the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA) that it is about time that the Ontario government listened to those individuals most likely to be severely impacted by any ramrod approach to exclude thousands of hectares of forested land from industrial activity, as proposed by the Endangered Species Act.
The impression being given by Ontario’s environmental groups is that industry has not been held up to a high enough standard in its forest management practices, and that unbridled landscape degradation is common practice. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The OFIA points out that Ontario’s forest sector already provides for caribou and caribou habitat under the platinum standard Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA), a fact that is not recognized under the Endangered Species Act.
“At a time when Ontario is supposed to be ‘Open for Business’ we continue to see unnecessary duplication of policy and business-killing red tape,” says OFIA President and CEO, Jamie Lim.
“This will increase costs and threaten jobs at a time when industry can least afford it.”
Furthermore, the Ontario forest industry already has a track record of providing for caribou. Beginning in 1994, the forest sector worked with Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources under the provisions of the CFSA to adopt a system that manages for caribou, in order to restore and enhance habitat where caribou occur in the managed forest.
The system, which sets aside land for up to 70 years as core caribou habitat and ensures there is always sufficient habitat, resulted in the loss of up to 30 per cent of the available fibre in some areas, and there is growing evidence that the approach is working.
Is it any wonder that forest industry representatives and workers become a bit vexed when the leaders of the environmental movement seem quick to never let the facts get in the way of a good story?
While I do not claim to be an expert in boreal caribou behavior, it should be noted that many species experience diminished numbers and extinction on their own in some areas. Certain areas of western Canada have been attempting to preserve woodland caribou numbers for decades, and invariably the biggest impact on caribou numbers has not been loss of habitat, but wolves. That’s right—natural predation. Also, when caribou deliver their young, they don’t stand by and protect them. When confronted, they run away. Is it any wonder their numbers are diminishing? I think it’s called natural selection—and not loss of habitat.
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