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© Lora Denis
“Eco terrorist.” “Environmental extremist.” “Latte-sucking, SUV-driving, Toronto tree-hugger.” My colleagues and I have been called many names for advocating for the conservation of caribou. When you live in part of Ontario’s remaining logging empire, as I do, talking about protecting caribou habitat can be like kicking a hornet’s nest.
Blaming environmental advocates for the woes of the forestry industry has become standard practice. At a recent annual conference for the Northern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA), the genuine economic uncertainty created by the U.S.’s potential new softwood lumber tariffs was deftly paralleled with alleged “misinformation campaigns from environmental groups .” This is the same organization that passed a “cease and desist” resolution against Ontario Nature for our efforts to protect species at risk in 2015. I was once astonished to hear a senior government director tell a room full of forest managers that, “we need to target these environmental groups,” while he presented an illustration of a deer with a bullseye on it.
Who are they speaking on behalf of? Certainly it is not the people of northern Ontario at large. In many small communities across my region in northwestern Ontario, I have been pulled aside by someone to tell me in a hushed whisper, “I agree,” or “I share your concerns.” But the implied consequence of not joining the “right team” is to be deemed an outsider, or worse, an enemy.
Yet, decisions currently being made for caribou habitat through the province’s forest management planning process fall outside the protections that would normally be offered to at-risk species (like boreal caribou) under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act (ESA). This is because forestry operations are exempt from meeting ESA requirements to protect and recover threatened and endangered species.
I find it difficult to remain optimistic in such circumstances.
Cumulative disturbance increases in boreal caribou range across Ontario’s managed forest, 2011-2015 animated series. Video created by Ontario Nature. Original source: Elkie, P. & K. Green. 2016. State of caribou ranges, cumulative impacts monitoring 2016 estimates: disturbance models and simulated ranges of natural variation. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Available from: www.olt.tbayteldirectit.com.
But, here is what we know.
Right now, decisions are being made on forests managed for industrial logging that will impact ranges across Ontario, some of which are already considered unlikely to persist based on human-caused disturbance levels.
We will be calling on our members and supporters to press the government to get forest management on track to support caribou recovery. Stay tuned by joining our Advocates for Nature e-news community. We couldn’t continue our work without your ongoing encouragement and support.
Keep fighting. Ontario government and Federal government, of it’s not about shutting down the oil industry, their ONLY concern is money… from any sources especially contributions (bribes) from any and all rape, pillage, plunder industries like forestry. It’s hard and long, probably futile but keep at it. Woodland caribou have been my love since my youth and all I hear are excuses, apologies and false promises… the standard Canadian answer.
This was so eye-opening and disheartening. I expect to hear this from the US but with what’s happening with oil and logging we are equally as bad. If certain industries are exempt from abiding by the ESA then the act is a farce. When will we stop paying lip service to wildlife, nature and the environment and realize that every day we are losing something very precious.