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Caribou protection plan lacking

By Carl Clutchey,
October 7 2017

Canada’s declining caribou population likely deteriorated while the provinces, including Ontario, failed to meet a deadline to develop specific protection plans for the animals, a consortium of environmental groups said Friday.

In 2012, the provinces were given five years to come up with their own protection strategies under the federal Species At Risk Act. The groups said that as of Friday, none had done so.

“Less than half of Canada’s caribou populations are likely to survive unless cumulative disturbance is limited,” said Ontario Nature boreal program manager Julee Boan said in a news release.

“Caribou need their critical habitat protected now more than ever,” added Boan, who is based in Thunder Bay.

It wasn’t known Friday if the provinces would face any penalties for not meeting the deadline.

The groups say the provinces need to require forestry companies and other industries that work in Crown forests to ensure their work sites don’t disturb the animals’ habitat.

“Without intervention, wildlife scientists predict the population will decline even further in the next 15 years, losing up to 30 per cent more of the population,” the groups warn.

In 2012, the federal government determined that only 14 out of the country’s 51 boreal herds were not in decline.

For its part, the Ontario government says it has spent $11 million on a caribou conservation plan which has provided the province and the federal government with more information about “where caribou live.”

But the province also notes the economic impact of Ontario’s forestry industry.

“This sector generates over $15 billion for Ontario’s economy, employing about 172,000 direct and indirect jobs, and is a significant part of communities across the province,” said a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry spokeswoman.

The “ministry has been exploring possible solutions that protect species-at-risk and their habitat, minimize impacts on forest operations and wood supply, and provide economic opportunities for communities in Northern Ontario,” the spokeswoman added.