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Paddlers Heading to Wabakimi to Survey Birds and Highlight Need to Expand the Park

Thunder Bay, ON May 9, 2022 – This May, a group of paddlers and naturalists will brave brisk spring waters to paddle an area just east of Wabakimi Provincial Park.

The group is asking the Government of Ontario to expand protected areas adjacent to the wilderness park located northwest of Lake Nipigon. The park contains a vast and interconnected network of more than 2,000 kilometres of lakes and rivers. The expansion would include a virtually roadless tract of boreal forest, that holds great potential for tourism operators in the area, as well as habitat for threatened boreal caribou. During this week-long trip, the group will assess the status of several portages, campsites and canoe routes, while completing surveys for Ontario’s third Breeding Bird Atlas (Atlas-3).

Birds are great environmental indicators, meaning their presence can tell us a lot about the quality of the air, water, and land they inhabit. Community science projects such as Atlas-3 provide data necessary to assess the status of birds by mapping the distribution and relative abundance of the approximately 300 breeding birds in Ontario. Comparing this data to previous projects Atlas-1 (1981–1985) and Atlas-2 (2001–2005) can provide insight into which species may need more conservation attention and help identify important breeding locations.

The greatest threat to breeding birds in Canada is habitat loss. The Government of Canada took an encouraging step in 2021 when it committed to protecting 25% of lands and waters by 2025 and 30% by 2030. Further, in April 2021, the Government of Ontario committed to expanding Ontario’s protected areas network.  Currently, less than 11% of Ontario is protected so to achieve these goals, the government must explore every opportunity.

“This trip is a great demonstration of combining efforts and resources for a common goal of protecting natural spaces and species,” said Kristen Setala, Community Science Intern for Ontario Nature, who will be joining the expedition. She is based in Thunder Bay and will be conducting breeding bird surveys across northern Ontario this summer.

Most of the paddlers are members of the Friends of Wabakimi (FOW), an Ontario non-profit. Vern Fish, President of FOW, said, “We are excited to partner with Ontario Nature to promote greater habitat protection for this important area. This area has many historic canoe routes with stellar wilderness values.”

This bird survey trip is one of many happening across the province. Atlas-3, which runs from 2021 to 2025, is an opportunity for expert and beginner birders alike to participate in collecting valuable information about breeding birds in Ontario. Last year alone, more than 1,000 volunteers participated. For canoe-savvy birders, Wabakimi Provincial Park is a wonderful place to help increase coverage over the expansive northern region while contributing to the cause of permanently protecting more significant environments.

“Civilization is a massive experiment. Wilderness areas and other protected areas are the controls in that experiment. Habitat loss is leading to the decline of many species, including birds. All we can protect in the next few years will help to ensure that birds and other wildlife thrive… or even survive,” said biologist Bruce Hyer who twice received the Ontario Nature’s esteemed Conservation Award for his role in the creation of Wabakimi Park.


Learn More

Media Inquiries

Kristen Setala, Community Science Intern, Ontario Nature
kristens@ontarionature.org | 807-286-1790

Vern Fish, President, Friends of Wabakimi
Vernfish@aol.com | 319-215-7830


Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. A charitable organization, Ontario Nature represents more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 155 member groups across Ontario. For more information, visit: ontarionature.org.

Friends of Wabakimi is a not-for profit corporation that advocates for the protection and preservation of the ecologically rich Wabakimi area. For more information, visit: www.wabakimi.org.