Environmental groups break new caribou conservation agreement between Ontario and Ottawa

A new five-year deal between the federal government and Ontario to protect the province’s beleaguered caribou is a “spectacular failure for the species, environmental groups say.

Ottawa and the province reached an agreement last week, both describing it as “key to managing the caribou recovery,” which also takes into account the economy.

But several environmental groups say they are devastated by the new deal.

The Wildlands League, the David Suzuki Foundation and Ontario Nature said the recently reached agreement encourages the clearing of forest areas that are part of the boreal caribou habitat.

“It’s a spectacular failure,” said Anna Baggio, director of conservation at Wildlands League.

“This agreement includes more habitat destruction.”

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She said the deal does nothing to ensure that logging and mining are curtailed in northern Ontario’s caribou area.

Boreal caribou are an endangered species both federally, under the Species at Risk Act, and Ontario under the Endangered Species Act.

There are about 5,000 caribou left in the province, the federal and provincial governments said.

There is also a small, isolated population along the coast and several islands of Lake Superior.

In 2019, the province, Michipicoten First Nation, and several environmentalists helped move a small number of caribou to various islands in the lake in an effort to save that population.

Several wolves managed to get to the island of Michipicoten when the water froze, creating an ice bridge in 2014. The wolves ended up killing and eating most of the caribou over the next few years. Those wolves were moved to Isle Royale on the American side of Lake Superior.

“It’s shocking,” Ontario Nature’s Julee Boan said of the deal in a statement.

“Not only does this agreement slow caribou habitat recovery, it also drives more habitat destruction.”

The David Suzuki Foundation accused Federal Secretary of the Environment Steven Guilbeault of prioritizing relations with the Ontario government over protecting the environment.

“We’ve seen minister after minister and bureaucrat after bureaucrat wait for Ontario to do the right thing instead of taking action,” Rachel Plotkin of the David Suzuki Foundation said in a statement.

“The sad thing is that after all this wait, the county is still advancing a policy landscape that promotes habitat destruction.”

The county’s Department of Environment, Conservation and Parks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The agreement “provides a framework committing both governments to establish and implement conservation measures necessary to maintain and restore the province’s subsistence populations of boreal caribou,” the deal’s decision reads. the provincial government has been placed.

The decision also notes that the caribou’s range “also provides many valuable natural resources to the forest and mineral exploration and mining sectors.”

“While the primary objective of this Agreement is to maintain or improve the environmental conditions necessary for the recovery of the Boreal caribou, Ontario and Canada recognize that in achieving the protection and restoration of the Boreal caribou, social and economic factors in conjunction with conservation measures,” the decision said.

Environmental groups said the deal is at odds with federal Environment Secretary Steven Guilbeault’s threats to unilaterally implement stricter protections for caribou in Quebec.

Quebec officials, from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Forestry, have said it is an overshoot of the federal government and would cost jobs.

Environment and Climate Change Canada said Thursday that the Ontario deal “doesn’t stop the minister from using his authority” under the Species at Risk Act.

“The parties to the agreements will be held accountable and will demonstrate progress through public reporting in implementing the conservation actions set out in the conservation agreement,” the ministry said in a statement.

Guilbeault said the deal is an “important first step to ensure sustainability”

“It includes major new commitments around habitat restoration activities, increasing habitat habitats, better evidence-based decision-making, monitoring and reporting, and collaboration with stakeholders, supported by a shared $10 million investment for 2022-2023,” he said.

“It has been clear to us that more conservation work and additional funding will be needed in the future to ensure the successful recovery of the caribou.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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