Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Environmental Groups Call on Feds to Protect Caribou on Provincial Land

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Environmental Groups Call on Feds to Protect Caribou on Provincial Land

Article excerpt

Environmental groups call on feds to protect caribou


TORONTO - Three environmental groups are calling on the federal government to protect boreal caribou in northern Ontario, saying a decade of mismanagement by the province has put the animals increasingly at risk.

The David Suzuki Foundation, Ontario Nature and the Wildlands League issued a petition to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna this week, requesting that she recommend federal cabinet issue what's known as a "safety net order" under the Species at Risk Act for two boreal caribou populations about 120 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.

The move would prevent damage to or destruction of 65 per cent of the caribou populations' habitats -- the amount of undisturbed land that the federal government said in a 2012 report would give the animals a 60 per cent shot at becoming self-sustaining.

"Caribou is an indicator of a healthy boreal forest," said Anna Baggio, director of conservation planning for Wildlands League. "That forest is the backbone of our country in terms of providing us with ecosystem services, whether it's cleaning our air, purifying our water, stabilizing our soil."

A spokeswoman for McKenna said the federal government is "taking swift action" to protect nature and wildlife and would take a "close look" at the petition's recommendations.

In issuing their petition, the groups put together a report that said the caribou populations have been threatened by the mining and logging industries, as well as roads and railroads.

The groups said the Ontario government doesn't know exactly how many caribou remain in the two at-risk herds because no surveys have been conducted on them since 2013. The animals' populations have been on the decline since before that time, the groups contend, and the conditions of their habitats are only getting worse. …

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