It's being dubbed a historic investment by the province for boreal caribou in Northern Ontario, $29 million over 4 years will support on-the-ground habitat restoration and protection of the threatened species, the numbers of which in the province sit around 5000.
The announcement was made Thursday by Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks David Piccini, who acknowledges there are projects in the region which are considered high priority, such as mines, forestry operations and construction of new road infrastructure, that could impact caribou, but notes the need to work collaboratively to benefit both progress and the caribou.
“You have to work with Indigenous communities, you have to work with industry, with research organizations and what Ontario has done here, what Premier Ford has done, is lay a historic amount of funding on the line to make this happen.”
Piccini adds the federal government has recognized its role to play in caribou protection and hopes it will join Ontario in its investment.
Ian Dunn is the President of the Ontario Forest Industries Association says his industry is unmatched in its ability to contribute to caribou conservation.
“One average the industry decommissions about 150 km of road annually, a continuous supply of caribou habitat is maintained across the Ontario landscape from Manitoba to Quebec.”
He adds the industry has also led research into nutrition and genetics, a similar branch of research being undertaken by researchers at Lakehead University, which has been monitoring the genetic health of boreal caribou through the analysis of their DNA.
Piccini says that research will continue through this funding and will open up other research opportunities for years to come.
“At the round table we just had, Lakehead challenged us in this agreement to bring research institutions to work collaboratively, and absolutely the funding…has dollars that will go towards research.”
Many northern leaders are also expressing their support for the funding, in a release Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association President Wendy Landry says she appreciates Piccini’s desire to speak with stakeholders and First Nations.
“This historic investment builds on Ontario’s long history of caribou management and protection. We are, however, watching what is happening in Quebec and have great concerns about Environment and Climate Change Canada Minister Steven Guilbeault’s recommendation to order prohibitions within caribou habitat.”
She notes the social, economic, and spiritual importance of accessing and using the lands cannot be overstated.
Red Rock Indian Band Chief Marcus Hardy echoed Landry’s sentiments adding of the importance of which forestry has for his community.
“Our members, and the residents of our neighbouring communities, depend on the sustainability of our working forests and abundance of wildlife.”
According to the Ontario government here in the Northwest, boreal caribou herds can be found north of Sioux Lookout and Geraldton, along with a few smaller herds isolated along the North Shore and islands of Lake Superior, notably Slate Island near Terrace Bay.