The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities and Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association are defending the work of the provincial government and the forest industry in response to claims by environmental activist groups that Ontario has not acted to protect boreal caribou.

To accuse the forest sector and the Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry of not taking action on woodland caribou, without an understanding of the current state of science and the enormous volume of work completed, and without an acknowledgement of the progressive changes to sustainable forest management, is an embarrassment, say the mayors representing Northern Ontario communities.

A statement by FONOM and NOMA says activist claims ignore more than 20 years of work, including 600 tracked animals and $11 million dollars of government research. “As if it was Groundhog Day, campaign science is once again attempting to shut down Ontario’s most renewable and sustainable sector, at the expense of 57,000 hardworking men and women in northern and rural communities across this province.”

The statement continues: “In northwestern Ontario, progressive forestry practices for caribou habitat management have been in place since the early 1990s. Recent data suggest that caribou range retraction has ceased within the past few decades and that caribou are returning to previously harvested areas, suggesting that existing management practices are effective in promoting habitat renewal.”

The groups note that the Dynamic Caribou Habitat Schedule has been in place in forest management plans for more than 20 years and requires that forest managers concentrate harvesting, minimize road densities, implement road decommissioning strategies, and develop approaches to promote conifer species (caribou habitat).

“This places Ontario as a leader within Canada in terms of caribou range research and management,” say FONOM and NOMA.

The groups point out that activists are largely silent on the threat posed to caribou habitat by climate change. They cite an article published this year in the research journal Rangifer, which states that by 2050, “under the most conservative greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, with a range of increase in minimum winter temperature between 0.9-5.3 C, we projected a loss of 57.2-99.8 per cent of woodland caribou range in Ontario.”

The FONOM and NOMA statement concludes: “Instead, activists continue to hang their hat on human disturbance, despite an evolved understanding of caribou behaviour and ecosystem management within scientific literature. You cannot help but connect the dots and realize that these groups do not care about the conservation of caribou, they only care about fundraising dollars, putting an end to an industry, and threatening a way of life within our northern communities.

“The forest sector continues to sustainably harvest less than 0.5 per cent of Ontario’s managed Crown forests annually, yet this small amount supports 57,000 direct jobs. At the end of the day, we will continue to manage our forests responsibly and for generations to come. Our jobs, communities and way of life are irresponsibly being placed at risk by the lobbying efforts of activists and based on information that is 10 years behind the curve.”

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