Caribou Protection in the North — Wilderness North

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Caribou Protection in the North

It has been almost five years since the federal government released the boreal woodland caribou recovery strategy under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The strategy developed a threshold of risk for managing caribou, and guides provinces to maintain or restore each caribou range so that at least 65 percent of it is undisturbed, as caribou need undisturbed habitat to avoid predators and survive. The recovery strategy calls for range plans to be completed by October 2017 that demonstrate the protection, maintenance and restoration of caribou habitat for each caribou herd.

Since mining is one such risk, the location and status of all mining claims in the furthest reaches of Ontario are available to be seen on a new online map developed by the Wildlife Conservation Society called the Caribou Story Map, which collects data about all claims in one place showing how they relate to each other, and local caribou habitat.

“Keeping an eye on the big picture is really important, to see the bigger landscape and understand how this, and other impacts may accumulate over time,” said Justina Ray, the president and senior scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Ontario’s far north is the fastest growing area of mineral exploration in the province, Ray said. It’s a situation that is creating threats to caribou habitat, including calving and feeding grounds.

Caribou are designated as a species at risk in Ontario and remote parts of the province are “a current stronghold” for the animals, Ray said.

An interface on the map allows users to find information about the ownership of claims, the status of exploration permits and schedules for further development activity.

“Not all exploration turns into mines, but it still does have impact in terms of the footprint,” Ray said.

The conservation group hopes the map will be useful to government, First Nations and industry as well as anyone with an interest in land use planning.

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