By: The Working Forest
Despite declarations by special interest environmental groups that there is a caribou crisis in
Ontario, a review of Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) research, scientific evidence, and an
assessment of all available and up-to-date data demonstrates that caribou populations are persisting in Ontario.
“Caribou are the most abundant ungulate in North America. Woodland caribou, a forest dwelling variety of the
species, is classified as threatened, however they also remain abundant in Ontario and their habitat is well protected.
MNRF has made a valiant effort to understand Ontario’s woodland caribou population’s spending $11 million dollars
on a massive and productive research effort, with more than 50 projects being conducted by MNRF scientists and
biologists, supported by academics and the forest industry.” commented Jamie Lim, President and CEO of the
Ontario Forest Industries Association.
Ian Dunn, OF lA’s Forest Policy Advisor stated “The vast majority of the core range that was occupied in the 1950s is
still occupied today. In northwestern Ontario, the range has significantly extended southward by hundreds of
kilometers. On the whole, this is good news for woodland caribou in Ontario- the extent of their habitat has been
maintained in most places, and grown bigger in a few spots.
Dunn continued, “This success story is partially due to a productive partnership between MNRF and the provincial
forestry sector that has been evolving since the mid-1990s when the “caribou mosaic” was first applied in forest
management plans in northwestern Ontario. This approach has involved managing the ent ire landscape in huge
patches, (i.e. blocks of 10,000-30,000 hectares) to provide a continuous supply of connected, suitable habitat over
the longer term.
“It is also interesting that numerous population surveys by MNRF suggest that areas subject to forest management
have healthier woodland caribou populations than areas that have been entirely left to nature. For example, more
woodland caribou are being born and surviving from year to year in areas like Nipigon and Kesagami, which are
managed by forestry companies, compared to Missisa and James Bay which have little to no disturbance and are not
managed by the forest sector. This would suggest that there are other factors impacting caribou populations that
need to be identified,” Lim observed.
A 2015 Montreal Economic Inst itute report, “The Economic Costs of the Boreal Caribou Recovery Plan” questioned
why disturbance was the only factor being considered in the long term health of woodland caribou in Quebec,
commenting “even if we completely ceased all logging in the caribou’s range of distribution, it is entirely possible
that downward population trends would continue because of factors like climate change, forest fires, insect
epidemics and hunting.”
Lim concluded, “Caribou policy must be based on solid, defendable science that is used in balance with both social
and economic considerations, especially in light of what is at stake for hardworking families, the North and Ontario’s
renewable natural resource- forestry.”