- Created on Wednesday, 03 August 2016 17:22
The concept of species is flawed, but it still has a huge bearing on conservation policy
By Charlie Northcott
“You need to protect coyotes to successfully protect eastern wolves,” says Hannah Barron, director of wildlife conservation at Earthroots, an Ontario-based nonprofit. “You can’t tell the difference between a coyote and an eastern wolf without a genetic test. Not all hunters report what they kill. We have no idea how many are dying.”
Photo Credit: Wes Liikane
Drive down the main highway that runs through Canada’s Algonquin Provincial Park after dark, and you may hear one of the eeriest sounds in nature. That shrill, haunting lament is the howl of the Algonquin wolf, which has roamed this land for centuries.
Also known as eastern wolves, Algonquin wolves are considered almost mythical by many Canadians. According to an Iroquois legend, these elusive creatures rescued mankind from an apocalyptic flood. Today they are rarely seen, preferring to stay hidden as they stalk moose and deer in their vast wooded territory. They are distinctive in appearance, with rusty brown fur and short, lean bodies. In many ways, they look identical to coyotes.
That "resemblance" has often proved deadly.
The Canadian government has spent more than 10 years deliberating over whether Algonquin wolves are a unique species. In a key decision on June 14, they decided they were and listed them as “threatened,” which makes it illegal to hunt them. But last month, new genetic research in the journal Evolutionary Genetics asserted just the opposite. That study suggests that between 50 and 70 percent of the eastern wolf’s genome derives from gray wolves, while the rest comes from coyotes. If the new study is correct, then the “Algonquin wolf” does not exist; it is simply a hybrid.
Of course, one genetic study does not put the debate to rest. Some scientists believe the evidence is questionable, saying that the study conflated Great Lakes wolf populations with Algonquin wolves. They also point out that researchers relied on just two genetic samples from wolves within Algonquin Provincial Park. “They are not pure and we’ve never said they were pure,” says Linda Rutledge, a geneticist focusing on the eastern wolf at Princeton University who was not directly involved in the study. “But absolutely there is something unique about the Algonquin wolf.”
The problem is, no one has been able to clearly define what that “something” is. And without a definition, prioritizing the survival of one group of endangered animals—no matter how beloved or culturally important—can prove challenging.
- Created on Tuesday, 19 July 2016 17:05
'Science, even the best science, doesn't give us permission to do whatever we want'
By Tricia Lo, CBC News
Hannah Barron, director of wildlife conservation campaigns at Earthroots, said more than 1,000 wolves have been killed in an attempt to protect the Little Smoky Caribou herd over the past decade, with "no significant increase in caribou numbers."
Alberta is considering fencing off large areas of northern woodlands to preserve threatened caribou herds on some of the most heavily impacted lands in the province. (The Canadian Press)
Conservation groups across the country are calling into question both the ethics and the effectiveness of a proposal to recover woodland caribou in Alberta.
The draft plan includes an experiment to fence a 100-square-kilometre area where caribou would be able to breed, and any predators that pose a threat to the enclosed herd would be killed.
The trial would study whether it is possible to restore caribou numbers in the absence of specific factors that either are responsible for caribou mortality or that compete with caribou for resources.
Paul Paquet, senior scientist with the Raincoast Conservation Fund, said destroying wolves, deer, elk and moose, in order to provide an unknown benefit to caribou would be an unethical course of action.
"As a scientific experiment, it's of real interest," said Paquet.
"But science, even the best science, doesn't give us permission to do whatever we want," he told CBC's Alberta@Noon.
"This is a case of just because we can do it, doesn't mean we should."
Province ignored minister’s 1984 recommendation to clean up mercury in river near Grassy Narrows: Star Investigation
- Created on Monday, 04 July 2016 12:18
The environment minister in 1984 recommended a plan to “cover the mercury sediments” near Grassy Narrows, a suggestion the provincial government of the day did not act on. More than 30 years later, the fish that feed the community are still contaminated.
Photo: Todd Korol, Toronto Star
Ontario’s former environment minister called for a clean up of mercury contaminating Grassy Narrows First Nation, historical cabinet memos obtained by the Star show.
But nothing was done by the government of the day to clean up the polluted river and lakes, and more than 30 years later the fish that feed the community are still contaminated.
The March 30, 1984, recommendation to cabinet from then-Environment Minister Andrew Brandt said the government should endorse a $2-3 million remediation plan to “cover the mercury sediments” in the nearby Clay Lake on the English-Wabigoon River, but hold off on the more disruptive and costly option of dredging the river system pending further study.
What had prompted the former environment minister’s advice was a scientific report by the 1983 Canada-Ontario Steering Committee on the English-Wabigoon River System. The report said the mercury had contaminated sediments in the surrounding rivers and lakes and that the fish would be contaminated for generations if the mercury wasn’t cleaned up. (Today, one meal of Walleye from Clay Lake contains up to 150 times the safe dose of mercury recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.)
The committee recommended, among other things, to place clean sediment in the water so that it settles on the bottom of Clay Lake to stabilize the mercury-contaminated sediment — a method called resuspension — as well as some dredging of the river. A small pilot project done for the 1983 report tested the method of resuspension in Clay Lake and found it reduced mercury levels in fish “by ten times.”
“The provincial government should not appear reluctant to take action on the report’s recommendations,” wrote a senior environment ministry staffer in a briefing note circulated within the department in the spring of 1984.
This document also said that the federal and provincial governments should start negotiating cost-sharing of a $2-3 million-lake remediation program.
Cabinet discussions are secret, and it is unclear how the decision was arrived at in the 1980s to allow the river system to recover naturally. The cabinet during that time was under the leadership of Conservative premier Bill Davis.
- Created on Thursday, 16 June 2016 23:14
For Immediate Release
Groups urge new Minister to enforce ESA, ban ongoing hunting and trapping
Photo credit: Algonquin Wolf, Wes Liikane
TORONTO – On June 15th, 2016, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) announced that Canada’s rarest wolf faces a higher risk of extinction than previously thought. Now named ‘Algonquin Wolves’, after their stronghold population in Algonquin Provincial Park, the wolves were upgraded from Special Concern to Threatened status in Ontario. A Management Plan, legally mandated for Special Concern status, has been overdue since 2008.
Under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, Threatened status affords the wolves and their habitat immediate and automatic protection from harvest. However, under existing regulations, the wolves will continue to be killed in unknown numbers in legal wolf/coyote open seasons.
“Outside of Algonquin Park, Algonquin wolves are largely unable to find a mate of their own kind, and more commonly mate with eastern coyotes. This interbreeding makes it impossible to tell the difference between the two animals without a genetic test,” explains Lesley Sampson of Coyote Watch Canada. “MNRF does not require these tests, and therefore has no idea how many Algonquin wolves are being killed each year. Algonquin wolf recovery requires a government commitment to protect the eastern coyotes they live alongside and are often confused for.”
As the last representatives of the once wide ranging Eastern Wolf species, Algonquin wolves have been found infrequently across central Ontario and western Quebec, numbering somewhere between 250 and 1000 animals. Naïve to the risks associated with humans – hunting, trapping and vehicle collisions – the animals’ survival is low outside of protected areas. MNRF’s own research shows that without more protection in Ontario, where most of the wolves are found, recovery is virtually impossible.
- Created on Friday, 27 May 2016 19:20
River Run 2016: Water, Indigenous rights, Justice for Mercury Survivors
Tuesday, May 31st, 2016 from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
• Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister Sr.
• Judy Da Silva - Grassy Narrows Clan Mother
• Grassy Narrows Youth Singers
• Avi Lewis
• 100 pay-what-you-can tickets will be available at the door on a first-come first-serve basis for low-income people (no questions asked).
All ticket proceeds go to the Grassy Narrows to pay for travel to Toronto to attend the River Run and say no to mercury poisoning. Donate directly to their travel costs.
- Created on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 17:06
For Immediate Release
Photo courtesy of Ontario Nature.
Mississauga, May 10, 2016 – The Ontario government released its draft amendments to the plans that protect the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, and Niagara Escarpment, and guide growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). These amendments are a promising move towards building ecological resiliency and healthy communities in an area under tremendous pressure from sprawling urban development. Bold leadership is now needed from the Province to quickly and decisively act on these good intentions.
In the face of climate change and a rapidly growing population, the government must defend water, nature and communities in the GGH so it remains ecologically viable and a great place to live.
“We commend the Province for taking immediate steps towards growing our Greenbelt into 21 urban river valleys, their coastal wetlands and select water sources like Lake Gibson,” says Joyce Chau, Executive Director of EcoSpark. “To truly protect the region’s water, we are expecting swift action to ensure a bluebelt of vulnerable water supplies in the GGH, like the Oro Moraine, just north of Barrie, are added to the Greenbelt.”
Earthroots, EcoSpark, STORM and Ontario Nature have been leading voices for bluebelt and natural areas protection in the GGH. The partnership is calling for stronger protection of the region’s natural areas that, among other ecological services, support wildlife and buffer communities from the impacts of climate change.
- Created on Tuesday, 03 May 2016 21:07
STAR OF SURVIVORMAN, MUSICIAN, AUTHOR, FILMMAKER AND ACTIVIST
Best known as the Canadian Screen Award winning producer, creator and star of the hit TV series Survivorman (OLN Canada, The Science Channel US, Discovery Channel International, City TV (Rogers) Canada), Les Stroud is the only producer in the history of television to produce an internationally broadcast series entirely written, videotaped and hosted alone. With Les known as the original genre creator of ‘Survival TV’, Survivorman is one of the highest rated shows in the history of OLN Canada, the Science Channel US and Discovery Channel US and remains the highest rated repeat show on the Discovery Channel. Survivorman is licensed for broadcast worldwide, with ratings in the US hitting 2 million on individual episodes. He has been nominated for 21 Canadian Screen Awards (formerly the Geminis) and has won for Best Writer (twice) and Best Photography.
- Created on Thursday, 14 April 2016 18:50
For Immediate Release
Long-serving Ontario Environment Commissioner Gord Miller has been elected to the board and elected chair of the board of Earthroots, the group championing Ontario’s old growth forests for three decades.
“"Earthroots has a long record of standing up for wilderness and fighting to protect our biodiversity. Their efforts have never been more needed in these trying times and I'm proud to contribute and build on all they have achieved,” Miller said.
"The recent threatened regressive wolf management policy which was withdrawn due to the efforts of Earthroots and others shows how critical it is support and maintain activist environmental NGOs like Earthroots,” the new chair said. Miller left the commissioner’s post in 2015 after 15 years as the Legislature’s independent environmental watchdog.
Also recently elected to the Earthroots board of directors are Rosseau eco-entrepreneur and ethicist Andrea Wilson who was elected vice-chair, Toronto environmental lawyer John Willms, and Toronto environmental consultant David Oved.
The new directors join Earthroots co-founder Hap Wilson and Greenpeace forest campaigner Catharine Grant on the board, and the staff headed by Amber Ellis, executive director.
Earthroots wishes to thank its former chair, Clayton Ruby, for his nearly 20 years of service on our board.
- Created on Wednesday, 06 April 2016 17:53
For Immediate Release
Animal protection and conservation groups encourage responsible approach to wildlife management
TORONTO (April 6, 2016) – The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has scrapped a plan to allow increased killing of wolves and coyotes across the province. The poorly-conceived proposal was branded as an effort to protect moose populations, yet even the province’s own data showed that the indiscriminate killing of predators is not an effective wildlife management practice.
A coalition of animal protection and conservation organizations in Ontario and across Canada worked to oppose this proposal. The coalition is comprised of: Animal Alliance of Canada, Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada, Born Free, Canadians for Bears, Coyote Watch Canada, Earthroots, Humane Society International/Canada, Wolf Awareness and Zoocheck. The groups released the following statements in response to the MNRF’s proposal:
"We welcome the Ontario government's decision to scrap their ill-advised proposal to increase the hunting of wolves and coyotes,” said Gabriel Wildgen, campaign manager for HSI/Canada. “The Ontario public cares about animals, and it would be simply inexcusable to allow the indiscriminate killing of some of our most majestic wild animals at the behest of special interest groups. The best available science does not support scapegoating and targeting of a species to make up for wildlife and habitat mismanagement."
- Created on Wednesday, 06 April 2016 17:15
- Created on Monday, 07 March 2016 03:51
By Jim Moodie, The Sudbury Star, Friday, March 4, 2016
Rather than view wolves as the sort of fanged monsters depicted in European fairytales, Northern Ontarians should embrace them as subtle keepers of ecological balance.
That was the argument put forth Thursday night at a presentation hosted by the Sudbury Animal Rights Association titled Living With Wolves: Culls and Conservation.
"We shouldn't really fear that wolves will attack us, because it is so rare," said Hannah Barron, director of wildlife conservation campaigns with Earthroots. "There have only been two fatal attacks (in North America) in the past 120 years."
Indeed, more people in Canada have been killed by deer than by wolves.
Yet wolves are still demonized and scapegoated, she suggested, because they are misunderstood and represent "competition" by preying on many animals that humans also like to target as game.
"Hunters still want to kill a lot of moose, a lot of deer, and trappers still want to take a lot of beaver and make money from their pelts," she said. "So I would say that wolves in Ontario are generally managed as our competition."
Activists urge the Wynne government to rethink proposed changes to hunting laws involving wolves and coyotes.
- Created on Monday, 07 March 2016 03:51
- Created on Monday, 07 March 2016 03:15
By: Jim Coyle News, Published in the Toronto Star on Saturday, February 27, 2016
Delegation of indigenous Canadians presenting its case in Geneva for safe drinking water for community first poisoned in the 1960s.
Grassy Narrows River Run 2014, Toronto. Photo credit: Earthroots
By any measure, it’s a long way from Grassy Narrows First Nation in northern Ontario to a United Nations proceeding in Geneva. But Judy Da Silva long ago proved she’ll go to any lengths for her people and the generations to come.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said the 54-year-old mother of five, part of a delegation of indigenous Canadians making presentations to a UN committee this week.
“As the days went by, I started understanding how high that forum is! Our message came out really strong as the indigenous people.”
Da Silva took her community’s case for safe drinking water to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, arguing that Canada had violated those rights by failing to address mercury pollution in Grassy Narrows.
Canada signed the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1976. The UN monitors performance by summoning signatory nations for periodic review. Canada was last reviewed in 2006 and this year was up again.
It’s a long way to go for justice. And, since the mercury that poisoned Da Silva’s community was discharged into the English-Wabigoon River system from a pulp and paper mill a half-century ago, it’s a long time to wait.
- For our Water – It’s time to protect Ontario’s Bluebelt!
- Speak out against the war on Ontario's wolves and coyotes!
- Ontario to join BC in trumping science with politics? The War on Wolves moves east.
- Crombie report hits the mark: Protect Ontario’s most vulnerable water resources
- Grassy Narrows First Nation marks 13 years as 'the voice of the forest'
- Speak out for Ontario's bears!