Save the Ogoki Forest!
The Ministry of Environment Denies Request for Individual Environmental Assessment in Ogoki
Earthroots and numerous other environmental groups have been aggressively campaigning to protect the Ogoki Forest and its Woodland Caribou from the threats of continued clearcut logging and extensive road building in the region. Woodland Caribou, a threatended species in this province, are extremely sensitive to human-induced disturbance; caribou populations are facing extirpation in Ontario if forestry activities continue unchecked in our northern forests.
The forest industry is scrambling to continue business as usual even though it has become clear that it is time for an overhaul of the industry; an economic restructuring that protects both wilderness and northern communities.
As part of our efforts to protect caribou, other wildlife species and their essential habitat in the Boreal Forest, Earthroots submitted a ‘bump-up’ request for an individual environmental assessment of the Ogoki Forest. After 16 months of on-going negotiations the Ministry of the Environment (MoE) has denied the requests (8 requests were submitted by various environmental groups and individuals outlining different concerns regarding the forest management plan).
The implications of this decision have the potential to be far-reaching. We are at a crucial time in terms of caribou conservation within the province. The province’s recent commitment to endangered species, through the Endangered Species Act, comes at a time of widespread biodiversity loss not only throughout Ontario but Canada and the world. The contextual shift brought about by the ESA has the potential to reverse the trajectory for many species at risk in Ontario yet the key to making this happen will be political will. Without a concerted effort on the part of the Ontario government, species habitat will continue to be degraded and lost; species decline will persist.
At this point, our hope for the Ogoki Forest is a strong recovery plan developed through the ESA and strict, clear management practices that ensure old-growth habitat remains throughout the unit. Once the forestry exemption to the ESA is over, we expect to see a marked difference in the way logging is conducted in key habitat areas and caribou recovery zones.
Earthroots will continue to be an active voice in the development of the Caribou Conservation Plan and the Recovery Strategy for caribou in Ontario. We remain dedicated to upholding the spirit and intent of the ESA legislation and to protecting Woodland Caribou in this province.
Old-growth forest, home to endangered caribou, is being clearcut
The Ogoki region, located in remote northwestern Ontario, rests along the frontier of the magnificent Boreal Forest. Ogoki’s old growth pine and spruce make for ideal habitat for wildlife, especially the endangered woodland caribou, which relies on mature forests for its survival. Until recently, the Ogoki Forest was a pristine haven for caribou because it was free of industrial development and had not been logged. However in 1998, the Ontario government opened up the Ogoki Forest to forest operations, putting the sensitive caribou population at risk.
Clearcutting destroys huge swaths of the forest
Now massive areas, some as large as 10,000 ha, are being clearcut in the Ogoki Forest. The majority of the Forest is currently comprised of old-growth trees. However, an independent audit of forestry operations in Ogoki has indicated that if logging continues as planned, within 100 years, most of the forests old-growth will be destroyed. Another serious concern is that caribou habitat is predicted to decline by almost 60% if logging continues in Ogoki, because Caribou cannot tolerate the fragmentation of habitat caused by clearcutting.
Because of the dramatic negative impact that industrial forest operations will have on Ogoki, the independent forest audit for Ogoki suggests that the Ministry of Natural Resources “must provide strong evidence that the projected decline in habitat [in Ogoki] will not further endanger caribou.” (Independent Audit of the Ogoki Forest, 2001-5)
Not only do clearcuts affect caribou, but so do roads. Before 1998 there was virtually no road access into the Ogoki forest, but now there is a network of both primary and secondary logging roads that cut deep into the Forest. This is bad news for the Woodland Caribou, which need large tracts of natural forest, free of human development, to survive. Even worse is the fact that taxpayers’ money is being used to fund the construction and maintenance of the very logging roads that are destroying Caribou habitat, despite the government’ promise to protect the species!
Caribou: symbol of Canadian wilderness at risk
Woodland Caribou have already been extirpated from more than 50% of their natural range in Ontario and are threatened with extinction. For this reason, the province has made the pledge to “reduce known threats associated with range recession” to ensure their survival as a species (Recovery Strategy for Forest-Dwelling Woodland Caribou in Ontario). Despite this fact and the warning of independent auditors that logging in Ogoki is a significant threat to its caribou population, forest operations for the next 10 years have been approved. To view a copy of the independent audit report please click here .
The Big Picture
Ontario’s only intact forests are in the northern part of the province. Most of southern Ontario has been logged for centuries and very little original forest cover remains (only second and third growth forests now exist). Rather than properly manage the forests they already have access to, logging companies prefer to push further and further north into the old-growth Boreal Forest. Boreal Forest is much cheaper and quicker to cut and the older trees are more valuable than second and third growth trees. Opening Ogoki to logging is only one example of the province allowing forestry companies to exploit our last tracts of untouched forest.
The Boreal Forest is home to a variety of unique species. If we cut it down, we will destroy the essential habitat of thousands of plants and animals, some of which don’t exist anywhere else on the planet. The Boreal Forest is also the world’s largest carbon sink – it absorbs 34% of the world’s greenhouse gases. Therefore, it is necessary to regulate the worsening effects of climate change and to keep our air clean.
Finally, the Boreal Forest is home to many of Canada’s aboriginal peoples; 500 First Nations communities reside there. In Ontario, 9 First Nations communities in the Boreal have called for a moratorium on all logging and mining activities on their lands.
How to help
Logging companies are pushing to gain access into the most remote parts of northern Ontario’s Boreal Forest - they are testing the waters in regions like Ogoki. We must send a strong message to the Ontario government that this is unacceptable, and contradicts provincial commitments to protect the Woodland Caribou.
Write to the MNR to let them know that you oppose continued forestry operations in this remote forest. Let them know that:
Logging and road construction adversely affect Woodland Caribou, a species which is listed by COSSARO and COSEWIC as threatened
An independent audit for the forest found that caribou habitat will decline dramatically if cutting continues, and might wipe out caribou from the entire Ogoki Forest.
The Ogoki Forest represents a third of all sub-regional caribou habitat. Forestry in Ogoki therefore constitutes a significant threat to the Ontario’s caribou population.
The MNR must keep its promise to protect this important animal from extirpation and extinction.
Our tax money should not be used to build roads that put a threatened species further at risk.
Direct your comments to:
Honourable Donna Cansfield
Minister of Natural Resources
99 Wellesley Street West, Room 6630, Whitney Block
Toronto, ON M7A 1W3
Please also send a copy of your letter to Earthroots for our files.
Or alternately send a free fax from the Earthroots website by clicking here. Please personalize your comments for maximum effect.