Latest News

Toronto’s Leslie Street Spit: Cormorant Refuge in the midst of an international slaughter

by Ainslie Willock, Cormorant Defenders International (CDI)

Over a period of five years, more than 171,000 cormorants have been killed and far too many have been wounded in a North American-wide government sanctioned massive and cruel cull.

Tommy Thompson Park, simply known as the “The Spit” to Torontonians, is the home of the largest colony of double-crested cormorants on the Great Lakes.  The Toronto Regional Conservation Authority (TRCA), who manages the Spit, has chosen a responsible and thoughtful approach to managing the colony.  Their 2009 management goal is to "achieve a balance between the continued existence of a healthy, thriving cormorant colony and the other ecological, educational, scientific and recreational values of Tommy Thompson Park". 



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Our Volunteers

Featured Volunteer

Josephine Lau    

How long have you been volunteering at Earthroots?
I have been volunteering with Earthroots since 2009.

What have you done with Earthroots?
I have been involved with the Southern Ontario campaign.  Mainly, I attempt to contact the Planning Departments of various municipalities to obtain information and documents concerning the Oak Ridges Moraine, the Greenbelt, and the Niagara Escarpment.

What are your favourite pastimes?
I enjoy reading and eating.  

What is your favourite food?
Desserts and sweets… yum!

What is your most memorable volunteer experience?
I would have to say being on hold for half an hour then being passed off to someone else… only to be on hold once again.  I also enjoyed the learning experience that volunteering here at Earthroots has offered me.


Volunteer Profile

Seema Chandroga

How long have you been volunteering at Earthroots?
I have been volunteering at Earthroots since 2008.

What have you done with Earthroots?
I have helped out with various office duties such as data entry, research, mailings, filing and photocopying, etc.  I have also assisted with various special events and fundraisers.

What are your favourite pastimes?
Some of my favourite pastimes include volunteering and reading.

What is your favourite food?
I do like candy...

What is your most memorable volunteer experience?
There isn't really one - I enjoy coming into the office to help out with various tasks and I also enjoy helping out at fundraisers and special events - can't wait for the next one!


Volunteer Profile

Linda Marie Bird, DOB - September 7th,1949.

How long have you been volunteering at Earthroots?
Just over three years!

What have you done with Earthroots?
I have done data-entry, Wilderness Defenders email list maintenance, and my favourite – folding action alerts and stuffing envelopes for the weekly mailing!

What are your favourite pastimes?
I love to walk - especially by a lake or the ocean, and just sit and watch the water.  I believe this is the most calming and settling thing anybody can do.  I also love doing crafts (card-making), dancing, listening to music, watching old movies and painting.

What is your favourite food?
I like most foods but don't feed me any kind of peppers or coconut!  My very favourite foods are fish, seafood and veggies - especially the green ones.  When I eat out I love to go to a nice English pub, but if I am feeling adventurous I go for Japanese or Vietnamese.

What is your most memorable volunteer experience?
This is less of a one-time memorable experience, but the people involved in Earthroots’ volunteer program and their immense dedication to their beliefs and what the organization is all about – that’s the experience I enjoy the most when volunteering here.  Every time I come to Earthroots it’s like coming to visit a relative from out of town.



Volunteering at Earthroots

canoes.jpg (25365 bytes)Earthroots is a small effective organization that operates on a relatively small budget. We could not achieve our goals without the support we receive from volunteers. There is often more work to do than we can get done on our own!

Earthroots welcomes volunteers in a number of different capacities:

  • Community outreach,

  • Distributing Earthroots information materials at events and among friends,

  • General office help,

  • Participating in demonstrations and peaceful civil disobedience protests,

  • Campaign research and support.

The success of the Temagami blockades and all of our activist work would have never been possible without the hundreds of volunteers who provided technical, moral and financial support. Organizing demonstrations, providing transportation, tabling at community events and helping send out newsletters and tax receipts to our members are only a few ways in which we benefit from the dedication of many individuals.

Join the Wilderness Defenders!

Please fill out the form to the right to add your name to our contact list for volunteer opportunities with Earthroots.


Wilderness Defenders


The Wilderness Defenders email list is the best way for you to keep informed about updates on Earthroots campaigns. The email list is an announcement-only list, thus you will not be flooded with emails daily - you will generally receive 1-2 emails a month. ferguson.jpg (24315 bytes)

The Wilderness Defenders email list is one way that you can become involved in campaign activities. Postings of volunteer meetings, calls for activists to spread the word about the project and host events in their area as well as postings of the latest Earthroots action alerts and press releases will go through this list. Hear the news first! And then pass it on to other friends, family or work acquaintances on email.

Get involved with Earthroots by becoming a Wilderness Defender!

You can unsubscribe any time and your email address will not be traded or exchanged with other groups.


Request Materials


Stay Informed - Educate Yourself 


Local community action is essential to achieving wilderness and wildlife protection in Ontario. Community coordinators are needed to distribute information about Earthroots’ campaigns, organize media events and local letter-writing campaigns, and educate neighbours and friends about the threats to Ontario wildlife and wild spaces.

Earthroots needs your help! We can provide factsheets, postcards, action alerts, sample ‘letters to the editor’ and advice that you can use to mobilize your community.

These materials can be distributed to:

    * Schools – high schools, colleges, universities
    * Chambers of Commerce
    * Volunteer groups such as Lion’s Clubs, Rotary Clubs, reading groups, Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), wildlife clubs, outdoors clubs etc.!
    * Friends, family, neighbours
    * Libraries
    * Other environmental groups
    * City councilors, provincial, and federal members of parliament (MPPs and MPs)
    * Eco-Tourism centers
    * Any other interested group or individual!

Fill in the form to your right to be contacted. Indicate which campaigns you would be interested in knowing more about. Please understand that sending out materials costs us a lot in postage and staff time so please use materials wisely! Thank you for helping us protect the wildlife and wilderness of Ontario!

About Us

Earthroots is a grassroots conservation organization dedicated to the preservation of wilderness, wildlife and watersheds in Canada, with a focus on Ontario.

We have been on the front lines of wilderness conservation since 1986, when our predecessor organization, the Temagami Wilderness Society (TWS) was formed. The TWS was created to fight for the preservation of rare old growth white and red pine forests in the Temagami region of northern Ontario. After campaign success in the Temagami region, the organization changed its name to Earthroots in 1991, in order to broaden the organization’s campaign focus beyond the Temagami issue.

Earthroots consists of two separate organizations: Earthroots Fund, a charitable organization (registration #135165140 RR0001) that engages in public education and research, and Earthroots Coalition, a non-profit organization that engages in advocacy and action. Earthroots' campaigns focus on achieving meaningful protection for Ontario's threatened wilderness areas and wildlife species. Earthroots acts on behalf of 12,000 supporters across the country.

Earthroots is a strong advocate and agitator for wilderness preservation in Ontario, combining grassroots campaign strategies with effective research and educational programs. Since 1986, Earthroots has used its grassroots expertise to organize, educate and mobilize the public, conduct successful media events, carry out wilderness research projects and ensure proper forest management planning.

We empower thousands of Canadians each year to advocate for better environmental protection and achieve conservation victories!



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L to R: Teresita Tanjanlangit, Josh Garfinkel, David Sone, Hannah Barron, Amber Ellis. Absent: Will Nixon


Hannah Barron
Director, Wildlife Conservation Campaigns

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Amber Ellis
Executive Director

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Josh Garfinkel
Advisor, Southern Ontario Campaigns

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Will Nixon
Canvass Director 

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David Sone
Director, Northern Ontario Campaigns

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Teresita Tajanlangit
Volunteer Coordinator / Administrative Assistant

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Board of Directors


Gord Miller, Chair
Former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario / Consulting Ecologist

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Andrea Wilson, Vice-Chair
Ethics Professional / Eco-tourism Entrepreneur


John Willms, Secretary / Treasurer
Former Environmental Law Specialist / Willms Institutional Strengthening 


Ellen Greenwood
Greenwood and Associates


Marjan Lahuis
Ontario Environment Industry Association / Consulate General of the Netherlands


David Oved
Environmental Consultant


Hap Wilson
Earthroots Co-founder / Author / Trails and Tourism Consultant


Special thanks to

Clayton Ruby
Lawyer, Ruby & Shiller

for 20 years of dedicated service to Earthroots!


Council of Patrons

Robert Bateman - Wildlife Artist / Author

Dr. Robert McGhee - Curator of Archaeology, Canadian Museum of Nature

Farley Mowat - Author / Wildlife Advocate (RIP Farley - 1921 - 2014)

Les Stroud - "Survivorman", TV Personality and Survival Expert


Advisory Board


John Ellis
Privacy Officer

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Steve Abrams - Co-founder, Mill Street Brewery

Vanessa Alsop - Earthroots Forest Campaign Advisor / Science and Environmental Education Specialist

Andrew Athanasiu - Senior Policy Advisor to Councillor Josh Matlow, Toronto City Hall

Carly Armstrong - Former Forest Campaigner, Earthroots / Communications Specialist

Audrey Bankley - Former Outreach Coordinator and Event Planner, Earthroots / Entrepreneur

Lesli Bisgould - Animal Rights Lawyer

Jean Buie - Lawyer

Mark Calzavara - Community Organizer 

Kim Cowan - Former Economic Development Officer, Temagami First Nation 

Evan Ferrari - Program Manager, Community Energy Partnerships Program

Josh Garfinkel - Earthroots Southern Ontario Campaign Advisor 

Brigitte Hebert - Communications Specialist

Abbey Huggan - Artist / Urban Agriculturalist / Community Educator 

Mark Kear - Former Temagami Campaigner, Earthroots

Peter Kelly - Cliff Ecology Research Group

Josh Kohler - Former Southern Ontario Campaigner, Earthroots / Urban Planner

Elizabeth May - Leader, Green Party of Canada

Barry Kent MacKay - Naturalist / Writer / Artist

Melissa Matlow - Campaigner, World Animal Protection Canada

Doug McRae - Naturalist / Writer / Guide

Bob Olajos - Director, Friends of Temagami

Blaine Pearson - Partner, Dot Dot Dash

Dr. Peter Quinby - Ancient Forest Exploration & Research

Wayne RobertsFormer Project Coordinator, Toronto Food Policy Council / Author

Lesley Sampson - Founding Executive Director, Coyote Watch Canada

Phil Saunders - Communications Specialist

Dr. John Theberge & Mary Theberge - Wolf Researchers

Nicole Thouard - Former Director of Development, Wildlands League

Jason Van Bruggen - Director / Photographer / Partner, Dot Dot Dash

Phil WintersBusiness Development Manager, Renewable Energy, Canada at Eaton



Financial Supporters


Donations from the public are essential to the success of Earthroots' campaigns to protect wilderness, wildlife and watersheds in Ontario - we are very grateful for the ongoing financial support from our members.  Our donors, volunteers and dedicated staff make our important work possible!


We would also like to thank the following foundations and granting programs for their generous support of our projects:




EDLC - Home 


Global Greengrants Fund



 Impact Fund


Max & Anna Levinson Foundation


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Join Earthroots

Join us in protecting wilderness, wildlife and watersheds in Ontario! Earthroots' work is primarily funded by private donations - for our important campaigns to continue, we need financial support from caring wilderness defenders just like you.

Your donation goes directly towards funding our campaigns and because we are lean organization, we make every contribution go a long way. Protecting wilderness and wildlife is an ongoing battle and we need all the help we can get. By donating $40 or more you will automatically become a member of Earthroots and receive special publications and invitations to events.

We have three easy ways for you to make a donation; donate online through the secure services of Canada Helps, print out a donation form and mail it with a cheque or credit card information, or you can call  the Earthroots office at 416-599-0152 x0 and made a credit card donation over the phone.

We can also accept securities and mututal fund shares through Canada Helps! Click here to learn more.


Wolf Lake

Wolf Lake, located in the southwestern part of the Temagami region, contains the largest contiguous old-growth red pine forest in the world.  Towering red pines - some as old as 260 years old - quartz cliffs, and sparkling blue lakes dominate the landscape.


The area around Wolf Lake has been permanently protected by the creation of the Chiniguchi Waterway Provincial Park.  However, despite the fact that old-growth red pine forests are a globally endangered ecosystem, Wolf Lake has been excluded from the park.   Wolf Lake is currently protected by “Forest Reserve” status, which means that logging is not permitted in the area but mineral exploration and mining still is.

Even allowing mineral exploration in the area, let alone full-scale mining, poses serious risks to the ecosystem.  The Ontario government has listened to the public and has decided to keep Wolf Lake's Forest Reserve status in place - this would have never happened without the strong voice of our supporters!  The next much bigger step is to phase out mining from the area and include Wolf Lake in the Chiniguchi Waterway Provincial Park.  Otherwise this precious forest may be lost in the interests of the mining industry.

Find out what’s at stake. Watch a video of Wolf Lake.

Learn more about the history of Wolf Lake

Find out how you can help!

How You Can Help Protect Temagami2


Three Sisters: This photo of three white pine and a red along the trails at the north end of Obabika Lake was turned into a popular poster in 1990 and continues to be an iconic image of the Temagami region.
Photo: Ian Mackenzie

The Temagami region in northeastern Ontario encompasses close to one million hectares of land and is internationally renowned because of its unique ecology. Temagami contains nearly half of the world’s remaining old-growth red and white pine forests. This type of forest is an endangered ecosystem as it now exists on less than 1% of its historic range.

Ancient Pines Under Threat

Although half of Temagami’s old-growth red and white pine is formally protected, the other half is open for harvest. The current forest management plan has approved logging in Temagami’s pristine back-country. Clearcuts will be visible from the legendary Maple Mountain, an aboriginal sacred site, and will border directly on Provincial Park lands. Ancient red and white pines will be cut, along with jackpine and spruce.

The public has demonstrated consistent opposition to logging in Temagami – we must ensure that the next forest management plan, which will begin in 2009, does not put Temagami’s parks, old growth, and aboriginal sacred sites at further risk. Temagami’s pristine wilderness regions must be off-limits from industrial activities.

Forest management planning for the next 10 year plan is underway and the public has an opportunity to get involved in this process.

Take action now to stop the logging of old-growth red and white pine - click here to send a fax to the Ministry.
Comments must be submitted by February 16, 2008!

View the government's strategy for logging in Temagami (PDF).

Please join our Wilderness Defenders e-mail list to ensure you receive all of our action alerts and stay up to date on any developments with this important campaign by clicking here.


Temagami Integrated Plan Released

In February 2004 Earthroots challenged the logging plan for Temagami, charging that it did not follow the direction of the Temagami Land Use Plan, which mandates integrated planning for commercial-industrial, recreational, ecological and cultural heritage values on the Temagami land base.

After a 3 year public consultation process, the Ministry of Natural Resources released the final version of the Temagami Integrated Plan (TIP) on August 9th, 2007. While the final plan makes some improvements regarding the protection of portages and maintenance of camp sites on crown land and in conservation reserves, there is a lack of attention to ecological values in the Park Management Plan.

Earthroots believes that TIP doesn't go far enough to protect Temagami's wilderness and low-impact recreational opportunities, especially in Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park (Temagami's only wilderness class park), where motorized access should be restricted. Motorized access is inconsistent with wilderness class park management principles: scientific evidence shows that even limited motorized use can have long term adverse affects of wildlife and plants species.

Earthroots has expressed its concerns to the Ministry of Natural Resources and will continue to push for increased protection for ecological values and low-impact recreation in Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park.

Wolf Lake: A National Treasure

Wolf Lake, which contains the largest old-growth red pine forest in North America – and maybe even the world – is located in the southwestern part of the Temagami region, along the Chiniguchi Waterway. Wolf Lake contains 1,600 hectares of red pine forest with trees up to 260 years old. The area surrounding Wolf Lake has been has been incorporated into a Provincial Park, however half of the old-growth forest has been excluded from the park because of mining claims in the region.

Wolf Lake currently has the status of Forest Reserve, but the Ministry of Natural Resources plans to lift this in order to attract mining investments to the area. If this occurs, logging operations will also be allowed to proceed in the forest. Resource extraction in the largest stand of ancient pines on the continent is irresponsible and must be stopped immediately. Along with local paddling and environmental groups, Earthroots is urging the government to include Wolf Lake in the Chiniguchi Waterway Provincial Park so that it receives permanent protection.

To view a video of the Wolf Lake region and learn more about what is at stake, please visit:


The fight to protect Temagami’s ancient ecosystems continues to be one of the key goals of Earthroots’ work.

Contact Us


401 Richmond Street West, Suite 410
Toronto, Ontario
M5V 3A8

Phone: 416-599-0152
Fax: 416-340-2429

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




Privacy Policy & Statement

      A.  PIPEDA

      EARTHROOTS is committed to respecting the privacy of our members and donors, their families, and our employees by adhering to the privacy principles set forth in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Those ten principles are:

      1.  Accountability

      EARTHROOTS is responsible for personal information under its control. The Executive Director is accountable to the Board of Directors for compliance with this statement. The Privacy Officer is responsible for the management of the policy, including the guiding principles.

       2.  Identifying purposes

      EARTHROOTS, at or before the time personal information is collected, will identify the purpose for which personal information is collected. The primary purposes are fundraising, statistics, and meeting legal and regulatory requirements. Specifically, this includes processing gifts, issuing receipts, mailing of newsletters, direct mail, telemarketing, trading names with like-minded organizations, sending invitations to events, and informing donors about new products or services.

      When personal information that has been collected is to be used for a purpose not previously identified, the new purpose will be identified prior to use. Unless law requires the new purpose, the consent of the individual is required before information can be used for that purpose.  

      3.  Consent

      All donors have the ability to consent to the uses of their personal information. EARTHROOTS makes a reasonable effort to ensure that individuals are advised of the purposes for which information will be used. EARTHROOTS will assume consent is granted unless a member indicates otherwise.  

            Individuals may withdraw consent in many ways. For example:

            - By calling EARTHROOTS at 416-599-0152
            - By sending an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
            - In writing (see Item D)

            An individual may withdraw consent at any time.

      4.  Limiting Collection

      EARTHROOTS will limit its collection of personal information to the purposes outlined in Principle 2 above. If it is necessary to use the personal information collected for a purpose not identified when the information was collected, consent for the new use will be obtained from the donor.

      5.  Limiting Use, Disclosure and Retention of Personal Information

      Personal information will not be used or disclosed for purposes other than those for which it was collected, except with the consent of the individual, or as required by law.

      Personal information will be retained by EARTHROOTS for whatever periods are required by legislation governing our operation and/or the information provided, plus three years, after which time (unless consent is given to keep information for a longer period) the information will be destroyed in a secure manner. Personal information regarding donors of planned gifts will be kept until the death of the donor, plus ten years.

      6.  Accuracy

      Personal information will be as accurate, complete, and up-to-date as is necessary for the purposes for which it is to be used.

      7.  Safeguards

      EARTHROOTS has security safeguards in place that protect personal information against loss or theft, as well as unauthorized access, disclosure, copying, use, or modification. EARTHROOTS will protect personal information regardless of the format in which it is held. Methods of protection include:

          - Physical measures, for example, locked filing cabinets and restricted access to offices;
          - Organizational measures, for example, limiting access to a "need-to-know" basis; and
          - Technological measures, for example, the use of passwords.

      EARTHROOTS makes its employees aware of the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of personal information.

      All donations and purchases are processed by staff who have read and are bound by this privacy statement.

      8.  Openness

      This statement and the processes and procedures for obtaining access to personal information will be available to any individual through our web site, and/or on request. Any individual may direct questions regarding personal information to the Privacy Officer.

      9.  Individual Access

      On request, an individual will be informed of the existence, use and disclosure of their personal information, and will be given access to that information. An individual may challenge the accuracy and completeness of the information, and have it corrected or amended as appropriate.

      An individual will be required to provide sufficient information to permit EARTHROOTS to provide an account of the existence, use, and disclosure of personal information. EARTHROOTS will respond to an individual's request within a reasonable time and at minimal or no cost to the individual.

      10. Challenging Compliance

      Individuals may challenge compliance of EARTHROOTS with this statement by contacting the Privacy Officer at the EARTHROOTS office.

      B.  EARTHROOTS Website Policy

      Donations made through the EARTHROOTS website are processed by CanadaHelps. The information gathered through CanadaHelps is collected for the EARTHROOTS database, and may be used for future communications with EARTHROOTS members and donors consistent with the purposes outlined above. Please visit for additional information on their privacy and security practices.  

      Purchases made through the EARTHROOTS website are processed by PayPal.  Please visit for additional information on their privacy and security practices.

           EARTHROOTS does not collect or distribute the e-mail addresses of visitors to our web page. EARTHROOTS does collect aggregate information on which pages visitor's access or visit, and information volunteered by the visitor, such as survey information and/or site registrations. The information we collect is used to improve the content of our webpage, may be used for future communications with EARTHROOTS members and donors consistent with the purposes outlined above, and is not shared with other organizations for commercial purposes.

      C.  EARTHROOTS Website Security

      Through the secure services of CanadaHelps and PayPal, EARTHROOTS is using industry-standard encryption technologies when transferring and receiving consumer data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse or alteration of information that we have collected from you at our site.

      Server services are provided by Media Temple. Please visit Media Temple’s website at for additional information on their privacy and security practices.

      D.  Contacting EARTHROOTS

      401 Richmond Street West, Suite 410,
      Toronto, Ontario M5V 3A8
      Telephone: 416-599-0152 x0
      Fax: 416-340-2429
      E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Privacy Statement

Revision Date: December 7, 2007 
EARTHROOTS respects and is committed to maintaining your right to privacy and your trust. EARTHROOTS Privacy Policy has been updated, and our programs reviewed to ensure we are compliant with Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (“PIPEDA”). Please use the form below to contact EARTHROOTS Privacy Officer about EARTHROOTS Privacy Policy or any other matter related to your personal information.

Our website is designed to enable you to take action to help protect threatened wilderness, wildlife and watersheds. Because of this, some areas of the site require personal information in order to be effective and to be considered legitimate by decision makers. This information is required on correspondence with decision makers to authenticate your letters, and to receive a written response. The personal information you provide for this purpose is not stored and will therefore never be sold or traded. We will not disclose this information to others, except to send it along with your message to the targeted government or corporate officials you have chosen to communicate with through our systems, at your request.

When you join EARTHROOTS’ Wilderness Defenders group by providing your e-mail address, you will receive updates and action alert messages. We endeavour not to send you more than one such e-mail message each week. These messages may from time to time contain an appeal for donations. EARTHROOTS will generally not send more than four messages a year that are dedicated specifically to fundraising.

You will always have the option of unsubscribing from our electronic mailing lists.

If you are an EARTHROOTS donor and have provided your personal information to us, EARTHROOTS will contact you in the future by mail and/or e-mail for fundraising, conservation, information, voter education and general outreach purposes.

You can change the information that EARTHROOTS has retained for you by contacting our office at 416-599-0152, sending an e-mail message to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by submitting the form below. You can also contact our Privacy Officer by mail c/o EARTHROOTS, 401 Richmond Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5V 3A8. Such requests are subject to Section 9 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and may take up to 30 days to be dealt with.

From time to time EARTHROOTS may trade your name with other carefully screened, like-minded organizations from the social justice or environmental community for limited use. This use may include fundraising appeals. We do this in order to expand our opportunity to serve Canadians and people from all around the world, and to provide you with new opportunities to get involved in the effort to protect Canada’s wilderness and wildlife, and related causes. If you do not want your name to be traded, please contact us using the form below. Be sure to provide your full name so we can make a notation in our file about your request.

EARTHROOTS requires that all of our conservation partners and other organizations with which we may share personal information have in place a Privacy Policy that complies with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

You will always have the option of unsubscribing from mailing lists and, on request, EARTHROOTS will be pleased to erase all record of your personal information from our secure database.

If you have any questions about EARTHROOTS security features or Privacy Policy, do not hesitate to contact us.

Ontario's New Scapegoat

The Double-crested Cormorant

Photo by: Jim Richards


Latest News 

Controversy over cormorant cull about to re-ignite

Kim Grove, Community Press
December 16, 2008

Brighton - The possible return of a cormorant cull at Presqu'ile Provincial Park after a two-year absence has once again aroused strong emotions on both sides of the issue.

The Ministry of Natural Resources has given the public until Dec. 29 to respond to a proposed project that includes managing cormorant populations on Gull and High Bluff Islands in Presqu’ile.

The ministry had a cormorant management plan in place until last year. Between 2003 and 2007, it reduced the bird’s numbers by oiling 91,760 eggs, and removing 13,020 nests. From 2004 to 2006, more than 10,800 cormorants were culled.

The ministry’s goal was to protect woodland habitat that is important to several species that are under threat throughout the Great Lakes, such as the monarch butterfly, the black-crowned night heron and the great egret.

Corina Brdar, a zone ecologist for the MNR, says Ontario Parks "scientifically assessed" the results of cormorant management in Presqu’ile and found that it “was effective in decreasing the damage to woodland habitat,” and allowing the trees and shrubs to begin to recover.

However, in 2008, without any management plan in place, cormorant numbers increased and the birds “colonized new, live trees for nesting, many of which are in areas used as habitat by other species.”

The MNR says “an ecosystem-based implementation plan is needed for the Presqu’ile Islands because the ecological integrity of the woodlands has been affected by both deer and cormorants,” Brdar said in a release. The proposal for cormorant management activities requires an environmental study report and public comment when the draft plan is released. A separate implementation plan for wildlife and vegetation management on the mainland will also be prepared and opportunity given for public to comment on it as well.

The ministry’s intention to reintroduce a management plan doesn’t sit well with some in the community but finds favour with others.

Doug McRae, a local naturalist, takes the view that the cormorants arrived in the area naturally and should be left alone.

“I’m of the belief that where there is a good argument for it, I can see managing cormorants, but I don’t believe there is a good argument for managing them at Presqu’ile,” McRae said. Populations of different bird species that have made their habitat in large numbers in Presqu’ile, such as the common tern, have naturally decreased, he said.

“It’s not a static thing. In the 1950s Presqu’ile had the largest common tern colony in North America but they faded by the 1970s and recently were replaced by ring-billed gulls, and at one point we had the largest population of ring-billed gulls nesting in the great lakes. These things are reflecting the environmental conditions that we live in.” Many of the cormorants are dying of botulism, McRae said.

“My bet is that if we were to leave it alone cormorants would be uncommon in the future.”

Fred Helleiner, a bird watcher respected for his knowledge of bird habitat in Presqu’ile, agrees with McRae that there is an aesthetic prejudice against the cormorant. The bird, referred to by early European settlers as the “crow duck,” is not considered attractive.

“If they were white like swans, which are actually a lot more damaging to the environment, they would love them, ” Helleiner said, referring to those who dislike the bird.

He said nature should be allowed to take care of itself.

“We don’t know enough to monkey around with individual elements in the system, without knowing how the whole system is going to respond,” Helleiner said, warning that the ecosystem is so complex that it could be disrupted by a cull.

Scott Anderson, a resident of Presqu’ile Bay, supports reducing cormorant numbers, even though they’re “magnificent birds to watch” in pursuit their prey. There are just too many of them.

“They literally destroy all the vegetation. They leave a layer of guano, that’s crap to ordinary people. And in fresh water, it’s deadly. It’s just like if you had a sewage treatment plant and you never bothered processing stuff and shoving it right into the lake. Saltwater and oceans absorb a lot of this but fresh water can’t.”

He has no objection to 100 or 200 pairs in Presqu’ile, but when their numbers reach the thousands they should be managed, he said.

“Don’t get me wrong. I love nature. I help nature every chance I get. I’ve planted thousands of trees in my time,” Anderson said. “The thing about these naturalists, they are very one-track-minded. They say you should leave everything and let it run its natural course. Well, if everything ran its natural course, guess what, we’d all be dead before we were 50. We cheat nature like you wouldn’t believe.”

McRae said cormorants shouldn’t be singled out as for their impact on the environment. “Cormorants kill trees where they nest; they always have and they always will. They are colonial birds which means they nest in large groups. All colonial birds kill vegetation with their droppings,” McRae said.

The cormorants have made their home on Gull and High Bluff islands, a bird sanctuary, and they should be left alone, he said.

McRae doesn’t buy the argument that the cormorant is affecting the number of rare birds seen at Presqu’ile. “The rare birds that are nesting in those trees started nesting in Presqu’ile after the cormorant had killed the trees,” he said, referring specifically to the great egret and the great blue heron. “I believe the cormorants promote biodiversity rather than limit it.”

The method of culling also distresses McRae, which he finds cruel; in 2004, the peak of the cull, 6,030 were shot.

They were killed “with .22 caliber rifles fitted with four power scopes, using a .22 calibre hollow-point subsonic bullet,” the MNR stated in a report on its strategy assessment for 2003-2006.

The disturbance to the bird habitat and the estimate that one-in-three cormorants fly off the island wounded concerns McRae.

They sometimes flap around with a broken wing for days, he said. “Can you imagine if the deer cull was conducted in such a way that a deer was seen running through the park for days with a broken leg or a leg shot off?”

The naturalists have also expressed concern to the ministry about the dead cormorant carcasses left on the island after they were culled.

“The Ministry of Environment forced the park to go out at the end of the summer and clean up these huge piles of dead cormorants that they’d piled up on High Bluff Island,” Helleiner said. The composted material was transported from High Bluff island in autumn 2005 and deposited in the landfill site in Brighton,” the MNR reported.

One group that is in favour of the cull is the anglers and hunters. They’ve told the Ministry of Environment that cormorants consume large, major sport fish such as lake trout and salmon as well as feed on the same prey fish that large predatory fish need for food. They also blame cormorants for depleting local supplies of pan fish, such as perch and bass.

The ministry counters that studies of cormorant diets in Lake Ontario show that less than two per cent of the prey found in cormorants is lake trout or salmon. Moreover, cormorants consume less than one per cent of the prey fish, “which is insignificant when compared to about 13 per cent taken by sport fish,” the MOE says on its website.

Not enough fish, too many birds – nature doesn’t balance things the way people would like it, Anderson said. “Everything in Mother Nature comes in twos, either too much or too little.”

Man should manage nature, he said. “It just blows my mind that people would allow wildlife to suddenly run amok. It’s like raccoons; there are more raccoons in North America than there were at the turn of the century because nobody’s hunting them,” Anderson said. “Human beings are managed very well, so why shouldn’t we do the same for wildlife.”

Brdnar, in reply to questions from The Community Press, explained in an e-mail that it is still “early in the planning stages for this project. However, we do know that the cost will be less than in previous years because our goal would be protection of specific treed habitat areas, rather than all treed areas of the islands as was done in the past. For this reason, any necessary culling would likely be on a smaller scale than in the past, and the need to cull would be determined each year based on monitoring results from previous years.”

The original management plan was for four years and was extended for another year. The one currently being developed can continue year after year for 10 years “once full public consultation has been completed.”

Initial comments regarding the project can be sent to Corina Brdar, Zone Ecologist, Ontario Parks, Southeast Zone, 51 Heakes Lane, Kingston, Ontario K7M 9B1 or by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Cormorant cull in Point Pelee National Park - Spring 2008

Point Pelee National Park (PPNP) conducted an abbreviated cull of Double-crested cormorants starting on April 30th and finishing on May 5th. The cull consisted of two half day shoots and one full day shoot resulting in the death of 211 birds.  The number of culled cormorants is quite low due to the fact that PPNP had to follow a strict humane protocol while killing the birds.  Cormorant Defenders International representatives observed the cull from boats positioned next to Middle Island and from a land-based station on Pelee Island. Additional information will about the cull will be posted soon.  Parks Canada still intends to kill thousands of cormorants over the next 5 years as part of their "conservation plan" for the Carolinian ecosystem found there.  The cormorant colony on Middle Island, like every other bird colony in the world, is causing localized changes to vegetation around their nest sites.  The Double-crested Cormorant is a native species which is considered part of the Carolinian ecosystem and as such, should be left to nest peacefully on the island regardless of the size of the colony.  While Parks Canada suggests that culling is necessary to protect the “ecological integrity” of the island, this cruel and ineffective management strategy will in fact interfere with natural processes. 

Please visit to find out what you can do to help!


The Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is a large greenish-black waterbird with a slender, hook-tipped bill; orange facial skin and all four toes webbed together. The adults have two short tufts of feathers behind their eyes for a brief period during the breeding season, hence the name: double-crested. It is one of six species of cormorants found in North America.


Since their feathers are not waterproof, the Double-crested
cormorant will look for a place to perch after diving, to dry its
feathers in the wind.

Native to North America, its breeding range extends from Alaska to the West Indies. It can breed in freshwater inland lakes and along the sea coast.

A colonial bird

Photo: Peaceful Parks Coalition

Photo: Jim Richards

Cormorants choose to colonize islands close to shore, and headlands wherever there is an abundant food supply. In the Great Lakes watershed, Lake Ontario and Lake Huron provide the most habitat options for these birds. Cormorants receive a lot of negative attention because they are highly visible; nest in large colonies and feed close to the shoreline. Also there is concern that they eat too much fish and damage trees.

An environmental messenger

Images like this one, of a cormorant with a
deformed bill, helped to raise awareness of the
effects of DDT (Image: Melanie Griffin)

Following its widespread use after World War II, DDT and similar pesticides virtually wiped out the cormorant population. By the early 1970s the population had declined significantly. A ban on DDT, a decline in phosphorous and persistent toxic chemicals and the presence of non-native Alewives, Round Gobies and Rainbow Smelt all contributed to the cormorant's successful recovery. Its presence signifies large populations of these and other fish species.


Cormorants are victims of an enormous misinformation campaign

Many people don't understand the ecological role of these colonial birds and the natural processes that occur when they are present.

Myth: Cormorants consume large quantities of desirable game fish.

Fact: The majority of the cormorant's diet is invasive species such as Alewives and Round Gobies, which are destructive to the ecosystem, non-commercial species such as sticklebacks and extremely abundant species such as Yellow Perch.

Myth: Cormorants are a major contributor to the declining fish populations in the Great Lakes.

Fact: Surveys of stomach contents indicate the birds consume approximately 0.5% of the fish in Lake Ontario, which is insignificant when compared to the 13% consumed by predatory game fish.

A real threat to fish populations in the Great Lakes is overfishing but it is politically simpler for wildlife managers to target cormorants.

The best way to restore fish populations is to prevent overfishing and high volumes of bycatch, stop the spread of invasive species, restrict shoreline development, agricultural runoff and the leaching of contaminants and stop contributors to acid rain and global warming.

Presqu'ile - a bird watcher's paradise

Home to the largest most diverse bird colonies in the Great Lakes, Presqu'ile Provincial Park is a mecca for bird watchers. The Park is an important shorebird staging area and is recognized internationally as an Important Bird Area.

Shore of High Bluff Island in Presqu'ile Provincial Park

Photos: Jim Richards

Culling cormorants in a bird sanctuary

From 2004 - 2006, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) killed over 10,000 cormorants on High Bluff and Gull Islands in Presqu'ile Provincial Park in Brighton. This was deemed necessary to protect trees and other bird species. When tonnes of dead cormorants were dumped using all-terrain vehicles on the very island the MNR was claiming to protect, it was evident their objective was not about protecting the ecology of the area.

Myth: Cormorants threaten bird diversity because they are aggressive competitors for nest sites and fish.

Fact: The population of Black-crowned Night-Herons and Great Blue Herons increased in Presqu'ile Provincial Park after cormorants colonized the park's islands.

Cormorants are monogamous. Both parents will incubate the
eggs and take care of the chicks.
Photo: Jim Richards

Tree damage

Cormorants build large, shallow nests in trees and on the ground. They may gradually kill the trees they nest in through the deposition of their guano and by breaking branches for use in their nests. The MNR argued that a cull was necessary to protect the trees so that other birds like Great Blue Herons could nest in them. Great Blue Herons also destroy the trees they nest in, as do the Great Egrets and Black-crowned Night-Herons in Presqu'ile Provincial Park.

Despite the damage these birds cause, the trees can continue to support them for long periods of time. The same nests may be used for at least four years. A real threat to bird diversity is the number of trees that humans are destroying - not cormorants.

Barometer for ecosystem health

The health of the Great Lakes has dramatically improved since the '70s and the cormorant is a good indication of this. Levels of phosphorus and persistent toxic chemicals have declined significantly. Cormorants indicate an abundant supply of fish.

Cormorants play an important role in controlling invasive species such as Alewife and Round Gobies. Rather than being valued for their ecological service, cormorants have been made into a convenient for the degradation of Ontario's fish population.

Nature's way of keeping populations in check

Ontario's cormorant population will not increase forever though the stocking of invasive species may have enhanced the carrying capacity of the Great Lakes for these birds. According to Environment Canada, the cormorant population will eventually outstrip its food supply, outgrow its habitat or will be reduced by disease or predation. Populations are already decreasing in some parts of Ontario.

Culls are expensive band-aid solutions to a human-induced problem

Culls are expensive and need to be continued in the long term to achieve the goal of reducing the cormorant population. They are a stop gap 'solution' unless continued indefinitely. A cull does not reduce the local area's desirability to cormorants, nor its carrying capacity. Other fish-eating birds will replace the culled individuals. Barring massive slaughter, the rate of cormorant population growth will actually accelerate in response to lethal control.

Province-wide efforts to eradicate cormorants are a waste of limited financial resources to control what is a natural ecological process.

Coyotes, foxes, raccoons and other birds will prey on
cormorant eggs and chicks. Photo: Jim Richards


Environment Canada's Wildspace

Killer flap on Leslie Spit
BY Tim Tiner NOW Magazine- March 24th 2005

Cornell University's All About Birds

Visit the Cormorant Defenders International website for more information:


Grassy Narrows

The Grassy Narrows First Nation lives at the border of Ontario and Manitoba, near Kenora. Under a 1873 treaty (known as Treaty 3), the Grassy Narrows First Nation was given the right to engage in hunting and fishing on its traditional lands.  Since that time, the community has relied on these activities for subsistence.

However, forestry operations have threatened the Grassy Narrows community. In the 1970s, pollution from a pulp and paper mill contaminated local rivers with mercury, which has caused serious health problems in the community.  More recently, clearcutting on Grassy Narrows’ land has seriously undermined the community’s ability to hunt and fish because it has destroyed wildlife habitat.  Nearly 50% of the community’s traditional land-base has already been clearcut.

The Grassy Narrows First Nation has been resisting the destruction of its land and livelihood for decades and have formally declared a moratorium on all industrial activity within the community’s traditional land use area.  They repeatedly asked Abitibi and Weyerhauser (the companies responsible for clearcutting in the region) to halt operations in their forests, and when this failed, members of the community started a blockade in an attempt to prevent logging trucks from removing timber (2002).

After years of protest, AbitibiBowater announced that it will stop using wood from Grassy Narrows at its Fort Frances pulp mill and that it is seeking to give up its license to manage logging in the contested Whiskey Jack Forest (June 4th, 2008).  It is not yet clear whether logging will continue in order to supply Weyerhaeuser or under what conditions.

The plight of the Grassy Narrows First Nation has gained the attention of environmental and human rights groups from around the world.  The people of Grassy Narrows must be protected from further harm from large-scale logging until recently announced forest management negotiations with the community have run their course.

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