Government caribou plan fails to stop the extinction clock

PRESS RELEASE 

Groups urge Premier McGuinty to act before June deadline

    TORONTO, April 28 /CNW/ - Save our Species (SOS), a coalition of leading
environmental groups in the province, calls on the Ontario government to halt
logging and road-building in critical woodland caribou habitat in response to
the new Caribou Conservation Plan released by government late yesterday.
    The Conservation Plan, years in development, includes some of the best
scientific thinking available concerning how to protect caribou. However, the
Plan stops short of saying when or when habitat will actually be protected for
this species.
    "It's time for action," says Rachel Plotkin of the David Suzuki
Foundation. "Threats are imminent. The Plan has incorporated the best science
as a framework for moving forward, but does not outline concrete steps
necessary to prevent further caribou decline starting today."
    Woodland caribou is listed as a threatened species under Ontario's new
Endangered Species Act. The goal of the act is to protect and recover
endangered species and their habitats. While containing clear scientific
principles for caribou conservation, the plan permits continued logging and
road building in some of the province's best remaining woodland caribou
habitat. However, demand for wood has dropped by 60% since the late 1990s,
meaning that pulp and lumber mills can still run while caribou habitat is
protected.
    "A government plan that allows habitat destruction will have
ramifications in the marketplace" says Catharine Grant of ForestEthics. "We're
finding that customers of Canadian forest products do not want to be
associated with threats to species at risk."
    A new federally-commissioned science report, released earlier this month,
also sounded the alarm for the species right across Canada including Ontario.
The science report recommended that logging be stopped in caribou habitat in
Ontario until research proves that the species can tolerate more industrial
activity without declining.
    "Woodland caribou are the first big test for Premier McGuinty's
endangered species legislation," says Anne Bell of Ontario Nature. "We are
very concerned that the Caribou Conservation Plan does not say how or when
logging will be curtailed in threatened caribou habitat."
    The Caribou Conservation Plan is posted on the Environmental Bill of
Rights for a 30-day comment period. Under the ESA the province is also
required to describe habitat for woodland caribou in a Habitat regulation,
which is forthcoming. The ESA came into law in 2008, but forestry was given a
one-year exemption. The government is required to make all sectors compliant
with the ESA by June 30, 2000.
    "This plan is clearly the product of a ministry that is trying to "suck
and blow" at the same time. For example, they finally recognize caribou do not
come back to logged over areas, yet in the same document they state forestry
is compatible with caribou. Much depends now on addressing this conflicted
mandate and the definition of habitat in the Caribou Habitat regulation to
come," says Janet Sumner of CPAWS Wildlands League. "Stay tuned, the science
tells us what needs to be done and the June deadline for caribou protection is
fast approaching," adds Sumner.
    The draft Caribou Conservation Plan can be found at:
http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/270811.pdf
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