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Collaboration is key: Breakthrough plan for caribou in Ontario’s northeast!

From left: Monte Hummel, Chair of the CBFA; Al Thorne, Chief Forester, Tembec; Janet Sumner, Executive Director, CPAWS-Wildlands League

CPAWS has been a signatory to the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) since its inception two years ago, and we have put a lot of hard work into moving things forward in all of the regions covered by the agreement.  When it was signed, this landmark agreement held the promise of a new phase in cooperation between environmental groups and company members of the Forest Products Association of Canada, with the joint goals of conserving critical Boreal woodland caribou habitat across the country, and improving sustainable forestry.  But would it really bear results? 

CPAWS Wildlands League Chapter staff Janet Sumner (in photo above) and Anna Baggio have been especially engaged under the agreement in northeastern Ontario, where they’ve been working with local forestry companies like Tembec for over half a decade to implement conservation measures and encourage sustainable forestry practices. They and other CPAWS staff have also partnered with other conservation groups, including Ontario Nature, and consulted with local First Nations and mayors of nearby communities like Timmins to hear their concerns and work them into a plan with industry to conserve caribou habitat and sustainable forestry.

Today, we’re all very excited to announce a major advancement under the CBFA in this region that will result in large-scale conservation of critical woodland caribou habitat in Ontario’s northeast.

This represents the first major proposal to advance under the CBFA that will provide extensive long-term habitat protection for boreal woodland caribou. It was a long process but the results are very encouraging!

The Ontario government today officially welcomed joint recommendations on an action plan for the management of the Abitibi River Forest by CBFA signatories that will increase the area of woodland caribou habitat off limits to logging from 170,000 hectares to 835,000 hectares. Our plan will also allow for forestry to proceed, with conservation measures in place, in other areas of the forest which are already highly fragmented and where woodland caribou have not roamed for some time. 

Because CPAWS has been collaborating with companies in the region since before the existence of the CBFA, we were able to contribute a significant amount of knowledge and expertise to the process of developing the framework for this plan and we’re very happy with what has come out of this process.

The innovative plan outlines the establishment of three new management zones that have been carefully selected: the Caribou Conservation zone in the northernmost section of the forest, the Caribou Recovery zone in the central section of the forest and the Strategic Caribou Recovery zone, in the southernmost section of the forest.

The Caribou Conservation zone will provide habitat protection in the form of a long-term deferral of forestry activities, which means that all of the forest within this zone will be excluded from timber harvesting and other associated forestry activities. The Caribou Recovery zone contains select areas where timber harvesting will be permitted, and other areas where deferrals will be in place and harvesting will be restricted. The Strategic Caribou Recovery zone, the most highly fragmented area of the forest, will be where bulk of timber harvesting will be carried out, and will have supplemental caribou recovery objectives in place to reduce the overall impact of forestry activities on the region’s caribou population.

The recommendations in this action plan are of clear and measurable benefit to the boreal woodland caribou in the region belonging to the Kesagami Caribou Range. This range extends all the way into the Abitibi River Forest.  This caribou range has been identified by both the federal and provincial governments as a priority area for action to reduce the amount of disturbance and habitat fragmentation. Currently, this caribou herd is below self-sustaining levels and would face even more danger if there were further fragmentation and degradation of its habitat.

The action plan also benefits forestry companies operating in the Abitibi River Forest by increasing wood supply by up to20% over the next 30 years, as well as local communities who will benefit greatly from hundreds of forestry-related jobs and the pursuant economic growth expected from the expansion of the local job market.

To learn more about the CBFA, visit

Read the press release here and view the full report of recommendations.