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Approved Ontario development threatens species at risk


TORONTO - The Ministry of Environment announced its decision this week to allow a controversial logging plan to go forward in the Ogoki Forest, which is critical habitat for the threatened woodland caribou. Logging will proceed despite the Ontario government\'s pledge to protect caribou habitat under its new Endangered Species Act.

Environmental groups across the province requested that logging in the forest be put on hold until the full impacts on caribou could be determined. However this week the Ministry of Environment refused to conduct this assessment in favour of allowing road building and logging to continue
unabated.

"This decision demonstrates the failure of the environmental assessment process to protect species that are at risk," said Catharine Grant of ForestEthics. "Wood cut from the homes of endangered species is finding fewer buyers in the marketplace, who are increasingly looking for greener forest products and assurance that species like caribou are being protected."

The Ogoki Forest is one of the few areas of intact caribou habitat that remains within Ontario\'s managed forest. The Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources have ignored the threat that logging in the Ogoki poses to threatened caribou, and are undermining Premier McGuinty\'s commitment in fall 2007 to protect the species.

"The Premier has made it clear he supports the protection of species at risk like caribou, and of Ontario\'s boreal forest in general," said Trevor Hesselink, Director of Forest Programs at CPAWS Wildlands League. "That\'s why we\'re so confused about this Ministry of Environment decision - it supports MNR\'s laggard approach, which calls clearcutting caribou protection."

"Ontario now has stronger laws to protect threatened species, and has also seen a dramatic decrease in demand for its wood." said Anne Bell, Conservation Director for Ontario Nature. "Considering these two factors, it doesn\'t make any sense for logging to take place in caribou habitat in the Ogoki Forest."

Since 2004, the market for Ontario forest products has collapsed, and dozens of mills across the province have closed down. Despite this trend of reduced demand for Ontario\'s wood, logging in sensitive areas continues. The Ontario conservation community has repeatedly called for a halt to logging in intact caribou habitat as a requirement of the province\'s recently updated Endangered Species Act.

"Ontario has the potential to move toward a greener forest economy and take advantage of the growing market for sustainable product," said Rick Smith of Environmental Defence. "but continued logging in species at risk habitat will take us in the wrong direction."

"Caribou conservation needs to occur on all fronts," stated Rachel Plotkin of the David Suzuki Foundation. "This means implementing the new Endangered Species legislation, fulfilling the Premier\'s commitment to protecting the northern boreal ecosystem and protecting caribou habitat within the managed forest."

The Save Ontario Species (SOS) coalition is comprised environmental groups CPAWS Wildlands League, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, ForestEthics, Ontario Nature, and the David Suzuki Foundation. SOS\'s mandate is to ensure adequate protection for Ontario\'s species-at-risk.

For further information:
Catharine Grant, ForestEthics, (416) 527-2284;
Trevor Hesselink, CPAWS Wildlands League, (416) 707-9841