Woodland Caribou and the Forest Management Guide
MNR finalized its Forest Management Guidelines for the Conservation of Woodland Caribou in 2001. The guidelines are for use in forest management in northern Ontario. The province’s boreal population of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), which number approximately 2,700 animals in Ontario and 1,800 in the area of commercial forestry, are considered a “threatened” population.
The guide explains that woodland caribou are sensitive to habitat disturbance and that they require large areas of undisturbed forest. MNR acknowledges “there has been a gradual recession in caribou range over the long term and local extirpation coincident with the expansion of forest harvesting.”
MNR says this is likely due to changes to forest composition and structure, increased access by hunters and predators, and the elimination of large contiguous patches of older forest adjacent to occupied caribou range.
The guide recommends forest landscape planning and management practices to decrease the likelihood of further declines in caribou populations. Because caribou prefer large areas of mature forest, the guide calls for clearcuts in the order of 10,000 ha or greater, and maintaining 10,000 ha or greater tracts of older forest. The hope is that the large cut areas will become suitable caribou habitat again when they reach maturity in 80 or more years, and that some suitable habitat will be available at all times. MNR acknowledges that there is “uncertainty about the long-term effectiveness of these guidelines for both caribou and the forest industry.”
The policy is to be applied in concert with MNR’s Natural Disturbance Pattern Emulation Guide (NDPE) (see main article, Forest Management Guide for Natural Disturbance Pattern Emulation.) MNR explains that the NDPE is intended to serve as a “coarse filter,” while the caribou guidelines serve as one of the “fine filters” for forest management planning. The guideline recommends a number of practices, including managing caribou on a very large land base over 80 years or more; protecting winter habitat and calving areas; providing refuge from predators and human disturbance; discouraging conversion to hardwoods; and regenerating harvested areas to restore the composition and structure of the mature forests.
Pursuant to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act and the Forest Management Planning Manual, measurable indicators for biodiversity must be used in the determination of forest sustainability. MNR recognizes that the boreal population o woodland caribou could be considered an indicator of long- term forest health due to their disproportionately large ecological role and intolerance of human disturbance.
Determining the impacts of forestry operations on the boreal population of woodland caribou is dependent on effective monitoring. The ECO encourages MNR to conduct a rigorous scientific monitoring program of the boreal population of woodland caribou. The ECO also encourages MNR to use the boreal population of woodland caribou as a measurable indicator of forest sustainability. The ECO will monitor the implementation of this decision and any subsequent revisions to the guidelines.
|This is an article from the 2001/02 Annual Report to the Legislature from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.|
Citing This Article
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 2002. "Developing Sustainability: Can Forestry and Woodland Caribou Coexist?." Developing Sustainability, ECO Annual Report, 2001-02. Toronto, ON : Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 53-57.