Conservation Agreement for Boreal Caribou in Ontario

ERO number
019-4995
Notice type
Policy
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Decision
Decision posted
Comment period
February 4, 2022 - March 21, 2022 (45 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:
February 4, 2022
to March 21, 2022

Decision summary

Ontario and Canada have signed a historic bilateral conservation agreement for boreal caribou under the federal Species at Risk Act with the objective to sustain or improve the environmental conditions necessary for the recovery of the boreal caribou, while considering social and economic factors.

Decision details

Ontario and Canada have signed a five-year bilateral conservation agreement for boreal caribou under section 11 of the federal Species at Risk Act.

The agreement provides a framework that commits both governments to establishing and implementing conservation measures necessary to maintain and recover self-sustaining populations of boreal caribou in the province. The conservation measures in the agreement, such as monitoring and science, habitat protection and restoration, and planning and management will be informed by evidence-based science and Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and will be implemented using joint funding from Ontario and Canada. 

Currently, there are less than 5000 boreal caribou remaining in Ontario. Boreal caribou are found across most of the north of the province, an area that also provides many valuable natural resources to the forest and mineral exploration and mining sectors, and is the home for a large number of First Nation communities. 

While the main goal of this agreement is to sustain or improve the environmental conditions necessary for the recovery of the boreal caribou, Ontario and Canada recognize that achieving boreal caribou protection and recovery will consider social and economic factors in concert with the conservation measures. Ontario will continue to work with all partners in a way that balances protecting and recovering the species with the social and economic realities of Ontarians and industries in the north.

The development and implementation of actions contained in the conservation agreement will be informed by input received during future engagements and consultation with independent experts, Indigenous communities and organizations and stakeholders, as well as the best-available science, and social and economic information.

Comments received

Through the registry

52

By email

7,311

By mail

0
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

We received a total of 7363 comments from:

  • the public
  • Indigenous communities and organizations
  • industry associations
  • environmental and conservation organizations
  • municipalities
  • other interested stakeholders

Effects of consultation

The ministry received a total of 7363 written comments as part of this registry posting. Further feedback was received through meetings with stakeholders and Indigenous communities and organizations.

Ontario recognizes that Indigenous communities and organizations, as well as stakeholders have important knowledge and on-the-ground understanding of boreal caribou. As such, it will be important to ensure any additional actions to sustain or improve the environmental conditions necessary for the recovery of boreal caribou at the range scale are planned and implemented in manner that considers and/or incorporates knowledge and input from Indigenous communities and organizations as well as Ontario’s potentially impacted stakeholders.

As Ontario shifts towards planning and implementation of these conservation measures, there will be additional opportunities to engage northern and Indigenous communities and support Indigenous community participation in caribou conservation.

Ontario also recognizes that the environment and economy go hand in hand and that the recovery of boreal caribou can be achieved while supporting continued prosperity and community and economic well-being such as critical infrastructure development and economic development. To that end, socio-economic impacts on communities and sectors will be assessed in implementing conservation measures.

Although many comments expressed that a Canada-Ontario conservation agreement was positive step and would support better collaboration and integration across different levels of government, many comments also expressed a number of concerns with the proposed approach. The comments received were categorized into the following themes or areas of focus:

Comments not directly associated with a proposed conservation measure:

  1. Engagement with Indigenous Peoples
  2. Stakeholder Engagement
  3. Protection
  4. Socioeconomic Commitments
  5. Climate Change
  6. Disturbance
  7. Multi-species Approach

Comments associated with a proposed conservation measure:

  1. Monitoring
  2. Range Boundary Review
  3. Science Plan
  4. Habitat Restoration
  5. Protected Areas
  6. Forestry
  7. Mining
  8. Lake Superior Coast Range

The following sections describe each theme in more detail and provides a rationale for its consideration in the final conservation agreement.

  1. Engagement with Indigenous Peoples

    Comments and concerns were provided by several Indigenous communities and organizations, through the registry as well as through meetings and written submissions, about the importance of being engaged and involved in caribou conservation activities and the need for meaningful engagement in both the planning and implementation of the agreement. Several Indigenous communities and organizations highlighted the importance of caribou to their communities and support efforts towards caribou conservation and recovery; others highlighted the concern about caribou conservation affecting moose populations and their ability to hunt moose. In addition, comments and concerns were raised on a variety of topics including: the agreement doesn’t go far enough to protect caribou; the agreement should better consider climate change and cumulative effects of development/disturbances; the need for range planning. Communities shared the importance of Ontario working with them to ensure that their input and perspectives, including Indigenous Knowledge, can inform the agreement and its implementation, and noted that funding is critical to enable community engagement and participation.

    Response: Ontario recognizes that Indigenous peoples have important connections to, and maintain a spiritual and cultural relationship with, boreal caribou. Ontario is committed to ongoing engagement and involvement with Indigenous communities and organizations during the implementation of the conservation agreement and to seek out and support opportunities for collaboration. Ontario commits to continued engagement with Indigenous communities and organizations so that their input and perspectives, including Indigenous Knowledge, can inform the implementation of the conservation measures. Ontario respects section 35 Aboriginal and treaty rights and is committed to meeting its obligations in respect of Indigenous peoples, including the duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate.

  2. Stakeholder Engagement

    Several of the comments received advised that meaningful engagement with stakeholders, such as the forestry industry and northern municipalities, was needed on the conservation agreement. While some of these comments spoke specifically to engagement on the development of the conservation agreement itself, others sought stakeholder involvement in the planning and implementation of the proposed Conservation Measures.

    Response: Ontario values and recognizes the importance of input from stakeholders, and other interested parties in informing a conservation agreement. Ontario engaged stakeholders through several meetings and in workshop settings to inform the conservation agreement and is committed to ongoing engagement in the implementation of the Conservation Measures. Ontario will be seeking collaborative arrangements with individuals and organizations to support recovery of boreal caribou pursuant to the conservation agreement.

  3. Protection

    Many commentors felt that the conservation agreement does not protect the habitat of boreal caribou, citing the absence of a commitment to meet the federal range-scale critical habitat protection targets. Many commentors also identified that protecting boreal caribou habitat could meet other objectives such as nation-level targets to protect 30% of Canada’s lands and oceans by 2030.

    Response: Ontario will use range-scale analysis to inform conservation, resource management and other development activities to contribute to the protection, management and mitigation of impacts on critical habitat outcomes. The conservation agreement seeks to build on the base of existing management under the provincial and federal boreal caribou conservation frameworks, to create the environmental conditions necessary to maintain and recover boreal caribou.

  4. Socio-economic Commitments

    Responses related to the inclusion of social and economic considerations in the proposal were strong but polarized. Many comments recognized the depth of socio-economic considerations that were built into the proposal, however, some advocated for there be measures to report on the social and economic costs, positive or negative, incurred from the implementation of the agreement. Some comments did not support the inclusion of social and/or economic considerations in a conservation agreement for boreal caribou.

    Response: The conservation agreement is focused on implementing additional actions to sustain or improve the environmental conditions necessary for the recovery of boreal caribou at the range-scale. However, the conservation agreement also recognizes that the potential socio-economic impacts to communities, sectors and projects of implementing Conservation Measures will be evaluated in consideration of the economic prosperity of Ontario businesses and the communities that depend on them today and in the future.

  5. Climate Change

    Many commentors cited uncertainty regarding climate change, its effect on boreal caribou distribution into the future, and the need for consideration of climate change in the development and implementation of several Conservation Measures including, but not limited to, Range Boundary Review and Updating, Habitat Restoration, and the Boreal Caribou Science Plan.

    Response: Ontario will seek to leverage the Boreal Caribou Science Plan to identify the current state of provincial knowledge, gaps and priorities from a provincial and range-scale perspective, including in regard to the relationship between climate change, other natural processes such as predation and disease, and boreal caribou habitat.

  6. Disturbance

    There were divergent views among commentors with respect to the consideration and effects of cumulative disturbance on boreal caribou. Some comments advocated for employing existing federal models to identify range-scale disturbance thresholds in Ontario. Others were supportive of seeking alternatives or other evidence-based approaches to managing boreal caribou habitat.

    Response: Ontario will continue to implement a range management approach, maintaining or moving towards a range condition that is sufficient to support self-sustaining local populations of boreal caribou in all ranges in Ontario and includes the consideration of range condition based on current data (population size trend, disturbance and habitat amount and arrangement) in the assessment of development proposals, where applicable. Crown forests are managed in accordance with the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, and the Forest Management Guide for Boreal Landscapes, which includes guidance for managing habitat for boreal caribou.

  7. Multi-species Approach

    Some comments described a preference for a multi-species approach, rather than a specific focus on boreal caribou.

    Response: Existing policy frameworks under various pieces of Ontario legislation ensure the consideration of multiple species in habitat management where, and as, appropriate including under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. However, the purpose of the conservation agreement is to support the implementation of Conservation Measures that create the environmental conditions necessary to maintain and recover self-sustaining local populations of boreal caribou – it is not a multi-species agreement.

  8. Monitoring

    The ERO proposal described the intent to develop and implement a program of ongoing range-scale boreal caribou monitoring and reporting in all ranges. There was broad support from commentors for Ontario to undertake monitoring to improve the understanding of the current status of boreal caribou at a range-scale and for Ontario to undertake reporting in all ranges. There was differing support regarding the timing to initiate a monitoring program. Some commentors described a preference to initiate monitoring immediately to inform the implementation of other Conservation Measures (e.g. Range Boundary Review and Updating). Other commentors described a preference to undertake a Range Boundary Review and Updating, prior to conducting monitoring.

    Response: Ontario will be seeking to develop an ongoing monitoring program for boreal caribou in years 1 and 2 that builds on past investments (e.g. including criteria for range prioritization, timelines, methods, logistics, Indigenous engagement and participation, reporting) and to implement monitoring in select ranges. This monitoring program will improve the understanding of the current state of caribou populations and incorporate modelling to projected future states of boreal caribou populations and habitat at a range-scale.

  9. Range Boundary Review and Updating

    The ERO proposal described Ontario’s intent to review and, as appropriate, adjust range boundaries informed by existing and new science, including Indigenous Traditional and community knowledge, and in consideration of relevant factors including climate change. Diverse comments were received regarding a Range Boundary Review and Updating. Many comments supported a review of range boundaries that would be informed by existing and new science, including Indigenous traditional and community knowledge and through consideration of relevant factors including climate change. These comments also indicated that this action should be prioritized above other Conservation Measures and initiated immediately as ranges form the foundation for the implementation of other Conservation Measures (e.g. where habitat restoration should occur, etc.).

    Response: Ontario will seek to develop an iterative approach to reviewing range boundaries that is informed by independent experts, stakeholders and Indigenous communities and organizations, and includes consideration of risk to the species. It is recognized that revisions to range boundaries may impact the implementation of other Conservation Measures detailed in the proposal posting such as habitat restoration.

  10. Science Plan

    The ERO proposal described the intent for Ontario to develop a Boreal Caribou Science Plan that identifies the current state of provincial knowledge, gaps, priorities from a provincial and range-scale perspective, including in regard to the relationship between climate change, other natural processes such as predation and disease as well as boreal caribou habitat, working with stakeholders and Indigenous communities and organizations, incorporating Indigenous Traditional Knowledge. There was recognition from Indigenous communities and organizations of the necessity for the inclusion of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge in the implementation of conservation measures contained within the conservation agreement, including the need to balance that knowledge appropriately with that of other contributors. Some commentors supported a science or evidence-based approach to inform the implementation of Conservation Measures. Other commentors questioned the need for additional science for boreal caribou, citing the large body of knowledge that exists for the species and raised concerns about potential delaying implementation of actions to support boreal caribou recovery and protection.

    Response: Ontario will develop and implement a Boreal Caribou Science Plan informed by independent experts, stakeholders, and Indigenous communities and organizations. The Science Plan will consider and incorporate Indigenous Traditional and community knowledge as available and applicable. Implementation of other Conservation Measures will not be delayed by the development and/or implementation of a Science Plan, but rather their implementation may be adapted or refined as new information becomes available.

  11. Habitat Restoration

    The ERO proposal described a number of measures with respect to habitat restoration.

    Many comments supported assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of habitat restoration activities to inform future work. Some comments preferred delaying habitat restoration activities until a Range Boundary Review and Updating was conducted. Other comments focused on the need for immediate action-on-the-ground habitat restoration action.

    Response: Ontario will be seeking to assess habitat restoration activities and use this information as early as possible when implementing habitat restoration activities. Where habitat restoration activities may be planned/implemented prior to the finalization of Range Boundary Review and Updating, any potential uncertainty in range boundaries will be considered.

  12. Protected Areas

    The ERO proposal described the intent apply a range-scale approach, including enhanced consideration of boreal caribou within existing protected areas and on other public lands, as well as to explore and implement opportunities to increase protection of boreal caribou habitat through expanded and new protected areas. Many commentors supported exploring opportunities to increase protection of boreal caribou habitat through expanded and new protected areas, and sought to expand the definition of protected areas to include approaches beyond areas protected under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Acte.g. other effective area-based conservation measures, Indigenous Protected and Conservated Areas or Designated Conservation Lands, in addition to supporting private endeavors to accomplish similar goals. Other comments described a need to consider the social, economic, and cultural implications of any new or expanded protected areas.

    Response: Through the implementation of the conservation agreement, Ontario will explore opportunities to increase or enhance protection of boreal caribou habitat considering a range-scale, including the consideration of approaches such as other effective area-based conservation measures.

  13. Forestry

    The ERO proposal described Ontario’s intent to continue to integrate the direction in the Forest Management Guide for Boreal Landscapes (BLG) into renewed forest management plans that intersect with caribou ranges while also reviewing forest management guide direction to assess the effectiveness of existing direction in supporting of self-sustaining caribou populations. Comments regarding Crown forestry were mixed. Some comments were positive regarding the recognition of Ontario’s existing forest management framework under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, including the Forest Management Guide for Boreal Landscapes, which includes guidance for managing habitat for boreal caribou. Other comments described concerns regarding the continued implementation of the current forest management framework and its direction for boreal caribou, citing the lack of consideration of range-level disturbance and the exemption of forest management activities on Crown land from certain provisions of the Endangered Species Act, 2007. There was strong support among most commentors to undertake a review of the effectiveness of the Forest Management Guide for Boreal Landscapes in supporting self-sustaining caribou populations.

    Response: Ontario will continue to integrate the direction of the BLG into renewed forest management plans that intersect with caribou ranges while also reviewing current forest management guide direction to assess the effectiveness of this direction in supporting self-sustaining local caribou populations.

  14. Mineral Exploration and Mining

    Mineral exploration and mining were addressed in a few of the comments received, with these comments showing variability of opinions. While some comments conveyed the perception that the conservation agreement would remove obstacles to development in the Ring of Fire, the remainder sought clarity on the integration of the conservation agreement with existing requirements under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 or advocated that the conservation agreement not impact mining activities.

    Response: With respect to mineral exploration and mining development, Ontario is committed to examining the effectiveness of current best management practices for site recovery, making any necessary adjustments and reviewing historic sites for natural recovery. Proposed development activities must adhere to all applicable provincial and federal legislation, including the Endangered Species Act, 2007.

  15. Lake Superior Coast Range

    The ERO proposal described the intent to finalize a management approach for the Lake Superior Coast Range. Comments received varied and were largely focused on the types of actions or approaches that could be taken to support boreal caribou in the Lake Superior Coast Range. Some comments supported focusing actions solely on off-shore islands of Lake Superior. Other comments supported a range-wide approach (including the mainland) and providing connectivity to the northern continuous distribution through the Discontinuous Distribution. Overall, there was a strong interest among commentors to confirm a management approach for both the Lake Superior Coast Range and the Discontinuous Distribution, and strong interest by some Indigenous communities in greater engagement

    Response: Ontario will seek to initiate consultation in year 1 of the conservation agreement and finalize a management approach for the Lake Superior Coast Range in year 2. Indigenous engagement is planned to occur through the implementation of the conservation agreement and both finalization and implementation of the management approach for the Lake Superior Coast Range.

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Original proposal

ERO number
019-4995
Notice type
Policy
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Proposal posted

Comment period

February 4, 2022 - March 21, 2022 (45 days)

Proposal details

Ontario and Canada have been working together to identify outcomes, conservation measures, and actions for inclusion in a bilateral conservation agreement for boreal caribou under section 11 of the federal Species at Risk Act. Ontario and Canada recognize that achieving boreal caribou protection and recovery will consider biological, social, and economic factors to achieve balanced outcomes in Northern Ontario.

Given the ongoing progress on these bilateral negotiations, and conscious of the importance and widespread interest in such a conservation agreement, we want to provide an opportunity for input from Ontarians, Indigenous communities and organizations, and stakeholders.

  1. Context

    The boreal caribou is listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) and Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA).

    It is estimated that there are roughly 5,000 boreal caribou in Ontario. The boreal population of caribou was formerly found throughout most of northern Ontario. Its range has receded and the species is generally found north of Sioux Lookout, Geraldton and Cochrane with a few isolated populations further south along the shoreline and islands of Lake Superior. Thirteen boreal caribou ranges have been delineated in the northern area of Continuous Distribution in Ontario (six of which make up what is currently recognized federally as the “Far North Range”). A fourteenth range, the Lake Superior Coast Range, is located farther south, along the northeast shore of Lake Superior. The Lake Superior Coast Range is separated from the northern ranges by lands called the Discontinuous Distribution.

    Boreal caribou require large, undisturbed areas of old conifer upland forest and lowlands to separate themselves from alternate prey (e.g. moose) and predators (e.g. wolves). Threats to the boreal caribou include habitat alteration (loss, degradation and fragmentation) due to human land use activities. Caribou are also at risk from climate change, forest fires and insects, as well as an increase in predation and disease that accompanies such broad habitat changes.

    Canada and Ontario have a shared responsibility for the protection and recovery of species at risk in the province. As a threatened species under both SARA and the ESA, both levels of government are taking action to support the conservation of the boreal caribou in Ontario.

    Under their respective legislation and policy frameworks, Ontario and Canada are committed to maintaining or achieving self-sustaining local populations of caribou in Ontario. Ontario and Canada intend to negotiate a conservation agreement that will describe how they will work collaboratively to implement conservation measures that rely on evidence-based approaches, including Indigenous Traditional Knowledge to achieve this outcome.

    The overarching goal of the conservation agreement will be for Ontario, with financial and implementation support from Canada, to work collaboratively with partners to sustain or improve the environmental conditions necessary for recovery of the boreal caribou at the range scale. For example, Ontario will use range-scale analysis to inform conservation, resource management and other development activities to contribute to the protection, management, and mitigation of impacts on boreal caribou critical habitat outcomes (i.e., disturbance levels and biophysical attributes) set out in the federal Recovery Strategy.

    The purpose of a bilateral conservation agreement will be to support the implementation of conservation measures that create the environmental conditions necessary to maintain and recover self-sustaining local populations of boreal caribou.

    At the federal level, Canada has legislative responsibility for wildlife species located on federal lands, and wildlife species listed under SARA, which includes provisions to address recovery, as well as the protection of listed wildlife species including the individuals, their residences and critical habitat on non-federal land in certain circumstances (e.g., if the Governor in Council makes an order). The federal Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada (2020) highlights federal objectives for recovering the species, and includes an identification of its critical habitat (i.e., the habitat necessary for the survival or recovery of the species which includes both biophysical attributes and disturbance threshold (i.e., 65% undisturbed habitat)). The Action Plan for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada: Federal Actions (2018) outlines the recovery measures that Canada is taking or will take to help achieve recovery for boreal caribou, including Canada’s intention to explore conservation agreements with provinces and territories and other parties, as appropriate, to formalize the commitments each party is making to protect and recover boreal caribou. The federal SARA enables Canada to enter into a conservation agreement with any government in Canada, organization or person to benefit a species at risk or enhance its survival in the wild. These agreements provide a stewardship approach to species conservation that are consistent with the purposes of SARA.

    At the provincial level, Ontario has legislative authority for species at risk, wildlife management, and decisions respecting natural resources and provincial Crown and private lands, and has the responsibility to lead conservation measures for boreal caribou in the province. Ontario has a robust provincial framework that includes laws, policies and processes to protect and recover caribou and their habitat in Ontario including the ESA, Ontario’s Woodland Caribou Conservation Plan (2009), and Range Management Policy in Support of Woodland Caribou Conservation and Recovery (2014). Under the ESA, Ontario takes a “Range Management Approach” for boreal caribou, focusing on the management of cumulative disturbance within the range. Ontario’s Range Management Policy sets out principles related to cumulative disturbance, habitat amount and arrangement, and sub-range habitat features. Ontario also has a provincial forest management planning framework that includes the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994, the Forest Management Planning Manual (2017), and the Forest Management Guide for Boreal Landscapes (2014), which collectively support the sustainable management of Ontario’s Crown forests including management for boreal caribou habitat.

    The management of cumulative disturbance within each range will be an important consideration for Canada and Ontario, one that follows through on the goal of the federal recovery strategy and builds upon Ontario’s Range Management Policy (2014) which sets out principles related to cumulative disturbance, habitat amount and arrangement, and sub-range habitat features.

    It is important to remember that our conservation agreement will build upon already existing actions taken by Ontario, the forestry, mining, electricity, and other sectors, non-governmental organizations, academics, municipalities, Indigenous communities and organizations. However, the new agreement will include enhancements regarding a range-scale approach to science, monitoring, habitat restoration, reporting, and other conservation measures, as described below, to further conserve boreal caribou in Ontario. These measures are aimed at enhancing caribou conservation in the context of broader socio-economic interests.

    Canada and Ontario recognize that the recovery of boreal caribou will also require a landscape-level approach and will require a combination of habitat and population management actions applied over time. Further, both parties recognize that adaptive management will be required to ensure that conservation measures undertaken are monitored and, as necessary, improved and adapted to incorporate new information or changed circumstances, and that overall success of conservation measures in achieving recovery will be best evaluated at the range scale.

    The Lake Superior Coast Range is unique due to its isolation, small size, shoreline location and inclusion of small nearshore and large off-shore islands, and therefore will require a separate approach to management than is taken in the other Ontario ranges.

    Canada and Ontario believe that the environment and economy go hand in hand and that we can ensure the survival of this iconic species while guaranteeing our continued prosperity.

    The conservation agreement will support conservation measures to work towards the maintenance or recovery of self-sustaining local populations of boreal caribou, and recognize the social and cultural well-being of northern and Indigenous communities, and the economic prosperity of Ontario businesses and the communities that depend on them today and in the future.

    The agreement will also take into account the mitigation of socioeconomic impacts on communities and evaluate the impacts to sectors/projects (e.g. Indigenous community roads in the Ring of Fire region, transmission lines to northern/Indigenous communities, forestry, mineral exploration and development, etc.) to provide for the economic prosperity of Ontario business and the communities that depend on them today and in the future.

    The agreement will outline how Canada and Ontario will collaborate over the next five years. Canada and Ontario will seek out opportunities to collaborate in the development and implementation of the conservation measures with industry, municipalities, environmental non-government organizations, Indigenous communities and organizations. The conservation measures described in the final conservation agreement will be informed by input received from the public, stakeholders and Indigenous communities and organizations as well as the best-available science, traditional knowledge, social and economic information and information on Indigenous land, resource use and cultural values.

    The following sections provide information on proposed elements under discussion for the agreement that are general in nature and a table that proposes more specific conservation measures for inclusion in the conservation agreement.

  2. General elements of the agreement

    The following is a description of the proposed general elements of the conservation agreement, including:

    • Principles
    • Indigenous collaboration and engagement
    • Stakeholder engagement
    • Governance, accountability, dispute resolution
    • Workplan, monitoring and reporting
    • Financial arrangements
     

    Principles

    The following principles are proposed for inclusion in the conservation agreement.

    • Collaboration: Ontario and Canada will work together to identify opportunities for alignment and achieve a common understanding of measures needed to achieve boreal caribou recovery and will cooperate in the delivery of these conservation measures in a manner that minimizes duplication, maximizes efficiency, and respects jurisdictional roles and responsibilities and considers socio-economic implications.

    • Results-based: Ontario and Canada will work toward achieving the conservation agreement goal and purpose, recognizing the need for and contribution of both habitat and population measures in achieving these results.

    • Use of best available information: Ontario and Canada will review and consider best available information including Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, emerging scientific and technical data, and community knowledge.

    • Adaptive management: Ontario and Canada recognize that monitoring the effects of actions and adjusting approaches as necessary will be critical to success, as recovery is an emerging “discipline”.

    • Transparency: Ontario and Canada will make information related to implementation of conservation measures covered by the conservation agreement publicly available.

    • Risk-based approach: Ontario and Canada will take an approach that guides the identification and implementation of conservation measures that are informed by an understanding of risks to boreal caribou recovery. A risk-informed approach allows decision-makers to focus their time, energy and resources on priority actions that reduce risk, while allowing greater flexibility in responding to actions that do not significantly affect risk.

    • Indigenous collaboration: Ontario and Canada will consult with Indigenous communities and organizations and seek out opportunities to collaborate in the development and implementation of conservation measures.

    • Stakeholder engagement: Ontario and Canada will continue to seek opportunities for engagement with stakeholders as collaborators in boreal caribou recovery, including implementation of conservation measures.

    • Funding: Canada and Ontario will work together to fund the implementation conservation measures to achieve the goal of the conservation agreement.
     

    Indigenous Collaboration and Engagement

    It is proposed that the conservation agreement include the following commitments by Ontario and Canada:

    • Commitment to engaging with Indigenous communities regarding boreal caribou conservation.
    • Commitment to review and consider the incorporation of Indigenous traditional and community knowledge shared with Ontario and Canada in boreal caribou conservation measures.
    • Commitment to seeking collaborative arrangements with Indigenous communities, organizations and individuals to support recovery of boreal caribou.
     

    Further it is proposed that the conservation agreement include the following:

    • Nothing in the conservation agreement shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada as recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
    • Ontario and Canada will recognize and respect Aboriginal and treaty rights and are committed to meeting their obligations in respect of Indigenous peoples, including the duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate.
    • The distribution of boreal caribou overlaps shared treaty lands and the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples.
    • Ontario and Canada recognize that Indigenous peoples have important connections to and maintain a spiritual and cultural relationship with boreal caribou, in addition to possessing significant knowledge which could support conservation and recovery efforts.
     

    Stakeholder Engagement

    It is proposed that the conservation agreement recognize that other organizations and individuals (e.g., local governments, non-governmental organizations, industry representatives and other stakeholders) are positioned to collaborate in boreal caribou recovery with Ontario and Canada.

    It is proposed that the conservation agreement include the following commitments by Ontario and Canada:

    • Commitment to ensuring that stakeholders, such as local governments, non-governmental organizations, private landowners, tenure holders, industry representatives and industry associations, are informed of the conservation agreement.
    • Commitment to seeking collaborative arrangements with individuals and organizations (e.g., local governments, non-governmental organizations, industry representatives and other stakeholders), to support recovery of boreal caribou.
     

    Governance, Accountability and Dispute Resolution

    It is proposed that the conservation agreement be signed by the Assistant Deputy Minister, Land and Water Division of Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) for Ontario and the Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Wildlife Service Environment and Climate Change Canada for Canada (ECCC).

    The conservation agreement would specify that the following are responsible for administration and implementation of the agreement:

    • The Assistant Deputy Minister, Land and Water Division, MECP, Ontario
    • Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy Division, Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (NDMNRF), Ontario.
    • Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Wildlife Service, ECCC.
     

    The first point of resolution for disputes arising from boreal caribou activities and programming contemplated in the conservation agreement would be the Director of the Species at Risk Branch, MECP, Ontario and the Director, Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Region, ECCC. Disputes that cannot be resolved by Directors would be referred to the Assistant Deputy Ministers noted above.

    Ontario and Canada would agree to provide each other at no charge with available data and information relevant to the implementation of the conservation agreement, as appropriate and subject to any applicable data sharing agreements and their respective legislation that would prevent them from doing so. This includes information on the status, conservation, and recovery of boreal caribou in Ontario, including habitat protection, restoration and other conservation measures; and information pertaining to mapping of general habitat under the ESA and critical habitat under SARA.

    Ontario and Canada recognize that some data and information may require confidentiality, including Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and land use information, or may have been obtained with an understanding of confidentiality, in order to protect species at risk from exploitation or harm. Data and information so identified by Ontario or Canada, or a collaborator in programs and activities, would be held confidential by Ontario and Canada to the extent permitted by their respective legislation and related policies, procedures, and agreements.

    Workplan, Monitoring and Reporting

    It is proposed that the conservation agreement would include the following commitments:

    • Ontario and Canada agree to convene annually to review and document the status of boreal caribou conservation efforts.
    • Ontario and Canada will develop an annual workplan including costs.
    • An annual public report summarizing the results and status of conservation measures in the conservation agreement will be prepared by Ontario and Canada and will be used to inform reporting requirements under Sections 46 and 63 and paragraph 126(c) of the Federal Species at Risk Act.
    • Ontario and Canada will report on some or all of the following as appropriate:
      • Progress against commitments in the conservation agreement.
      • Progress towards achieving the goal and purpose of the conservation agreement; and
      • Unforeseen circumstances or stochastic events (e.g., fire, forest health issues) that might impact conservation measures.
    • Ontario and Canada will review the conservation measures and commitments under the conservation agreement each year and will examine the deliverables to date, and the proposed deliverables for the following year, including consideration of costs where applicable.
    • Ontario and Canada will evaluate the actions and propose any additional commitments to be included in the annual work plan to increase the likelihood of achieving the goals of the conservation agreement or otherwise expedite the recovery of boreal caribou in Ontario.
    • Prior to the end of the agreement, Ontario and Canada will prepare a report on outputs and deliverables in relation to the conservation agreements to date to inform discussions on renewal of this Agreement.
     

    Financial Arrangements

    Canada and Ontario will work together to identify, needs, priorities and funding opportunities to implement conservation measures to achieve the goal of the conservation agreement. A funding agreement will be developed in parallel to the conservation agreement.

  3. Table of Conservation Measures

    This table is a description of the conservation measures that are proposed for inclusion in the conservation agreement. The conservation measures fall under five broad themes including monitoring and science, habitat protection and restoration, planning and management, updates to caribou conservation frameworks, and stewardship partnerships and funding.

    The sequencing of the conservation measures in the table is not indicative of relative priority.

  1. Monitoring and Science

    Conservation Measure: 1.1 Boreal Caribou Monitoring Program

    • Ongoing range-scale boreal caribou monitoring and reporting in all ranges.

    Goal: Improved understanding of the status of caribou at a range scale.

    Timelines

    • Years 1- 2
      • Ontario to develop an ongoing monitoring program for Boreal Caribou that builds on past investments (e.g., including criteria for Range prioritization, timelines, methods, logistics, reporting).
      • Implementation of monitoring program as identified through Range prioritization that includes consideration of risk to the species.
    • Years 3-5
      • Ongoing implementation of monitoring program as identified through range prioritization.

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

    • An ongoing Boreal Caribou range-scale monitoring program is established and is being implemented in prioritized ranges.
    • Monitoring results, including population and habitat states are reported and used to inform implementation of other conservation measures and the need to adjust existing policies, where appropriate (e.g. prioritization of species or habitat management efforts; refining range boundaries).
     

    Conservation Measure: 1.2 Caribou Range Boundary Review and Updating

    • Review and, as appropriate adjust range boundaries informed by existing and new science, including Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, and consideration of climate change.

    Goal: Ranges are defined in a manner that supports caribou conservation.

    Timelines

    • Years 1-2
      • Ontario to prepare foundational information - review and summarize existing relevant information (e.g. delineation criteria, cross-jurisdictional methodologies, science, Indigenous Traditional Knowledge).
      • Develop an approach to reviewing boundaries working with stakeholders and Indigenous communities and organizations, that includes consideration of risk to the species.
    • Years 3-5
      • Apply the range boundary review approach.
      • Ongoing review and analysis of existing information and incorporation of new monitoring data and science/research.
      • Apply results to refining federal and provincial range boundaries if results warrant.
     

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

    • Existing relevant information summarized.
    • Approach to reviewing range boundaries developed and applied, with incorporation of new range-level monitoring data, science/research and Indigenous Traditional Knowledge.
    • Federal and provincial range boundaries refined, if deemed appropriate.
     

    Conservation Measure: 1.3 Habitat Restoration Assessment Initiative

    • Assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of habitat restoration approaches in contributing to self-sustaining populations and managing cumulative disturbance at a range scale and application of the recommendations of the assessment.

    Goal: Improved habitat through implementation of effective and efficient habitat restoration approaches at a range scale.

    Timelines

    • Years 1-2
      • Ontario to design the assessment approach including engagement with stakeholders and Indigenous communities and organizations.
    • Years 3-4
      • Implement the assessment approach and report on results as they become available.
    • Year 5
      • Assess the effectiveness of the assessment approach, determine next steps, and apply results to inform policies and approaches.
     

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

    • Approach to assessing effectiveness and efficiency of habitat restoration approaches established and implemented, including engagement with stakeholders and Indigenous communities and organizations.
    • Information on the effectiveness and efficiency of habitat restoration approaches reported, guiding the implementation of legislation and policies, and being applied on-the ground.
     

    Conservation Measure: 1.4 Caribou Science Plan for Ontario

    • Develop a caribou science plan that identifies current state of provincial knowledge, gaps, priorities from a provincial and range-scale perspective, including in regard to the relationship between climate change and boreal caribou habitat, working with stakeholders and Indigenous communities and organizations, and implement the plan working with these partners.

    Goal: Further enhance the evidenced-based foundation of caribou conservation decision-making at a provincial and range-scale.

    Timelines

    • Years 1-2
      • The Parties to assess the current status of federal and provincial science related to caribou and identify gaps.
      • Design the approach for developing a caribou science plan including engagement with stakeholders and Indigenous communities and organizations.
    • Years 3-4
      • Work with partners to implement the priorities of the caribou science plan.
    • Year 5
      • Report on progress and identify next steps.
     

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

    • Assessment of current status completed, gaps and priorities identified at provincial and range-scales.
    • Science plan developed and implementation underway on priorities working with stakeholders and indigenous communities.
     

    Conservation Measure: 1.5 Data sharing

    • Develop a bilateral Canada-Ontario data sharing agreement for the boreal caribou.

    Goal: Available data and information is shared between Ontario and Canada at no charge to support caribou conservation decision-making.

    Timelines

    • Year 1
      • Develop a bilateral data sharing agreement including information on the status, conservation, and recovery of boreal caribou in Ontario, including habitat protection, restoration and other conservation measures; and information pertaining to mapping of general habitat under the ESA and critical habitat under SARA.
    • Ongoing
      • Continue to share available data and information as it becomes available.
     

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

    • Ontario and Canada provide each other at no charge with available data and information relevant to the implementation of the conservation agreement, as appropriate and subject to any applicable data sharing agreements and their respective legislation that would prevent them from doing so.

  2. Habitat protection and restoration

    Conservation Measure: 2.1 Habitat Restoration Initiative

    • Develop a prioritized list of Crown land locations for all boreal caribou ranges and implement habitat restoration activities in select locations. Ensure legislative and policy mechanisms exist to secure locations of habitat restoration.

    Goal: Improve boreal caribou habitat by decreasing fragmentation and cumulative disturbance.

    Timelines

    • Years 1-2
      • Ontario to develop a prioritized list of Crown land locations for habitat restoration, including consideration of risk to the species.
    • Years 2-4
      • Communicate prioritized list to those able/required to take action.
      • Implementation of restoration activities
    • Year 5
      • Continued implementation and evaluation of next steps.
     

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

    • Prioritized list of locations developed, made publicly available, and used to inform the implementation of habitat restoration activities.
    • Legislative or policy mechanisms confirmed or established to secure habitat restoration sites.
    • Priority projects undertaken to decrease fragmentation and cumulative disturbance of habitat within boreal caribou ranges in priority areas.
     

    Conservation Measure: 2.2 Protected Areas Initiative

    • Applying a range-scale approach, enhanced consideration of boreal caribou within existing protected areas and on Crown land; and exploration of opportunities to increase protection of boreal caribou habitat through expanded and new protected areas.

    Goal: Enhance protection of boreal caribou habitat through protected areas using a range-scale approach.

    Timelines

    • Years 1-2
      • Ontario to apply a range-scale approach, and explore opportunities to increase protection of caribou habitat through the expansion of existing, and the establishment of new, protected areas, such as through the regulation of remaining Ontario Living Legacy sites intersecting with the distribution of caribou.
      • Applying a range-scale approach, Ontario and Canada will also explore opportunities to enhance consideration of caribou within existing protected areas (e.g., through management planning and wildland fire management) and on Crown land areas such as Enhanced Management Areas and/or Dedicated Protected Areas under the Far North Act.
    • Years 3-5
      • If/where opportunities are identified, initiate action to implement them.
     

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

    • Opportunities to increase protection of caribou habitat through protected areas explored considering a range-scale.
    • Initiate implementation action based on identified opportunities.

  3. Planning and Management

    Conservation Measure: 3.1 Forest Management Planning

    • Continue to integrate the direction in the Forest Management Guide for Boreal Landscapes (BLG) into forest management plans (FMPs) that intersect with boreal caribou ranges and review forest management guide direction to assess the effectiveness of existing direction in supporting boreal caribou populations

    Goal: Undertake forest operations conducted in Crown Forests in accordance with an approved forest management plan under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act in a manner that supports the maintenance or recovery of self-sustaining local caribou populations.

    Timelines

    • Year 1
      • Depending on individual plan renewal dates, forest management planning to incorporate the BLG into FMPs will be initiated ongoing, or completed.
    • Years 2-5
      • Describe and communicate the plans to assess the effectiveness of existing direction in supporting the maintenance or recovery of self-sustaining local caribou populations.
      • Ongoing planning, approval, and implementation of FMPs to incorporate the BLG.
      • Implement the plan to assess the effectiveness of existing direction and evaluation of next steps.
     

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

      • BLG integrated into all 20 Forest Management Plans that intersect with Boreal Caribou Ranges by 2027.
      • Methodology to assess the effectiveness of existing BLG direction developed and assessment being undertaken.
      • Results are reported and used to inform the need to adjust existing policies where appropriate.
     

    Conservation Measure: 3.2 Mineral Exploration and Development Initiative

    • Continue to implement existing best management practices when undertaking mineral exploration and development activities, while also examining the effectiveness of current practices in supporting the maintenance or recovery of self-sustaining local caribou populations, and adjusting as appropriate.

    Goal: Undertake mineral exploration and mining development activities in a manner that supports the maintenance or recovery of self-sustaining local caribou populations.

    Timelines

    • Year 1
      • Develop a plan to assess the effectiveness of current best management practices for site recovery and review of historic sites for natural recovery working with stakeholders.
    • Year 2
      • Assess the effectiveness of current best management practices, identify gaps and priorities.
    • Years 3-5
      • Take action to update and implement best management practices.
     

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

    • Methodology to assess the effectiveness of existing best practices developed and being applied.
    • Best management practices updated and being applied.
     

    Conservation Measure: 3.3 Lake Superior Coast Range Management Plan

    • Develop and implement a management approach for the Lake Superior Coast Range and Discontinuous Distribution (Management Approach).

    Goal: Clarity on the management approach for boreal caribou in the Lake Superior Coast Range.

    Timelines

    • Years 1-2 Ontario to:
      • Consult on the draft Management Approach; and
      • Finalize the Management Approach.
    • Year 3
      • Implementation of the management approach.
    • Years 3-5
      • Ongoing implementation of the management approach.
     

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

    • Finalization and implementation of a management approach for the Lake Superior Coast Range and Discontinuous Distribution.

  4. Updates to the Caribou Conservation Frameworks

    Conservation Measure: 4.1 Evidence-based approaches

    • Refine existing evidence-based approaches to manage for self-sustaining local populations in Ontario ranges and integrate them into provincial and federal caribou conservation frameworks, where appropriate.

    Goal: Refined evidence-based approaches to managing for self-sustaining local populations.

    Timelines

    • Years 1-2
    • The Parties to:
      • Collaborate to review and refine existing evidence-based approaches, and explore alternative approaches, if appropriate to maintain or move towards self-sustaining local populations within Ontario ranges
      • Integrate accepted evidence-based approaches, into provincial and federal caribou conservation frameworks, where appropriate.
    • Years 3-5
      • Ongoing collaboration to further refine existing evidence-based approaches.
     

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

    • Refined evidence-based management approach for Ontario recommended and opportunities identified for integration into the provincial and federal caribou conservation frameworks to guide implementation of legislation, policies, etc. with respect to managing the species and its habitat.
     

    Conservation Measure: 4.2 Updating federal and provincial policy frameworks

    • Ontario and Canada to review updated relevant information (e.g., monitoring, science/research) as it is generated under the conservation agreement and consider adoption into federal and provincial caribou conservation policies and approaches.

    Goal: Up-to-date and aligned policy frameworks in Ontario and Canada Federal and provincial caribou conservation frameworks updated to support alignment.

    Timelines

    • All Years
      • Parties to consider the adoption or incorporation of relevant information as it becomes available, including as a result of conservation measures under this agreement.
    • Year 3
      • ECCC to review final management approach for the Lake Superior Coast Range and Discontinuous Distribution, and consider incorporating or adopting outcomes into the federal framework.
     

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

    • Relevant federal and provincial caribou conservation frameworks are up-to-date, incorporating best available information, as appropriate, including to support alignment between provincial and national approaches.

  5. Stewardship Partnerships and Funding

    Conservation Measure: 5.1 Strategic Partnerships and Stewardship Funding

    • Support implementation of projects that contribute to adaptive management in Boreal Caribou conservation.

    Goal: Support implementation of projects that contribute to maintenance or recovery of self-sustaining local caribou populations.

    Timelines

    • Year 1
      • Ontario and Canada to identify new opportunities to support Boreal Caribou conservation initiatives.
      • Implementation of identified strategic projects to further Boreal Caribou conservation
      • The Parties to develop a catalogue of stewardship projects underway/proposed to support better collaboration and avoid duplication of effort.
    • Years 2-5
      • Ongoing identification and implementation of strategic projects to further Boreal Caribou conservation.
     

    Performance measures to be achieved in five years

    • The Parties have collaborated to identify and fund projects, to further Boreal Caribou conservation in Ontario.

 

 

Ontario and Canada have been working together on this proposal. Ontario is seeking comments from Ontarians, Indigenous communities and organizations, and stakeholders. Please submit comments to Ontario through the Environmental Registry or to:

Public Input Coordinator
Landscape Species Recovery Section
Species at Risk Branch
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
435 James St. South, Ground Floor
Thunder Bay, ON
P7E 6T1
Phone: (705)755-1963
borealcaribouconservation@ontario.ca

Please note, comments that are submitted to Ontario on this proposal may be shared with Canada to inform the final decision on this proposal; however, personal information will not be shared.

If you wish to submit comments to Canada, please submit to:

Strategic Priorities Directorate
Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment and Climate Change Canada
15th Floor, Place Vincent Massey
Gatineau, QC
K1A 0H3
Phone: (800) 668-6767
ec.eccc-caribou.ec@canada.ca

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from February 4, 2022
to March 21, 2022

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