Landmark report reveals a decade of rapid change in Ontario's Boreal

    Satellite data documents impact of industrial activities in Ontario's
    northern forests

    EDMONTON, March 27 /CNW/ - The results of a survey of logging, road
building and other human disturbances in Ontario's northern forests reveals
that the region is being rapidly impacted by logging and associated roads. The
study, Recent Anthropogenic Changes within the Boreal Forests of Ontario and
Their Potential Impacts on Woodland Caribou, was undertaken using satellite
imagery and analysis and was conducted by Global Forest Watch Canada (GFWC).
    The study also looked at the potential impact of these changes on the
intact forest habitat required by threatened woodland caribou. "We found that
over two-thirds of the study area, which is half of Ontario, was likely no
longer suitable for caribou habitation. This has serious implications for the
survival of this species within much of Ontario," says Peter Lee, executive
director of GFWC.
    Dr. James Schaefer, a woodland caribou expert from Trent University warns
of the impact of logging cutovers on woodland caribou, "There is mounting
evidence of deleterious effects of timber harvesting on caribou. Recent
scientific studies show forest cutovers were the best predictor of caribou
occupancy, with a tolerance threshold of 13 km to nearest cutover and a time
lag of 2 decades between disturbance by cutting and caribou extirpation.
Reconciliation of forest exploitation with the conservation of forest-dwelling
caribou will be a major challenge for the 21st century."
    Knowing the location and, more importantly, the rate of development in
our forests can help to improve forest management. In this study, GFWC
identified all disturbances to the forests of northern Ontario that were
caused by industry in the 1990s and 2000s in a study area that covered almost
half of Ontario.
    "This is part of one of the largest national projects ever conducted to
describe the location and rate of the development of our forests," said Lee,
adding that GFWC hopes to expand the project to all of Canada.
    Other significant findings of the GFWC study (which can be downloaded
from their website, include:

    1.  Major cause of change: The major recent changes consist primarily of
        clearcut and salvage logging and associated roads.

    2.  Area and rate of change: Major area of change: Changes are
        concentrated in the area allocated for logging (which comprises
        approximately 70% of the project area and contains 99.5% of the total
        changes) in the southern portion of the study area. When ecological
        buffers that take into account potential impacts on Woodland Caribou
        were applied, over 90% of the logging exploitation zone was
        considered to have been impacted by industrial activities.

    3.  Forest Management Units (FMUs): The Dog River-Matewan (managed by
        Bowater Pulp and Paper Canada Inc.) FMU and Black Sturgeon (managed
        by Abitibi-Consolidated Inc.) FMU experienced the most dramatic
        changes over the 1990-2001 period in the project area.

    4.  Potential Impact on Woodland Caribou range:
        -  Short-term impact on Woodland Caribou: Over one-quarter of the
           project area may experience woodland caribou avoidance due to
           changes caused by the logging industry in the 1989-2001 period.
        -  Long-term impact on Woodland Caribou: Over two-thirds may
           experience woodland caribou extirpation due to changes caused by
           the logging industry in the 1989-2001 period.

    This study raises serious questions about:

        -  The impact of the rate, scale and distribution of anthropogenic
           changes on the sustainability of Ontario's forests, especially
           when an ecological footprint is considered in addition to the
           physical footprint;
        -  The sustainability of high conservation value forests within the
           logging exploitation zone in Ontario's forests; and
        -  The survivability of Woodland Caribou in and adjacent to the
           logging exploitation zone.

    "Ontario's remaining intact forests - forests that have not been impacted
by industrial disturbances - are important for offsetting damaging climate
change. Further similar studies on industrial disturbances and studies on
remaining intact forests should be conducted in broader geographic areas in
Canada's forests to monitor and quantify the amount, rate and impacts of
industrial activities and to determine the value of what's left," concludes
Peter Lee.
    The report follows an urgent call from a long list of celebrities,
artists and conservation groups to protect Ontario's remaining large intact
boreal forests as part of a provincial climate action plan and to prevent the
extinction of threatened species.

    For more information: The Global Forest Watch Canada report, Recent
Anthropogenic Changes within the Boreal Forests of Ontario and Their Potential
Impacts on Woodland Caribou, and associated forest change spatial datasets,
maps, data, and photos are available for download on the GFWC website:

    Global Forest Watch Canada was formed to provide access to more complete
information about development activities in Canada's forests and their
environmental impacts. We are convinced that providing greater information
about Canada's forests will lead to better decision-making on forest
management and use, which ultimately will result in forest management regimes
that provide a full range of benefits for both present and future generations.

For further information:

For further information: Peter Lee, Executive Director, Global Forest
Watch Canada, (780) 451-9260 or cell (780) 914-6241; Dr. Justina Ray, Wildlife
Scientist, Director, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, (416) 850-9038 x

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