Studying Far North Caribou to Support Land Use Planning

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Far North Land Use Planning Initiative
Supporting land use planning through knowledge and information projects
Studying Far North Caribou to Support Land Use Planning

"You know, I've had experience in almost every corner of Ontario over the last thirty years and I'm just absolutely, truly amazed and impressed at the vastness, the remoteness and the diversity of vegetation and community types that exist across that Far North.

It instills in a me a feeling of responsibility to make sure that we do a thorough and thoughtful job in making our Land Use Planning decisions.

Planning is really all about making decisions of how much of what kind of activity occurs where, and that's very much the type of information we're collecting about caribou as well.

What we're really looking for is understanding habitat use, understanding movement patterns, understanding the genetic distribution across the landscape and understanding the information that we might need to support caribou into the future.

That's going to be really important information when it comes to understanding what portions of the land we want to protect, where development might be appropriate, where developments might not be appropriate or consistent with caribou conservation.

One of the project areas we have is Far North aerial surveys. We've collared a group of caribou to determine animal movement patterns and I don't think we were prepared for the massive extent of movement of caribou across the landscape in northern Ontario. There are absolutely massive movements with some caribou moving seven or eight hundred kilometers across the landscape.

What it suggests to us is that developments in parts of the north might have impacts on caribou populations in response to movement behaviors many of hundreds of miles away from where the development actually took place. It's going to lead us to some very special considerations for some very special evaluation of what development activities might be and what the implications might be for caribou.

I'm always amazed at the remoteness.

I've had the immense pleasure at being able to drive some of the winter roads and learn more about those. It instills in us also this feeling of awe and respect for the First Nation communities that have live quite successfully in those remote environments.

When we're conducting our winter distribution surveys we actually employ first nation community members to work with us as observers and in a lot of cases it's been extremely informative to helping us design our work and to make more profitable observations.

The Boreal forest has always through time supported a wide array or diversity of tree, and plant, and wild life species. There's a certain obligation on every one of us as a steward of the land to ensure that that heritage is available in the future as well. I think the driving force in caribou conservation is the same as the force in broader land use planning and that is to understand and appreciate what our obligations are as stewards of the land, and in designing a future that ensures that that heritage is passed on."

Gerry Racey,
Senior Science Specialist
Northwest Science and Information
Ministry of Natural Resources

For more information please visit the Ministry of Natural Resources website. www.ontario.ca/farnorth