Ontario’s Far North boreal forest region is one of the largest intact wild areas remaining on the planet, yet Ontario continues to take a conventional development and protection approach to the region. The consequence of continuing with this approach will be that the Far North will end up like areas further south, with fragmented habitat, endangered species and a reliance on boom-and-bust economies associated with mining and other resource extraction industries. We need a new approach that embraces region-wide long-term planning and that can deliver on the Far North Act’s ambitious goals of protection and maintenance of ecological integrity, while putting appropriate limits on industrial development. Such an approach must also seriously consider the cumulative effects of different development and land-use decisions and the growing impacts of climate change on this vital natural region.
To ensure the future health of one of the world’s greatest wild ecosystems, we need to:
- Prevent the fragmentation of healthy watersheds and large habitat areas needed by species such as caribou and lake sturgeon by carefully planning roads and access corridors. Such planning needs to address the cumulative impact of all developments in this intact region as well as potential future climate impacts. Planners need to also consider the potential impacts of new roads on remote communities and their values.
- Respect First Nations rights and interests in development decision making and ensure planning approaches enable communities to fully consider the future impacts of industrial development.
- Ensure mining proposals are subject to a sustainability assessment, cumulative effects assessment, and consider future climate scenarios before approvals.
- Require an examination of regional cumulative effects of all proposed projects through a regional planning approach (e.g., regional and/or strategic environmental assessment).
- Recognize and protect the vitally important carbon storage function of northern forests and wetlands.