- Created on Tuesday, 29 November 2016 00:00
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- Created on Thursday, 24 November 2016 15:08
Ontario vows to clean up Grassy Narrows river system
Ontario’s environment minister is promising to clean up the river system near Grassy Narrows First Nation “to the satisfaction of the chief and the health of the people.”
The Star reported Tuesday that a comprehensive analysis of provincial fish data conducted by the University of Waterloo’s research chair in biology, Dr. Heidi Swanson, revealed that the walleye eaten by the people of Grassy Narrows are the most mercury-contaminated in the province.
Promise to clean up waters at Grassy Narrows is long overdue: Editorial
Fifty-four years after mercury was first dumped into the river system near Grassy Narrows in northern Ontario, poisoning the fish and any person or creature that ate them, Environment Minister Glen Murray is finally promising to clean up the water.
It’s about time.
Study after study has shown that generations of people from the Grassy Narrows and Whitedog First Nations have been poisoned as the provincial government mishandled the file and obfuscated the truth.
Grassy Narrows residents eating fish with highest mercury levels in province
For the residents of Grassy Narrows who have fished Clay Lake and the river downstream for generations, walleye is a dietary staple.
Now a comprehensive analysis of provincial data conducted for the Star confirms what has long been suspected: the walleye they are eating are the most mercury-contaminated in the province.
“It’s overwhelming for me,” said Ryan Kokokopenace, 36, when told of the Star’s finding. Kokokopenace and his family fish for walleye in the Wabigoon River, which is connected to Clay Lake. “It’s been our way of life for so long. I’ve been doing it since I was 3.”
The mercury in an average meal of walleye from Clay Lake is 15 times the daily tolerable intake limit for adults, and about 40 times the limit for women of child-bearing age, pregnant women and children.
- Created on Sunday, 23 October 2016 04:26
Risky loopholes or a lasting legacy? You decide.
The future of the Greenbelt is being considered now!
If you care about strong protection for Ontario's green spaces and wildlife habitat, clean water, walkable communities and access to local food, then you won't want to miss your chance to be part of this historic review process.
- Created on Monday, 19 September 2016 06:17
For Immediate Release
Majority of 17,301 public comments opposed to hunting and trapping threatened Algonquin wolves
MONTREAL (September 19, 2016) – Last week, as the hunting and trapping seasons opened, the Ontario government announced its decision to strip at-risk Algonquin wolves of protection from hunters and trappers across the majority of their range. Ongoing hunting and trapping, the primary threats to the species, caused the wolves' at-risk status to deteriorate to Threatened on June 15th 2016. A mere 154 adult wolves are left in Ontario. Conservation and animal rights groups from across North America are condemning the decision.
Ontario claims their decision is justified due to the inability of hunters and trappers to differentiate between coyotes and Algonquin wolves. Without genetically testing each animal killed, the government cannot track how many Algonquin wolves are killed. There is no limit on the number of wolves that can be trapped and hunting bag limits are absent in some parts of the wolf's habitat.
Hunting and trapping were banned in the townships surrounding Algonquin Provincial Park in 2001 due to overwhelming public concern for the park wolves. This year, public concern has been ignored - the majority of the 17,301 comments submitted in response to the proposals opposed the regulation changes.
"The Ontario government is peddling their decision as improved protection for the wolves because they have closed hunting and trapping in three additional areas bordering provincial parks," said Hannah Barron, director of wildlife conservation, Earthroots. "However, these new closures are too small to protect Algonquin wolf packs, let alone individual animals capable of traveling hundreds of kilometres in their lifetime. Any wolf outside of these closures can be killed."
- Created on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 17:51
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
On June 15, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) announced that Canada's rarest wolf faces a higher risk of extinction than previously thought. Now named 'Algonquin Wolves', after their stronghold population in Algonquin Provincial Park, the wolves were upgraded from Special Concern to Threatened status in Ontario.
In a press released issued by the organization Earthroots, it says that under Ontario's Endangered Species Act, Threatened status affords the wolves and their habitat immediate and automatic protection from harvest. However, the release warns, under existing regulations, the wolves will continue to be killed in unknown numbers in legal wolf/coyote open seasons.
"Outside of Algonquin Park, Algonquin wolves are largely unable to find a mate of their own kind, and more commonly mate with eastern coyotes. This interbreeding makes it impossible to tell the difference between the two animals without a genetic test," said Lesley Sampson of Coyote Watch Canada. "MNRF does not require these tests, and therefore has no idea how many Algonquin wolves are being killed each year. Algonquin wolf recovery requires a government commitment to protect the eastern coyotes they live alongside and are often confused for."
As the last representatives of the once wide ranging Eastern Wolf species, Algonquin wolves have been found infrequently across central Ontario and western Quebec, numbering somewhere between 250 and 1,000 animals. Naïve to the risks associated with humans - hunting, trapping and vehicle collisions - the animals' survival is low outside of protected areas. MNRF's own research shows that without more protection in Ontario, where most of the wolves are found, recovery is virtually impossible.
- Created on Wednesday, 03 August 2016 17:22
The concept of species is flawed, but it still has a huge bearing on conservation policy
By Charlie Northcott
“You need to protect coyotes to successfully protect eastern wolves,” says Hannah Barron, director of wildlife conservation at Earthroots, an Ontario-based nonprofit. “You can’t tell the difference between a coyote and an eastern wolf without a genetic test. Not all hunters report what they kill. We have no idea how many are dying.”
Photo Credit: Wes Liikane
Drive down the main highway that runs through Canada’s Algonquin Provincial Park after dark, and you may hear one of the eeriest sounds in nature. That shrill, haunting lament is the howl of the Algonquin wolf, which has roamed this land for centuries.
Also known as eastern wolves, Algonquin wolves are considered almost mythical by many Canadians. According to an Iroquois legend, these elusive creatures rescued mankind from an apocalyptic flood. Today they are rarely seen, preferring to stay hidden as they stalk moose and deer in their vast wooded territory. They are distinctive in appearance, with rusty brown fur and short, lean bodies. In many ways, they look identical to coyotes.
That "resemblance" has often proved deadly.
The Canadian government has spent more than 10 years deliberating over whether Algonquin wolves are a unique species. In a key decision on June 14, they decided they were and listed them as “threatened,” which makes it illegal to hunt them. But last month, new genetic research in the journal Evolutionary Genetics asserted just the opposite. That study suggests that between 50 and 70 percent of the eastern wolf’s genome derives from gray wolves, while the rest comes from coyotes. If the new study is correct, then the “Algonquin wolf” does not exist; it is simply a hybrid.
Of course, one genetic study does not put the debate to rest. Some scientists believe the evidence is questionable, saying that the study conflated Great Lakes wolf populations with Algonquin wolves. They also point out that researchers relied on just two genetic samples from wolves within Algonquin Provincial Park. “They are not pure and we’ve never said they were pure,” says Linda Rutledge, a geneticist focusing on the eastern wolf at Princeton University who was not directly involved in the study. “But absolutely there is something unique about the Algonquin wolf.”
The problem is, no one has been able to clearly define what that “something” is. And without a definition, prioritizing the survival of one group of endangered animals—no matter how beloved or culturally important—can prove challenging.
- Created on Tuesday, 19 July 2016 17:05
'Science, even the best science, doesn't give us permission to do whatever we want'
By Tricia Lo, CBC News
Hannah Barron, director of wildlife conservation campaigns at Earthroots, said more than 1,000 wolves have been killed in an attempt to protect the Little Smoky Caribou herd over the past decade, with "no significant increase in caribou numbers."
Alberta is considering fencing off large areas of northern woodlands to preserve threatened caribou herds on some of the most heavily impacted lands in the province. (The Canadian Press)
Conservation groups across the country are calling into question both the ethics and the effectiveness of a proposal to recover woodland caribou in Alberta.
The draft plan includes an experiment to fence a 100-square-kilometre area where caribou would be able to breed, and any predators that pose a threat to the enclosed herd would be killed.
The trial would study whether it is possible to restore caribou numbers in the absence of specific factors that either are responsible for caribou mortality or that compete with caribou for resources.
Paul Paquet, senior scientist with the Raincoast Conservation Fund, said destroying wolves, deer, elk and moose, in order to provide an unknown benefit to caribou would be an unethical course of action.
"As a scientific experiment, it's of real interest," said Paquet.
"But science, even the best science, doesn't give us permission to do whatever we want," he told CBC's Alberta@Noon.
"This is a case of just because we can do it, doesn't mean we should."
Province ignored minister’s 1984 recommendation to clean up mercury in river near Grassy Narrows: Star Investigation
- Created on Monday, 04 July 2016 12:18
The environment minister in 1984 recommended a plan to “cover the mercury sediments” near Grassy Narrows, a suggestion the provincial government of the day did not act on. More than 30 years later, the fish that feed the community are still contaminated.
Photo: Todd Korol, Toronto Star
Ontario’s former environment minister called for a clean up of mercury contaminating Grassy Narrows First Nation, historical cabinet memos obtained by the Star show.
But nothing was done by the government of the day to clean up the polluted river and lakes, and more than 30 years later the fish that feed the community are still contaminated.
The March 30, 1984, recommendation to cabinet from then-Environment Minister Andrew Brandt said the government should endorse a $2-3 million remediation plan to “cover the mercury sediments” in the nearby Clay Lake on the English-Wabigoon River, but hold off on the more disruptive and costly option of dredging the river system pending further study.
What had prompted the former environment minister’s advice was a scientific report by the 1983 Canada-Ontario Steering Committee on the English-Wabigoon River System. The report said the mercury had contaminated sediments in the surrounding rivers and lakes and that the fish would be contaminated for generations if the mercury wasn’t cleaned up. (Today, one meal of Walleye from Clay Lake contains up to 150 times the safe dose of mercury recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.)
The committee recommended, among other things, to place clean sediment in the water so that it settles on the bottom of Clay Lake to stabilize the mercury-contaminated sediment — a method called resuspension — as well as some dredging of the river. A small pilot project done for the 1983 report tested the method of resuspension in Clay Lake and found it reduced mercury levels in fish “by ten times.”
“The provincial government should not appear reluctant to take action on the report’s recommendations,” wrote a senior environment ministry staffer in a briefing note circulated within the department in the spring of 1984.
This document also said that the federal and provincial governments should start negotiating cost-sharing of a $2-3 million-lake remediation program.
Cabinet discussions are secret, and it is unclear how the decision was arrived at in the 1980s to allow the river system to recover naturally. The cabinet during that time was under the leadership of Conservative premier Bill Davis.
- Created on Thursday, 16 June 2016 23:14
For Immediate Release
Groups urge new Minister to enforce ESA, ban ongoing hunting and trapping
Photo credit: Algonquin Wolf, Wes Liikane
TORONTO – On June 15th, 2016, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) announced that Canada’s rarest wolf faces a higher risk of extinction than previously thought. Now named ‘Algonquin Wolves’, after their stronghold population in Algonquin Provincial Park, the wolves were upgraded from Special Concern to Threatened status in Ontario. A Management Plan, legally mandated for Special Concern status, has been overdue since 2008.
Under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, Threatened status affords the wolves and their habitat immediate and automatic protection from harvest. However, under existing regulations, the wolves will continue to be killed in unknown numbers in legal wolf/coyote open seasons.
“Outside of Algonquin Park, Algonquin wolves are largely unable to find a mate of their own kind, and more commonly mate with eastern coyotes. This interbreeding makes it impossible to tell the difference between the two animals without a genetic test,” explains Lesley Sampson of Coyote Watch Canada. “MNRF does not require these tests, and therefore has no idea how many Algonquin wolves are being killed each year. Algonquin wolf recovery requires a government commitment to protect the eastern coyotes they live alongside and are often confused for.”
As the last representatives of the once wide ranging Eastern Wolf species, Algonquin wolves have been found infrequently across central Ontario and western Quebec, numbering somewhere between 250 and 1000 animals. Naïve to the risks associated with humans – hunting, trapping and vehicle collisions – the animals’ survival is low outside of protected areas. MNRF’s own research shows that without more protection in Ontario, where most of the wolves are found, recovery is virtually impossible.
- Created on Friday, 27 May 2016 19:20
River Run 2016: Water, Indigenous rights, Justice for Mercury Survivors
Tuesday, May 31st, 2016 from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
• Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister Sr.
• Judy Da Silva - Grassy Narrows Clan Mother
• Grassy Narrows Youth Singers
• Avi Lewis
• 100 pay-what-you-can tickets will be available at the door on a first-come first-serve basis for low-income people (no questions asked).
All ticket proceeds go to the Grassy Narrows to pay for travel to Toronto to attend the River Run and say no to mercury poisoning. Donate directly to their travel costs.
- Created on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 17:06
For Immediate Release
Photo courtesy of Ontario Nature.
Mississauga, May 10, 2016 – The Ontario government released its draft amendments to the plans that protect the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, and Niagara Escarpment, and guide growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). These amendments are a promising move towards building ecological resiliency and healthy communities in an area under tremendous pressure from sprawling urban development. Bold leadership is now needed from the Province to quickly and decisively act on these good intentions.
In the face of climate change and a rapidly growing population, the government must defend water, nature and communities in the GGH so it remains ecologically viable and a great place to live.
“We commend the Province for taking immediate steps towards growing our Greenbelt into 21 urban river valleys, their coastal wetlands and select water sources like Lake Gibson,” says Joyce Chau, Executive Director of EcoSpark. “To truly protect the region’s water, we are expecting swift action to ensure a bluebelt of vulnerable water supplies in the GGH, like the Oro Moraine, just north of Barrie, are added to the Greenbelt.”
Earthroots, EcoSpark, STORM and Ontario Nature have been leading voices for bluebelt and natural areas protection in the GGH. The partnership is calling for stronger protection of the region’s natural areas that, among other ecological services, support wildlife and buffer communities from the impacts of climate change.
- Created on Tuesday, 03 May 2016 21:07
STAR OF SURVIVORMAN, MUSICIAN, AUTHOR, FILMMAKER AND ACTIVIST
Best known as the Canadian Screen Award winning producer, creator and star of the hit TV series Survivorman (OLN Canada, The Science Channel US, Discovery Channel International, City TV (Rogers) Canada), Les Stroud is the only producer in the history of television to produce an internationally broadcast series entirely written, videotaped and hosted alone. With Les known as the original genre creator of ‘Survival TV’, Survivorman is one of the highest rated shows in the history of OLN Canada, the Science Channel US and Discovery Channel US and remains the highest rated repeat show on the Discovery Channel. Survivorman is licensed for broadcast worldwide, with ratings in the US hitting 2 million on individual episodes. He has been nominated for 21 Canadian Screen Awards (formerly the Geminis) and has won for Best Writer (twice) and Best Photography.
- Created on Thursday, 14 April 2016 18:50
For Immediate Release
Long-serving Ontario Environment Commissioner Gord Miller has been elected to the board and elected chair of the board of Earthroots, the group championing Ontario’s old growth forests for three decades.
“"Earthroots has a long record of standing up for wilderness and fighting to protect our biodiversity. Their efforts have never been more needed in these trying times and I'm proud to contribute and build on all they have achieved,” Miller said.
"The recent threatened regressive wolf management policy which was withdrawn due to the efforts of Earthroots and others shows how critical it is support and maintain activist environmental NGOs like Earthroots,” the new chair said. Miller left the commissioner’s post in 2015 after 15 years as the Legislature’s independent environmental watchdog.
Also recently elected to the Earthroots board of directors are Rosseau eco-entrepreneur and ethicist Andrea Wilson who was elected vice-chair, Toronto environmental lawyer John Willms, and Toronto environmental consultant David Oved.
The new directors join Earthroots co-founder Hap Wilson and Greenpeace forest campaigner Catharine Grant on the board, and the staff headed by Amber Ellis, executive director.
Earthroots wishes to thank its former chair, Clayton Ruby, for his nearly 20 years of service on our board.
- Ontario Government Scraps Proposal to Increase Hunting of Wolves and Coyotes
- Great news for Ontario's wolves and coyotes!
- Wolves the necessary predator
- Activists urge the Wynne government to rethink proposed changes to hunting laws involving wolves and coyotes.
- Mercury-blighted community of Grassy Narrows takes its case to the UN
- For our Water – It’s time to protect Ontario’s Bluebelt!