THUNDER BAY — The provincial government is pledging millions of dollars into the protection and preservation of an endangered species that has come to symbolize northern forests across the nation.
On Wednesday, David Piccini, the province's minister of the environment, conservation and parks, was in Thunder Bay where he announced $29 million in funding for supporting the protection of boreal caribou and their habitat in the province.
“The Ontario government recognizes the need to take action to protect and recover caribou, their population, and their habitat,” Piccini said.
“Recognizing that conservation and recovery of boreal caribou requires long-term commitment, we’re proud Ontario is a national leader in these efforts, while also considering the unique needs of Northern Ontario and Indigenous communities.”
The funding, which is being called the single largest investment dedicated to caribou in the province’s history, is supporting the implementation of the Canada-Ontario Agreement for the Conservation of Caribou, Boreal Population in Ontario that was signed in 2022.
The funding will support on-the-ground habitat restoration, protection and other conservation activities, including monitoring, science and research.
Lakehead University president Moira McPherson said there are researchers with the institution working on a number of research projects.
“Like all funding that is directed toward important initiatives across this province, Lakehead University will have researchers that will be participating, partnering with government, partnering with industry to have the best possible outcomes from those dollars that are invested in research,” she said.
“I think it is an important collaborative relationship,” Piccini added. “Lakehead challenges us in this agreement to bring research institutions to work collaboratively and absolutely, the funding has dollars that will go toward research.”
When asked if conservation efforts will impact resource development in Northern Ontario, Piccini said it is not an either or scenario.
“With this funding, we will continue to work in partnership with Indigenous communities, industries, unions, NGOs, organizations that have important knowledge and on the ground understanding of boreal caribou,” Piccini said.
“Everyone has a role to play. What we are saying as a government is we are going to put the dollars to the shared ambition that we all have. We are going to put the dollars behind it. We eagerly await federal matching or exceeding funding and I am confident we can work together on this.”