Boreal forest from above, Garth Lenz
Boreal forest from above © Garth Lenz

Ontario Northern Boreal

We are making the case for bigger-picture planning for the Ontario Northern Boreal.

How we work

  • We are working with First Nations to support community-based monitoring, which can allow communities to track changes to the values most important to them.
  • We have led major population surveys on caribou and wolverine to document how these species are faring in our boreal forests. We continue to research their behaviour and abundance, and the impacts of development – such as roads – on these “umbrella” species.
  • Freshwater fish are currently faced with combined impacts from multiple developments and climate change, and we are using models to identify which are the biggest threats, to highlight which species will be most at risk, and to identify which watersheds are the most critical for protecting freshwater fish biodiversity.
  • We are working with Moose Cree First Nation to understand the impacts of dams on lake sturgeon in their traditional homeland.

Where we work

, WCS Canada
© WCS Canada

Challenges

Resource development

There is growing interest in driving resource development in this globally unique region, particularly to exploit the Ring of Fire, a mineral-rich crescent about 400 km northeast of Thunder Bay. Extracting ore from the Ring of Fire will require building roads and transmission lines through areas that are currently wild forests, lakes, and wetlands, and crossing dozens of rivers and streams.

Roads and infrastructure

Punching roads and utility corridors through this intact area will lead to a cascading series of ecological and social impacts. We know that roads lead to more roads, and more activity in the forest, from mineral exploration to motorized recreation. For caribou and other wildlife, more roads also mean more access for predators, and more threats from humans, a recipe that has led to the disappearance of these animals in areas further south. Habitat changes brought about by forestry and mining will also affect wildlife survival.

Dams

The Ontario Northern Boreal also includes five of Canada’s few remaining undammed watersheds – a very rare commodity among the heavily dammed rivers of North America. Changes to aquatic habitat brought about by hydroelectric projects or road crossings could have big impacts on the more than 50 freshwater fish species found in the thousands of lakes and rivers that make this area as much water as land.

Climate change

On top of all this, climate change is happening fastest at northern latitudes, meaning wildlife are already seeing disruption ranging from more intense fires to warmer waters.

Projects

Identifying key wolverine habitat

Identifying key wolverine habitat

We're surveying wolverine populations in northern Ontario to create a clearer picture of where wolverine are – and aren’t.

Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire

More than minerals at stake

Learning from Lake Sturgeon

Learning from Lake Sturgeon

Big fish need healthy rivers.

Resources


Stories and op-eds

New insights into an ancient fish
2024-05-09

New insights into an ancient fish

Known as namew in Ililîmowin (the Moose Cree dialect), lake sturgeon in English: these are the largest freshwater fish in Canada.
Claire Farrell
More than minerals at stake in Ontario’s claim-staking boom
2023-12-19

More than minerals at stake in Ontario’s claim-staking boom

With a click of a mouse, mining interests have laid claim to more than 72,000 square kilometres of land in northern Ontario over the last five years.
Constance O'Connor
Connecting with Rivers: Reflections from Moose Cree Youth Ocean Skye Phillips
2023-09-19

Connecting with Rivers: Reflections from Moose Cree Youth Ocean Skye Phillips

My name is Ocean Phillips. I’m a 20-year-old Moose Cree youth, living in Kapuskasing Ontario.

Media coverage

Area covered by mining claims in Ontario’s ‘Ring of Fire’ increased by 30 per cent in one year

“I’m worried the increase in mining claims will lead to more exploration activities within the region and that those exploration activities, which are largely unchecked, will lead to irreversible damage to the peatlands within the region,” says Lorna Harris.
2023-12-04 | Global News

Wolverine: Tracking the elusive trickster

2022-10-02 | Canadian Geographic

Great Lakes Untamed

Wolverine Walker Of The Great Lakes
2022-09-23 | TVO

Our team

Constance O'Connor

Constance O'Connor

Director, Ontario Northern Boreal Program

Allison McKenzie

Allison McKenzie

Administrative Manager

Laura McCaw

Laura McCaw

Wolverine Research Associate

Teri Jones

Teri Jones

 Wolverine Spatial Ecologist

Matthew Scrafford

Matthew Scrafford

Wolverine Conservation Scientist

Meg Southee

Meg Southee

Lead Geospatial Analyst/Programmer

Claire Farrell

Claire Farrell

Science and Youth Coordinator

Haley MacLeod

Haley MacLeod

Postdoctoral Fellow

Lynn Palmer

Lynn Palmer

Forests and Regional Policy Specialist

Rae Corston

Rae Corston

Indigenous Youth Program Intern


Press releases

Lake Sturgeon in deeper trouble than previously thought
2022-12-15

Lake Sturgeon in deeper trouble than previously thought

Northern Ontario is one of the last strongholds for a species now considered endangered worldwide.
Ontario's Vision for Mineral Exploration and Mining: Renewing the Mineral Development Strategy
2015-07-09

Ontario's Vision for Mineral Exploration and Mining: Renewing the Mineral Development Strategy

Even though Ontario's mining sector has been in a downturn for the past two years, mining is still big business.