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How can Ontario best approach the development of the mineral-rich Ring of Fire in the Far North of Ontario? How do we protect the millions of tonnes of carbon stored in peatlands and forests in the area?  How do we intelligently design infrastructure to ensure maximum benefit and minimum impact on ecosystems?

If new mining projects and all-weather roads are to be accepted by First Nations communities and others who care about the future of the region, they will need to be planned in ways that ensure they contribute to a more sustainable future. The current piecemeal business-as-usual planning approaches only engage some communities and leave those facing downstream impacts out in the cold. Similarly, conventional project assessments do a poor job of considering cumulative effects and climate change leaving a huge gap in our understanding of what impacts will be in the long term.

A regional environmental assessment, on the other hand, can lead to a big-picture understanding of the impacts of multiple developments and climate change. We discuss why the new Ontario government should start over with a new, more robust planning approach in a piece in Policy Options.

A big fish story – in maps

Freshwater fish are swimming upstream in a battle against everything from climate change to increased fishing pressure as new roads reach remote lakes.  Our new story map, The Water We Share, explains how we are studying the major challenges facing fish in Ontario’s Far North, including how we are identifying which watersheds should be priorities for conservation in this vast and largely untouched region. One of the biggest challenges for understanding the more than 50 fish species that inhabit the lakes and mighty rivers of our Far North study area is a lack of scientific data for this very remote region.  That’s why we have developed innovative approaches, demonstrated in the story map, for projecting watershed changes and vulnerabilities.  Take a plunge into this fascinating – and ecologically important – underwater world.

Seven winters and 70,000 kilometres

It took seven winters and 70,000 kilometres of flying over the vast forests and lowlands of far northern Ontario to build a picture of where wolverines are – and aren’t – in their easternmost North American outpost.  Our goal was to develop a method for accurately predicting where these elusive creatures were likely to be found in order to be able to track changes in their range in the face of climate change and resource development. We flew low and slow for hundreds of hour over frozen forests looking for tracks in fresh snow to build a picture of how wolverines are faring in Ontario.  The story of what we saw and what it means is now online in Scientific American.

Are We Making Progress?


The federal Liberal Party made a number of important commitments during the last election campaign on improving environmental protections. In an era when political promises often bring low expectations, it is important to note that this government has made progress on some commitments, like setting out a pathway for increasing our protected areas and taking action to help species of risk. But there is still a long road ahead, especially on issues like modernizing our environmental assessment process to properly consider the cumulative impacts of many different human activities on wild landscapes. Here the government has simply not done enough to fulfill its promise to reform the broken current system – one that leads to piecemeal decision making and a piling on of impacts on wild species. 

We recently worked with a group of other environmental and conservation organizations to assess federal progress in a number of critical areas: Clock Is Ticking: A Mid-Term Report Card on the Federal Government and its Work on the Environment looks at progress on everything from climate action to protecting biodiversity as the government approaches the mid point of its term.

   Conservation Action Report



Our Conservation Action Report highlights some of our important achievements from 2017 – including helping western bats survive deadly white-nose syndrome and taking action to keep whales out of harm’s way in the Arctic.  It’s your chance to dive deeper into our spectacular workplace – some of Canada’s wildest lands – and see how we combine science with solutions to help keep the wild alive from coast-to-coast-coast. Check it out at 2017.wcscanadaar.org.

A big fish story

 

It’s easy to understand the threat posed by climate change to polar bears.  But how many people think about what climate change means for fish?  Fish that thrive in cold rivers and lakes, such as brook trout, walleye, whitefish, and sturgeon, are an important cultural and economic resource that is deeply threatened by climate change.  How threatened?  That is what WCS Canada set out to discover by modeling not just the impacts of climate change, but of new roads and industrial development on fish in one of the planet’s most intact wild areas – Ontario’s Far North.  What we found is that climate change impacts such as warmer waters would leave these species highly vulnerable to additional impacts, such as habitat loss and fragmentation brought about by forestry, mineral exploration and mining and roads, particularly in the remote Far North. Our new report outlines potential outcomes for some key freshwater fish species and provides an example of how we can use proactive planning in the face of a changing climate and changing landscape to improve conservation of freshwater fish.

Article in the National post here.

Blog By Dr. Cheryl Chetkiewicz in National Geographic here


Proposed changes to the Fisheries Act restore lost protections and add modern safeguards

The Fisheries Act is Canada’s oldest piece of environmental legislation, and on February 06, 2018 the federal government proposed changes that will modernize the act, and restore protections for fish habitat that were removed under the previous government. Specifically, the renewed act will restore protection for all fish, rather than just those that are part of a fishery, along with restoring protection for fish habitat. Further, it makes it explicit that scientific information should be strongly considered in decision making. We are optimistic about the potential for a strengthened and modernized Fisheries Act, but the real test will be in whether it achieves the protection needed for Canada’s incredible freshwater, coastal, and marine habitats. 

Credit: Jik jik, licensed unter CC by SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Thank you for helping us help bats

Thanks to generous supporters like you, we met 80% of our fundraising goal
 to support critical bat conservation research in western Canada

This Halloween, WCS Canada’s supporters went above and beyond and raised an amazing $4000 in support of Bat Specialist, Cori Lausen and her team as they continue pioneering research that is helping to prevent white-nose syndrome (WNS) from killing western bats. 

The funds raised by our bat-lovers will go a long way to help us to cover the costs of essential research materials such SD memory cards for roost loggers, bat house occupancy monitors and lab costs such as the analysis of guano samples. 

From all of us at WCS Canada, we want to say a big “thank you” to our donors for supporting this important work. 

See the posts below to learn more about Dr. Lausen’s research and remember – it’s never too late to donate!

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