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Assessing the Potential Cumulative Impacts of Land Use and Climate Change on Freshwater Fish in Northern Ontario

Author(s): Dr. Cheryl Chetkiewicz, Matt Carlson, Dr. Constance O'Connor, Dr. Brie Edwards, Meg Southee, and Dr. Michael Sullivan
Journal: Conservation Report
Year: 2017

A plan for the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat)

Author(s): Loeb, S.C., T.J. Rodhouse, L.E. Ellison, C.L. Lausen, J.D. Reichard, K.M. Irvine, T.E. Ingersoll, J.T.H. Coleman, W.E. Thogmartin, J.R. Sauer, C.M. Francis, M.L. Bayless, T.R. Stanley, and D.H. Johnson
Year: 2015

A Fork in the Road, Future Development in Ontario's Far North

Author(s): Cheryl Chetkiewicz and Matt Carlson
Journal: Wildlife Conservation Society Canada Collaborative Report
Year: 2013

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Latest Feature

Welcome Martin von Mirbach!

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada is pleased to welcome Martin von Mirbach to a new position at WCS Canada -- Director for Conservation Strategy. Martin will be responsible for providing strategic oversight to WCS Canada’s programs. He will be seeking opportunities to advance our conservation objectives and improve our effectiveness and conservation impact. He will help formulate strategies to build strong relationships and formal partnerships with governments and Indigenous groups and other organizations. Martin will provide strategic guidance and leadership on the future direction of WCS Canada’s science and conservation programs with an eye towards elevating our organizational capacity to inform and effectively engage relevant policy processes and decision-making environments.  

Prior to joining WCS Canada, Martin led WWF-Canada’s Arctic program, expanding their profile by opening field offices in Inuvik and Iqaluit. Previously he was Vice President of Forest Stewardship Council Canada, where he led the process to develop FSC’s Canadian Boreal Standard.  This standard has made a difference on approximately 50 million hectares of forest in Canada, where forestry companies are guided by FSC standards to identify and conserve high conservation value forests and address the rights of Indigenous communities. Martin has also served as National Conservation Director of Sierra Club Canada.

Martin’s love for the environment started while living in Corner Brook, Nfld., throughout the 1990s. He led the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Network; helped found the Western Newfoundland Model Forest; was Sustainable Development Chair with the Centre for Forest and Environmental Studies; and served on the Newfoundland and Labrador Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. During these years, he was also engaged in international forest policy, serving as an advisor to the Canadian delegation to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests.

Martin grew up in Ottawa and studied at York University in Toronto, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production and an M.A. in Philosophy. He has taught courses in critical thinking, environmental policy and environmental education.

Watching, Listening, and Learning to Understand Change

With new all-weather roads, transmission lines, and mines planned for Ontario’s Far North, ecological monitoring and baseline information collection will be critical to help communities understand the impacts of changes to the water, land and wildlife. Our new report, Watching, Listening, and Learning to Understand Change, explains that communities need to be empowered to track these changes along with the changes being brought about by a rapidly changing climate through Community-Based Monitoring (CBM). The report outlines the many benefits of -- and key approaches to -- developing CBM programs and includes case studies from across Canada and around the world.  With 34 communities and 40,000 largely First Nation people living in Ontario’s Far North, tracking the impacts of development, including mineral exploration, and climate change has never been more important.

Blog by Cheryl Chetkiewicz here

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

New Environmental Assessment Act could open our eyes wider to development impacts, but will it?

Today (Feb. 8, 2018) the federal government unveiled a new “Impact Assessment Act” that will repeal and replace the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (2012).  Together in one bill with the new Canadian Energy Regulator Act, this is an important – and massive – piece of legislation that sets out the conditions under which “major” development projects get built in Canada (or, rarely, not).  

At first glance, the inclusion of a whole new section on conducting Regional Impact Assessments (RIA) appears like good news as it enables a bigger picture assessment that can capture numerous projects (e.g., multiple mines) or parts of projects (e.g., mines, roads, and smelters) and cumulative and growth-inducing effects of these projects. In Ontario’s Ring of Fire for example, a RIA could consider the multiple overlapping impacts of mineral exploration, new mines, required infrastructure (all-weather roads, transmission lines, smelters, etc.) and climate change in advance of project-level impact assessments. A robust RIA would also support Indigenous peoples’ interests.

But it remains to be seen whether the RIA envisioned in this new bill is indeed an improvement on “regional studies”, which were never used under previous legislation. RIA remains discretionary, as does the application of its results to project assessments. Fundamentally, it is open to question whether the federal government would ever use the power to order a RIA without provincial and Indigenous people’s cooperation.  In the same vein, all the language in the new act around cumulative effects is the same as it was in the old act -- language that had little impact on actual EA practice.

So in this new legislation we have a glimmer of potential to start taking a more modern approach, avoiding the piecemeal decision making to assessment, particularly in situations where we can see that projects will have much more than simple site-specific impacts. The new act also includes language around the importance of science and traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and transparency of decision making that was not in the previous version of the law. But it is only through subsequent regulation and guidance that we will learn whether implementation can shift to a true evidence-based approach that restores public trust and fulfills our international commitments on climate change and biodiversity. 

WCS Canada has been deeply involved in providing guidance for how to improve the previous act, and we will continue to work to strengthen the legislation before it is passed into law.  We’ll have more to say on this issue as we dig through this 300-page bill.  Make sure you subscribe to our e-news or follow our blog for updates.

Blog by Justina Ray and Cheryl Chetkiewicz here

Justina Ray, Ph.D. (President & Senior Scientist) and Cheryl Chetkiewicz (Conservation Scientist), Ph.D. Wildlife Conservation Society Canada

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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