Government of Canada sets timeline for Ontario to take action on Boreal Caribou conservation

News release

June 15, 2023 – Gatineau, Quebec

Boreal Caribou is a species only found in Canada. However, the most recent national population estimate shows its populations are declining, primarily threatened by habitat loss and degradation. The federal, provincial, and territorial governments share the responsibility for ensuring caribou survival and long-term recovery. Caribou play a significant role in the culture and history of Indigenous peoples in Canada and are at the heart of boreal forest biodiversity.

Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced steps taken in Ontario to protect Boreal Caribou habitat under the federal Species at Risk Act. After forming the opinion in early 2023 that some portions of the Boreal Caribou’s critical habitat on non-federal land in Ontario are not effectively protected, the Minister has recommended a critical habitat protection order in the province, as required under the Species at Risk Act.

The Government of Canada believes, at this time, that continuing to collaborate closely with the Government of Ontario will lead to the best conservation outcomes for the species. The Government of Canada is closely following the implementation of the Agreement for the Conservation of Caribou, Boreal Population in Ontario, which was signed with the provincial government in April 2022. While the agreement outlines a number of measures to facilitate the conservation and recovery of species, of note is a commitment for the two governments to collaborate on expert-led validation of evidence-based approaches to manage self-sustaining populations and demonstrate continued alignment with federal-provincial Boreal Caribou conservation frameworks, where appropriate. Ontario has until the mutually agreed-upon timeline of April 2024, to demonstrate equivalency of approach between provincial measures and the federal framework. Provided that Ontario successfully puts in place the necessary measures and achieves results through the Boreal Caribou Conservation Agreement, further steps under the Species at Risk Act would not be taken at this time.

To date, the province has demonstrated its commitment to implementing necessary conservation measures and has initiated population monitoring and held engagement sessions with stakeholders and Indigenous peoples. In March 2023, Ontario announced an investment of up to $29.4 million over four years to aid on-the-ground restoration, protection, and other conservation activities, including monitoring, science, and research in Ontario. Canada is prepared to commit to further financial assistance to support these conservation activities going forward.


“The Agreement for the Conservation of Caribou, Boreal Population in Ontario was an important step to achieve positive conservation outcomes for Boreal Caribou in Ontario, but I’m looking for the province to work with Canada, experts, and Indigenous peoples to better align our caribou conservation frameworks to achieve self-sustaining local populations of Boreal Caribou. Meaningful actions, such as the conservation of critical caribou habitat, will be key to achieve this. We will be closely monitoring Ontario’s efforts to make progress.”

– The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Quick facts

  • As per the federal Boreal Caribou Recovery Strategy, provinces and territories are expected to put in place plans to outline how each range will be managed to maintain, or attain, a minimum of 65 percent of undisturbed habitat.

  • Boreal Caribou is an umbrella species for the health of the boreal forest. Protection of the Boreal Caribou’s critical habitat is expected to improve outcomes for 80 other species, benefit 90 percent of the bird and mammal species that live in the boreal forest, and provide protection of soil carbon storage hotspots.

  • Boreal Caribou have been listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act since 2003.

  • The most recent national population estimate is 34,000 individuals, and the species’ numbers are declining. Population declines are primarily a result of habitat loss—due to both human land-use activities and fire—and the resulting changes in predator-prey dynamics.

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada has transferred approximately $76.6 million to provinces, territories, Indigenous groups, and stakeholders since 2018 through the Nature Legacy and the Enhanced Nature Legacy to support Boreal Caribou recovery.

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Kaitlin Power
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)

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