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Northern politicians criticize U.S. environmental group

Group criticized Ontario's species-at-risk policy
New York-based NRDC says Ontario jeopardizes caribou

Some northern Ontario political leaders are fighting back against an American lobby group that says it works to safeguard Earth's people, plants and animals.

The heads of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA), the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, and the Red Rock Indian Band issued a statement after recent criticism of the province's forest management practices by the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

In a joint news release with the Ontario Forest Industries Association, NOMA, FONOM and the Red Rock band noted that NRDC, in a March 6 blog post, stated "Ontario doubled down on a policy that jeopardizes the future of boreal caribou and other at-risk species...gifting the logging industry two more years of exemptions under the Endangered Species industry a near carte-blanche to degrade and destroy critical habitat."

The groups said the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is proposing an independent panel to advise it on how to consider species at risk in Crown forest management. "This is not an exemption from managing species at risk," they maintained, but an opportunity to develop a solution with all parties at the table.

The joint statement added, however, that "two years will not be enough" to allow communities such as the Red Rock Indian Band to shape future species at risk policy and provide MNRF with a better understanding of the impact of climate change, cumulative impacts of all activity on the land base, "and the social and economic impacts."

According to Red Rock Chief Edward Wawia, "My community has grown our forestry businesses...and we are proud of our accomplishments as First Nations people. We know how to manage our own lands. For others outside of our traditional areas to claim they know better...perpetuates an outdated and colonialist attitude to natural resource management," Wawia said.

Shuniah Township Mayor Wendy Landry, the president of NOMA, questioned why NRDC is "attempting to frustrate consultation and accommodation with First Nations communities and impacted municipalities...We are respectfully asking that they stop these one-sided and misinformed attacks that end up harming our natural resources, and join us in support of the positive announcement from the MNRF," Landry said.

Ontario Forest Industries Association CEO Jamie Lim also weighed in, noting that NRDC's recent annual report shows total revenue of $146 million and assets of $304 million, "eclipsing the financials of many forest companies and communities operating here in Ontario."

Lim said the U.S. group has "no business working against an independent process designed to provide for species at risk while minimizing the social and economic impacts."