Using caribou knowledge in expanding the Wabakimi protected area
AbstractWhen Wabakimi Wilderness Park was created in 1983, conservation of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) was one of the primary considerations. Twelve years later, in April 1995, the Government of Ontario announced that the Park, measuring some 155 000 ha, was to be expanded into a ca. 890 000 ha protected area. This was done following 2.5 yr of deliberations of the Wabakimi Park Boundary Committee. The Committee tried to reach consensus on an expanded protected area by examining a variety of options in terms of criteria related to a range of key values, one of which was woodland caribou. The analysis procedure involved dividing the 1.25-million-ha study area into more than sixty "assessment units". These were defined primarily on the basis of approximate sub-watershed boundaries. Each assessment unit was ranked on a five-level scale with respect to goodness for each value, including seasonal caribou habitat. High-value habitats for wintering, calving, and migration dominated the assessment of habitat importance for caribou.The initial assessment phase included six park expansion concepts ranging in size from just over 200 000 ha to about 1 million ha. One of the concepts (about 750 000 ha), was based specifically on the caribou value. In the second phase, four refined options were examined, ranging from just under 600 000 to roughly a million ha. Two additional options were added to the four and submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for consideration. The Committee was, in the end, unable to reach full consensus on which of the final options to recommend. However, upon consideration of the Committee's final report and other input, the Ontario Government announced in April 1995 the more than five-fold expansion. The new protected area contains about 475 000 ha of high-value caribou habitat. Caribou were a key value in determining both the ultimate size and configuration of the expansion.
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