Local students join CPAWS NAB in delivering caribou petition to ministers
On Monday, December 5th, 40 grade 2 and 3 students joined CPAWS Northern Alberta staff (and Bou!) in presenting a caribou petition to the Minister of Environment and Parks, Shannon Phillips, and the Minister of Education, David Eggen. The petition contained thousands of signatures from concerned citizens across Alberta calling for the government to protect the province’s boreal woodland caribou.
CPAWS and the students were very excited about the chance to meet with Ministers Phillips and Eggen, and talk about Alberta's commitment to caribou protection. Two students, Elizabeth and Ingrid (both aged 8), presented the signed postcards.
“Last year during Earth Month, we had CPAWS come to our school and teach us about caribou and how they are disappearing. We were shocked and felt that we needed to do something about it! So we started a “Caring for Caribou Campaign” at our school and convinced our friends, family and visitors to sign the postcards that CPAWS created to help raise awareness about this important issue.” - Elizabeth
“And that’s why we are here. Our small elementary school collected over 300 signed postcards and that showed us that people really do care about protecting the Woodland Caribou herds. We’re worried about the caribou losing their habitat because we realize that it’s not only affecting the caribou, it’s affecting other wildlife because as you know nature is all connected.” – Ingrid
The postcards were received with smiles, and afterwards the students were given the opportunity to have a question and answer period with the ministers! And they asked some tough questions about Alberta’s current actions to help woodland caribou.
“What are you doing to protect caribou?” (Anna)
“Why do you want to protect caribou?” (Caris)
“How much of a priority is protecting the caribou to you?” (Valkyrie)
“Since you have become aware of this problem, have you noticed if it’s becoming worse or improving over time?” (Wyatt W)
“How do you decide where to put roads and industrial development?” (Leila)
“We understand roads and industry are important but are there other areas in the province where you could build them that would have less impact on wildlife. And if not, would you consider constructing wildlife underpasses and overpasses similar to those in Banff?” (Anna)
Ministers responded saying this has been successful in the parks and is being considered in some areas.
“Have you considered making more protected wilderness reserves in the Boreal forest?” (Jerrie)
“Have you had a similar issue with other species of wildlife in the past and what did you do?” (Ranen)
Both ministers did a great job answering all the students’ tough and intelligent questions. The Ministers assured the kids that caribou protection is a priority for the government, as they are aware that the situation has been getting worse, and will continue to if nothing is done. Minister Phillips said she recognizes the need for more undisturbed habitat in caribou range and referenced the “Made in Alberta” plan involving restoration of 10,000 kms of historic seismic lines, and voluntary industrial activity rescheduling as a tool to curtail the footprint in already heavily affected ranges.
Minister Shannon Phillips, in response to being asked if more boreal protection was created, referenced the proposed 1.8 million hectares of new protected areas in Northwestern Alberta. Although there has been little headway on their actual designation, she explained to the students how challenging it is to implement a protected area and that the government of Alberta is committed to seeing the protection through to completion. If the protected area goes through it would add permanent protected areas to 4 of the 12 boreal woodland caribou herds.
While the plan has some good first steps, much more is needed to restore the caribou herds. CPAWS Northern Alberta would like to see greater habitat protection and restoration and hopes that the voices of over 18, 000 Albertans (plus 40 eight-year-olds) helps the government do more to help caribou.
Time ran out with the ministers, and one questions did not get asked, “What would be on the quarters if the caribou are gone?” but Sarah R. Really wants to know. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your answers so we can share them with Sarah!
These kids had an awesome time and there was fantastic feedback from teachers and parents. Both of which need to be recognized for their amazing willingness to go above and beyond to find out of the box learning experiences, and encourage inquiry and questions from their students.