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Woodland Caribou - Chance for a Do-Over?

“If Mother Nature offered mankind a do-over in North America, reversing the eradication of the majestic plains bison might well be near the top of the list.” Edmonton Journal, January 28, 2012

This was the opening statement of the Edmonton Journal’s recent article regarding the wonderful announcement of consultations towards the reintroduction of plains bison to Banff National Park. And it caught my eye.

I’ve been deeply involved in wild bison restoration and conservation for many years. The questions surrounding why or how our society could have endorsed the attempted eradication of this magnificent species are questions I ponder every day.  But this statement caused me to think a bit deeper. What about this idea of a “do-over”?

And then it hit me…perhaps Mother Nature has made this offer to us! I’m talking not just about all of the great work that is being done to restore bison. I’m talking about the chance to finally learn from that horrible mistake of 150 years ago and begin doing the right thing for all wildlife in Canada.

Surprisingly, despite the fact that Canada has legislation to protect threatened species, the list of species at risk is still growing. Of course, no one is endorsing flat-out eradication anymore. But wildlife is still disappearing at an alarming rate. We just do it differently now. 

A recent example was the announcement from our Federal Environment Minister that he would not issue an emergency protection order for woodland caribou in north eastern Alberta because “the species does not face an imminent threat to survival at this time” and then adding that “in vast areas of Canada, the caribou are in sustainable population groups".

What happened to the bison had almost incomprehensible negative effects to ecosystems and to aboriginal people on this continent. Yet today we still have elected leaders publicly suggesting notions such as the potential extirpation of woodland caribou in north eastern Alberta, along with the caribou’s ancient cultural and spiritual ties to the aboriginal people of that area, are somehow in our Nation’s best interest. 

Bringing bison back to Banff will represent only the second wild free ranging population of Plains bison successfully reintroduced to their historic range in Canada. While the Banff announcement is cause for celebration, the fact that we have only been able to reintroduce two local populations in over a century should also be cause for concern. Should other species at risk be sentenced to following the same cycle of near extinction, followed by painfully slow and expensive reintroduction programs?

Chances are if you’ve made it to this part of my blog, you are one of many who are concerned about the state of threatened species in Canada.  Canadians have an opportunity for a do-over! We can ensure that species like woodland caribou dodge extinction and return to a healthy state across the country!

You can join almost 32,000 others and sign an important petition asking the federal government to meet its obligations under the Species at Risk Act and protect Woodland caribou habitat.

This petition isn’t just about caribou. By permanently protecting woodland caribou’s carbon-rich habitat, we also enhance the health of the entire boreal forest and the many species that call it home, while also helping to slow the effects of climate change. And by stating that meeting our obligations under the Species at Risk Act is important to Canadians, we also help support the cause to protect other at risk species across the country.

Here’s the link.  Please join us in giving a voice to Canada’s Wilderness!