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Caribou in Alberta facing dire issues, author of new book asserts


Edmonton – One of Canada’s leading experts on Boreal wildlife, and author of a new book on the fate of Canada’s Boreal woodland caribou, will be delivering a strong message when she gives a talk organized by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) on October 23rd in Edmonton.

According to Dr. Justina Ray, co-author of the recently released book, Caribou and the North: A Shared Future, if industrial development continues unabated, then Canada’s Boreal forests and the caribou may not survive.

Says Dr. Ray, a wildlife biologist and executive director of Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, “Canadians should not have to choose between protecting wildlife like caribou and nurturing the economy.

If we do it right, both caribou and the economy can prosper. And that means that we must be prepared to take meaningful steps to conserve habitat in a proactive fashion – that is, we have to set aside land before industry moves in and starts staking its claims.

We need to impose limits on the extent of industries like forestry, oil and gas and mineral exploration,” she insists.

Dr. Ray and others, including the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, believe that the pace and scale of industrial development has gone too far in a number of regions throughout the Canadian North, including Alberta.

Dr. Ray calls for a fresh approach involving comprehensive, broad-scale land use planning . “Setting aside large areas as off limits to development and associated road networks is imperative,” she says.   

“We invited Dr. Ray to speak in Edmonton because new research, much of it conducted in Alberta, shows disturbing trends. With gas, oil and mineral exploration, a growing network of roads gives access to predators like bears and wolves. Mature forests, the caribou’s preferred habitat, are diminishing. The caribou’s chief source of food, lichen, is also under threat. Caribou numbers are down,” says CPAWS Northern Alberta chapter executive director Catherine Shier.  

“To put it simply, the health and survival of caribou populations tells us about the future of the entire Boreal north,” adds Ray.

Also speaking at the CPAWS event will be Edmonton biologist Christine Robichaud who is presenting her research on the Little Smoky Caribou herd, a small isolated herd struggling for survival in Alberta’s foothills.  

The event takes place Thursday, October 23, in the Earth Sciences Building, Room 327, of the University of Alberta. The AGM starts at 6 p.m. The presentations begin at 7 p.m. Copies of the beautifully illustrated book will be available for sale. The public is welcome to attend.

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For media interviews, contact Martha Plaine, (613) 728-4754.