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Conservationists call on Canadian governments to act now to protect caribou habitat

  • Published on Oct 05 2017 |
  • This article is tagged as: caribou

Conservationists call on Canadian governments to act now to protect caribou habitat, before it’s too late

Ottawa – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is calling on Canada’s governments to act now to protect boreal caribou habitat across the nation to curb the continued decline of this iconic Canadian species.

On the five-year anniversary of the release of the federal government’s strategy to recover threatened boreal woodland caribou in Canada, CPAWS is calling out governments for their continued lack of action to protect caribou, and urging governments across the country to step up to the plate.

“Caribou need protected habitat, not just words on a page or commitments that are never enacted,” said Dr. Kecia Kerr, Executive Director of CPAWS Northern Alberta Chapter. “The Alberta government promised to protect caribou habitat in 2016, which we applauded. But these promises remain unfulfilled and caribou populations continue to decline. There has been a long history of Alberta governments making promises to protect caribou and then reneging. We are hoping this government will be different.”

Many provinces have made commitments to protect caribou habitat, but across Canada’s Boreal forest industrial activities continue to degrade and destroy the habitat caribou need to survive in the wild.

Extensive peer-reviewed science underpins the federal recovery strategy while the need for large, undisturbed areas of caribou habitat to be maintained is clearly documented. This science was developed by 18 of North America’s leading caribou scientists and pulled together by the federal government in 2008 and 2011. That’s why, in 2012, the federal government put in place a recovery strategy requiring at least 65 per cent of caribou ranges remain intact—a proportion that evidence showed would give caribou only a 60 per cent chance of being “self-sustaining” or surviving in the wild in the long term.  However, since this plan was released, there has been little action on the ground to protect this critical caribou habitat.

“Boreal woodland caribou are in serious trouble in this country, and things are getting worse. Canadians want governments to take action to protect species that are at risk of extinction.  Provincial and territorial governments should take immediate steps to protect critical habitat in partnership with indigenous peoples and with their free prior and informed consent. In areas where caribou habitat is disturbed beyond 35 per cent, governments should immediately stop any activities that may further disturb the habitat until these protection measures have been put in place,” said Florence Daviet, CPAWS’ National Forest Program Director.

Solutions are possible. Across Canada, CPAWS has worked with forestry companies and indigenous peoples to develop caribou plans on forest tenures, several of which are being implemented today.

“I’ve been involved in caribou conservation work since 2007,” said Gord Vaadeland, Executive Director of CPAWS-Saskatchewan. “In the past 10 years, I’ve seen many actors in Saskatchewan, including industry folks, Indigenous Peoples, university scientists, and NGOs, come forward with resources and a willingness to find solutions to this pressing problem. The government still must take the steps needed to protect habitat, but when we work together, we can find solutions.”

CPAWS is also reminding the federal government of their continued responsibilities. “We need the federal Environment and Climate Change Minister to start releasing regular section 63 reports identifying where boreal caribou critical habitat in Canada remains unprotected and the steps needed to get to protection,” said Daviet.

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For interviews, contact:
Stacy Corneau, National Communications Manager
media@cpaws.org
(613) 569 – 7226 ext. 234

Read the joint statement on the plight of boreal caribou in Canada.