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CPAWS responds to federal caribou recovery strategy


Ottawa -- The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) welcomes the release today of the final federal Boreal Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy. Overall, CPAWS notes an improvement from the draft recovery strategy released in August 2011, particularly in the way it proposes to manage the most imperilled caribou ranges. However, other sections of the strategy remain a concern, allowing too much habitat disturbance in caribou ranges to ensure their long term recovery.

“It’s encouraging to see that several of our key recommendations on the draft recovery strategy have been rolled into the revised version, which now requires consistent protection levels for all Boreal woodland caribou populations across the country,” says Eric Hébert-Daly, CPAWS National Executive Director. “This long-awaited strategy is an important step forward towards protecting Canada’s remaining Boreal woodland caribou and keeping their habitat healthy and intact.”

The strategy now requires that all remaining caribou populations be restored to self-sustaining levels, an improvement from the earlier draft which excluded this requirement for some of the most imperilled populations, particularly in Alberta and British Columbia. It includes provisions to treat all herds equally, which was one of CPAWS’ key recommendations. Additionally, the final strategy clarifies that predator management can only be used as a last resort, in combination with habitat restoration efforts and only in the short term after other tools have been applied.

CPAWS remains concerned, however, that the strategy sets the bar too low for habitat protection across all ranges.

“The habitat protection measures in the strategy only give caribou a 60% chance of long-term survival, which leaves a significant risk that the caribou populations will continue to decline,” says Dr. Chris Miller, CPAWS National Conservation Biologist. “This falls far short of our recommendation of increasing the target to at least an 80% chance of long-term survival.”

The recovery strategy itself states that managing at this lower level of habitat protection will pose a “significant risk” to the caribou populations.

CPAWS is also concerned that potential changes to the federal Species at Risk Act, which the federal government has signalled could be coming soon, could prevent effective implementation of the recovery strategy. To ensure a future for endangered species like Boreal woodland caribou, a strong federal Species at Risk Act is essential, and must protect critical habitat, including on provincial lands where provincial laws do not provide adequate protection.

Now that the federal Boreal woodland caribou recovery strategy is completed, CPAWS is looking to the provinces and territories to develop and implement range-specific action plans that build on the recovery strategy, are guided by science, and maximize the species’ chances of long-term survival. This is critical, because woodland caribou are a bellwether for the health of Canada’s Boreal forest. Where the caribou continue to thrive, our Boreal forest is healthy. Where they no longer survive, the forest has been degraded, generally by human activity.

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For more information, please contact:
Eric Hebert-Daly, National Executive Director
63-569-7226 ext 228