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Federal report highlights need for urgent action on Boreal Woodland Caribou protection

Ottawa – CPAWS is calling on all governments to do more for caribou recovery, after dismal findings in the first report on the implementation of the federal recovery strategy.

“What the federal report shows us is that nobody has done enough yet to turn things around for this species,” says Alain Branchaud, Executive Director of the Quebec chapter of CPAWS.

According to the report, threats to boreal woodland caribou habitat from industrial disturbance continue across most of the ranges. Quebec, Alberta, and Manitoba have some of the greatest increases in habitat disturbance. In addition, two new local populations now have habitat that is disturbed by more than 65%. Information on caribou population health is also discouraging. Several caribou populations whose status were unknown or stable, are now declining.

“Although these findings are alarming, the sad fact is they are not the least bit surprising,” said Ron Thiessen, Executive Director of CPAWS Manitoba. “In Manitoba our government has recently opened a number of areas to mineral exploration permit applications despite their overlap with a known caribou range. This decision will cause this population to experience an even greater risk to its survival. There is no concrete plan in place for how to address cumulative disturbances. Our governments need to act now to avoid losing even greater numbers of this iconic species, and their habitat.”

“Alberta is one of the places where disturbance is already very high and has increased in most ranges. Science from 18 of North America’s leading caribou scientists shows there is a direct relationship between disturbance of caribou habitat and their populations declining. What the federal report released today shows is a continued disturbance of caribou habitat in regions where the caribou were already under intense amounts of stress due to industrial activities destroying and degrading their home,” said Kecia Kerr, Executive Director of CPAWS Northern Alberta.

However, 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. Provincial and territorial governments can also take immediate steps to protect critical habitat in partnership with indigenous peoples, with their free prior and informed consent.

“I’ve been involved in caribou conservation work for 10 years,” said Gord Vaadeland, Executive Director of CPAWS-Saskatchewan. “During this time, I’ve seen many actors in Saskatchewan, including industry folks, indigenous peoples, university scientists, and NGOs, come forward with a willingness to find solutions to this pressing problem. Yesterday the Saskatchewan government released a draft plan for
broader review by Canadians. This is an important first step, and hopefully a sign that we can find solutions.”


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