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Canada’s governments lagging on caribou conservation: CPAWS’ Annual Review

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Ottawa – In its second annual review of governments' efforts to conserve Canada's boreal caribou, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) finds that threats from industrial development to this species have continued to increase while conservation and restoration efforts have shown little progress across the country.

CPAWS’ findings are reinforced by news from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) just days ago. The committee forecasts a greater than 30% decline of Canada’s boreal caribou population in the near term because “much of its habitat has been degraded … especially in the southern part of its range”. 

“It’s been another year of too slow progress while the health of Canada’s boreal caribou continues to decline. Despite scientific information about the negative impact of industrial activity on caribou and the importance of planning for conservation before approving new developments, on the ground it appears to be largely business as usual,” says CPAWS National Executive Director Eric Hebert-Daly.

For example, within vital boreal caribou habitat:

Manitoba has approved a mine in one of its provincial parks; natural gas extraction and exploration activities continue to increase in BC; a peat harvesting project is advancing in Saskatchewan; Alberta has approved about 5,000 km2 of additional oil and gas leases in the past two years.

The 2012 release of the Federal Recovery Strategy for boreal caribou under the Species-at-Risk Act outlined the critical need for conservation and restoration measures in vital caribou habitat across Canada, and required that the provinces and territories have recovery plans in place by 2017. 

As of this fall, CPAWS found six of the 51 required plans to be in various stages of development, with none completed so far that meet the federal government’s requirements.

“We’re also concerned that while most jurisdictions appear to have made progress in the past 12 months in conducting required research to plan for boreal caribou conservation, their planning processes are generally opaque,”  adds Hebert-Daly.

CPAWS found that only one province and one territory implemented concrete measures in the past 12 months that will protect boreal caribou. Manitoba created a new park protecting about 1,000 km2 of habitat, and Northwest Territories listed boreal caribou as threatened under its new species-at-risk legislation.  Meanwhile, Quebec and Newfoundland cut back staff allocated to caribou planning.

Boreal Caribou are estimated to occupy 2.4 million km2 of Canada’s boreal forest – less than half of their North American range in the 19th century.  The biggest threat to their survival is habitat fragmentation, which increases access by predators. Scientists consider boreal caribou as bellwethers of the health of the boreal forest, which also cleanses our air and water, and stores vast amounts of carbon within its soils, moderating climate change. 

“In light of all these findings, we urge immediate action by provinces and territories in the next year to implement boreal caribou habitat conservation and restoration measures while longer-term range plans required under the Species-at-risk Act are being put in place,” adds Hebert-Daly.

These include:

• Newfoundland and Labrador – complete the Newfoundland Island Caribou Recovery Strategy;
• Quebec – approve a Cree Nation Government proposal for approximately 10,000 km2 of new protected areas within the Broadback Lac Evans region;
• Ontario – reject further permanent infrastructure in highly disturbed southern caribou ranges, and conduct regional strategic environmental assessment for the Ring of Fire;
• Manitoba – ban all new mining in provincial parks;
• Saskatchewan – reject final approval of Premier Horticulture Peat Harvesting Project;
• Alberta – release a robust conservation plan for the Little Smokey and A la Peche caribou ranges;
• Northwest Territories – support federal designation of Edehzhie (Horn Plateau) and Ts’ude niline Tu’eyeta (the Ramparts) National Wildlife Areas;
• Yukon –  implement 2011 Final Land Use Plan for the Peel River Watershed, following  the historic December 9th Yukon Supreme Court decision;
• British Columbia – conduct a comprehensive environmental assessment of proposed LNG projects that include evaluation of their impact on vital caribou habitat in the province’s northeast.


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Related Media:

Globe and Mail: Canada has done little to protect endangered caribou population: report

CBC: Caribou continue to be at risk in Canada, report says

Sun News: Canada failing to protect caribou: Parks group

CBC Radio: Development in the Ring of Fire could put caribou at risk

CBC: Northwestern transmission line may threaten caribou habitat

Metro News: No 'concrete measures' in Alberta, most of Canada, to protect caribou: CPAWS

VOCM: Little progress in protecting endangered caribou: review

CBC - Labrador Morning: Report says not enough done to protect caribou

Prince Albert Daily Herald: Saskatchewan caribou remain under threat

For interviews, contact:
Eric Hebert-Daly,
Ellen Adelberg,