Woodland Caribou populations are in serious decline in Alberta with crucial habitat areas experiencing development pressure. Scientific studies conclude that NO caribou herds in Alberta are self-sustaining.
CPAWS Northern Alberta has released two of three reports illustrating on-the-ground status of and threats to Alberta's boreal woodland caribou.
The reports are the first of their kind in Alberta – the first publicly available, science-based assessment that illustrates where in Alberta's boreal forest conservation efforts, legislated protection, and immediate forest restoration need to occur in order to bring Alberta's caribou back from the brink.
“Alberta’s boreal caribou populations have been declining for decades and urgently need habitat protection and restoration to recover,” said Danielle Pendlebury, conservation planner with CPAWS Northern Alberta. “Unless action is taken immediately, we face the real threat of losing caribou from Alberta in our lifetime.”
CPAWS is encouraged to see the government moving forward on habitat planning for caribou, but stresses that any plans designed for caribou conservation must emphasize conservation and immediate forest restoration measures.
Read Volume 1 (Northeast Herds) here.
Read Volume 2 (Little Smoky Herd) here.
In 2014, for the second time in 10 years, the government of Alberta committed to developing a series of plans that would ensure the future of Alberta’s struggling caribou herds. First on the list are the Little Smoky and A la Peche herds, located in West Central Alberta near Grande Prairie.
The Little Smoky herd faces the highest loss of their habitat in the entire province -- 95% of their home has been disturbed by roads, seismic lines, oil and gas well pads, and forestry cut blocks, leaving them literally nowhere to hide.
To stabilize the herd’s population, the government has been culling wolves in the range -- a management practice that is impractical, unsustainable, and scientifically questionable. The real problem in the herd’s range, habitat loss, must be addressed!
CPAWS has released its 2nd annual Caribou Report, and the news isn't good: caribou are losing ground across the country due to habitat loss.
About Woodland Caribou
The Woodland caribou are the large, shy cousin to the better-known reindeer and migratory tundra caribou, found in Canada’s northern boreal forest. Alberta is home to over 3000 caribou in 13 distinct populations.
Woodland Caribou in Alberta are on the verge of extinction. Due to industrial activity, very little intact habitat is left in Alberta that can sustain Woodland caribou populations. Destruction of their range has also made the caribou more vulnerable to wolves. The map to the right shows where Woodland caribou occur in Alberta and identifies the likelihood of each range to maintain a self-sustaining local population. Of the 13 populations remaining in the province, most are in decline and several are at immediate risk of extirpation.
The Alberta Wildlife Act designates Woodland caribou as a threatened species due to the decline in their distribution and their low numbers resulting from direct habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation.
Woodland caribou are an “umbrella species” - they're sensitive to disturbance, and thrive in intact forest. When Woodland caribou populations are healthy, chances are other species in the area are healthy too.
Caribou and Land Use Planning
The Alberta government’s land use planning process has opened the door to new protected areas that could help the province’s highly endangered Woodland caribou to survive.
The first plan, for the oil sands region of north eastern Alberta called the Lower Athabasca, was released in draft by the Alberta government on August 29, 2011.
While the plan requires industry to restore caribou habitat, restoration will not benefit caribou until 80 years later, when the forest is again old enough to support them. Meanwhile, logging and petroleum development continue to negatively impact caribou and their habitat.
Caribou Range Planning
The provincial government is obligated, under the Federal Government's Recovery Strategy for woodland caribou, to provide robust, scientifically-sound range plans for all of Alberta's boreal woodland caribou herds. To date, no range plans have been drafted. With the support of the Alberta Conservation Association, CPAWS Northern Alberta is working with government, industry, and Aboriginal partners to inform range planning in the province.
To learn more:
Read CPAWS' 2nd Annual Caribou Report.
Read CPAWS' and the David Suzuki Foundation's report, Population Critical: How are Caribou Faring?
CPAWS advocates for the protection of caribou habitat and holds government accountable for relevant legislation responsibilities to implement species recovery plans.
CPAWS Northern Alberta is working to...
What Can YOU Do?
Write a letter to the provincial government asking them to release range plans for boreal woodland caribou that will adequately protect and support self-sustaining herds! Take action HERE.
Sign CPAWS' Petition telling the government you don't want any more commercial development in Jasper National Park's Maligne Valley, where the Maligne caribou herd is down to only 4 individual animals! Sign HERE.
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