Canada’s Boreal Woodland Caribou at Continued Risk
CANADA’S BOREAL WOODLAND CARIBOU AT CONTINUED RISK
CPAWS ANNUAL REVIEW PROGRESS IN 2016 STILL INSUFFICIENT
Ottawa – In its fourth annual review of government action to conserve Canada's boreal caribou, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) finds there has been spotted progress – with too few jurisdictions showing significant leadership in protecting the species that long graced our 25-cent piece.
Based on the 2012 Final Recovery Strategy for Boreal Woodland Caribou, developed under the federal Species-at-Risk Act, all provinces and territories should have plans in place to recover their boreal woodland caribou populations by 2017. However, most are far from meeting this milestone.
Progress in 2016 was limited to Saskatchewan approving a forest management plan with a 20-year deferral for 2,230 km2, created through a collaboration of provincial, municipal and Indigenous governments, communities and stakeholders, and initiated by the company and NGOs under the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. There was also a promise of 28,000 km2 from Quebec and Alberta, but none of these areas are currently protected.
“The most positive government action on caribou habitat conservation in 2016 was in Saskatchewan, but in terms of area it doesn’t represent even 1% of what needs to be achieved across the country. There were also promises made in Quebec and Alberta, but so far the commitments are still only on paper. Although jurisdictions are telling us they are taking steps forward, it is not always clear what is really going on,” says Florence Daviet, CPAWS National Forest Program Director.
“Protecting boreal caribou across the country will require federal leadership. With the climate file in hand, we believe that Minister McKenna can now focus her attention on the creation of new protected areas and particularly caribou habitat in 2017,” said Daviet. On Monday, CPAWS had Ottawa high school students presented a caribou poster made up of almost 140,000 names of Canadians who support taking action on caribou.
Boreal Woodland Caribou occupy about 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 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.
“Unless all levels of government immediately set much larger areas of critical caribou habitat off limits to industrial activity, and in some cases hunting, we’re concerned that boreal woodland caribou populations will continue the path of decline they’ve been on for many decades,” adds Daviet.
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