Jasper National Park Caribou: Statement by Recreational Users and Conservationists
February 16, 2021
The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC), Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA), Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Northern Alberta Chapter, and David Suzuki Foundation are issuing the following statement:
We are very concerned that today, February 16, Parks Canada is lifting its winter-time backcountry access restrictions in Jasper National Park’s Tonquin caribou range.
There are so few caribou left in the herds in Jasper, that every single individual counts. The precautionary principle is required in this situation.
The groups ask Parks Canada to be guided by best available evidence and:
- close Tonquin backcountry to human access all snow season, instead of opening it mid-February for recreation and lodging operations;
- re-assess and reduce impacts to caribou of Tonquin summer-fall backcountry access.
In the 1960s, southern Jasper National Park had hundreds of caribou. Today there are fewer than 60 animals left. One herd is gone, two more are at such low numbers that they might not last much longer. The Tonquin herd is the largest herd left; it only has 45 caribou, including 10 or less breeding females. Evidence from Jasper’s recently-extirpated Maligne herd, as well as other available scientific research, indicates more should be done to limit Tonquin access.
Backcountry ski and snowmobile supply routes into Jasper’s Tonquin Valley bring noise, packed trails and people into high quality caribou habitat (Figure 1). This activity can harm caribou in three ways: stressing the caribou, displacing them from the best habitat, and making it easier for wolves to gain access and hunt them.
The Alpine Club of Canada has voluntarily suspended bookings at its Tonquin backcountry Wates-Gibson hut for the entire winter. The groups are asking all backcountry winter recreationists to lead by example and to ask their peers to stay out of the Tonquin backcountry all snow season to support caribou survival.
The groups’ January 28, 2021 statement is linked here for reference.
For more information:
Lawrence White, Alpine Club of Canada
Carolyn Campbell, Alberta Wilderness Association
403-921-9519, [email protected]
Kecia Kerr, CPAWS Northern Alberta
780-399-2073, [email protected]
Figure 1. Spatial representation of access and habitat classes 3, 4 and 5 during the late winter (January 22nd to May 22nd) season 2002-2009. Tonquin Valley ski and snowmobile supply routes (in red) make paths far into high quality ‘late winter’ caribou habitat (shaded yellow/green areas). (Source: Czetwertynski and Schmiegelow, Tonquin Caribou Risk Assessment Final Report, 2014)
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land and water and ensuring our parks are managed to protect the biodiversity within them. Over the last 50+ years, CPAWS has played a lead role in protecting over half a million square kilometres – an area bigger than the entire Yukon Territory. Our vision is to protect at least half of our public land and water so that future generations can experience Canada’s irreplaceable wilderness.
CPAWS has chapters in almost every province and territory across Canada, and two chapters here in Alberta – a Southern Alberta chapter located in Calgary and a Northern Alberta chapter located in Edmonton. As a collaborative organization, CPAWS works closely with government of all levels, industry representatives, and communities to manage our impact on a shared landscape. We also advocate for the creation of parks and protected areas for the benefit of both current and future generations of Canadians.