Canada’s boreal woodland caribou at continued risk: CPAWS annual review finds limited progress in 2015

Ottawa – In its third annual review of government action to conserve Canada’s boreal woodland caribou, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) finds there has been spotted progress – with too few of jurisdictions showing leadership in protecting the species that has long graced our 25-cent piece.

Gary-Gulash

Caribou © Gary Gulash

Under the federal Species-at-Risk Act, all provinces and territories are required to have plans in place to recover their boreal caribou populations by 2017, based on the 2012 Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population, in Canada.

“We observed the most positive government policy actions in 2015 on boreal caribou conservation in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.  We also noted early positive signs of change in Alberta’s new government’s approach to boreal caribou habitat conservation. All other provinces and territories got much more mixed reviews, with our biggest concerns reserved for British Columbia and Ontario,” says CPAWS National Executive Director Eric Hebert-Daly.

“We’re hoping for stronger leadership in 2016 on this file from the new federal government, once they’re able to turn their attention to it.  We are also actively encouraging the three recently-elected provincial and territorial governments to take more action next year on boreal caribou habitat protection, along with other jurisdictions,” adds Hebert-Daly.

In terms of acres on the ground, new protected areas were established in 2015 in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba that will conserve approximately 16,900 km2 of boreal caribou habitat – 16 times more than was protected last year. However, this represents only about 1% of the total area of boreal caribou habitat identified as “critical” in the federal recovery strategy.

Boreal 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. 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.

“Unless all levels of government immediately set much larger areas of critical caribou habitat off limits to industrial activity, boreal woodland caribou populations will continue the path of decline they’ve been on for many decades Conserving more of Canada’s intact boreal forests will also help to mitigate climate change and provide room for all species to adapt to a warming climate,” adds Hebert-Daly.

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[CA.] 14. November 2015 – Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
www.cpaws.org

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