Gateway Gazette

AWA Comments on Alberta’s Draft Provincial Woodland Caribou Range Plan

Alberta Wilderness Association feels strongly that Alberta’s draft provincial range plan does more to increase the risk of caribou extinction for the foreseeable future – by allowing more critical habitat in caribou home ranges to be destroyed – than it does to work towards recovering thriving caribou populations.

AWA recommends that, among other changes, the plan should state that: “Alberta is committed to maintaining and restoring caribou habitat in caribou home ranges in the next 50 to 70 years to enable their survival and recovery, and to managing human activities to respect these requirements. Recognizing that caribou are a sentinel species for older, relatively intact boreal and foothills forests and wetlands – landscapes that store significant water and carbon, and which many other wildlife species rely upon – the integration of the Range Plan into Government of Alberta plans and frameworks will be a major advance in achieving Alberta’s longstanding commitment to maintain biodiversity and achieve sustainable forest management and responsible energy development.”

The plan must also recognize that Albertans are highly capable of adapting to build resilient local economies and communities that respect this goal, and it must facilitate and provide concrete opportunities for them to do so.

Click here for full text of letter (PDF)

BACKGROUND

Alberta ‘Plan to Plan’ Won’t Save Our Endangered Caribou

Dec 19, 2017 – Today Alberta released a draft caribou provincial range plan that allows unspecified new industrial disturbance in caribou critical habitat, and marks further delays in range-specific plans and actions. While advancing some positive principles, the government continues to delay necessary actions to achieve caribou home ranges of at least 65% undisturbed habitat, the absolute minimum required for caribou to sustain themselves. Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) believes that Alberta’s iconic caribou will go extinct unless the government clearly commits and acts to save caribou habitat.

“Alberta’s duty and commitment to keep caribou on our landscape requires strict, clear disturbance limits to reduce disturbance in their home ranges, as well as restoration work and legislated protected areas,” said Carolyn Campbell, AWA Conservation Specialist. “Further avoidance of the minimum required habitat protection and restoration is no longer an option – it is a recipe for extinction.”

Forestry and energy activity that respects caribou habitat requirements is part of AWA’s vision for caribou range management. A regional timber supply sharing approach to support mills and jobs, energy activity in clustered development corridors, and eco-tourism will all help move Alberta toward healthy forests and healthy wildlife. To prevent extinction, caribou range plans must:

  • give clear directions to planners and others that we must protect, restore and manage each caribou home range to achieve at least 65% undisturbed habitat;
  • include large areas of legislated, permanently protected areas;
  • ensure restoration in every range and ensure local communities benefit from these significant job opportunities;
  • reverse disturbance, and ensure there is far more restoration and protection before new disturbance is allowed in already excessively disturbed caribou home ranges.

AWA believes the Alberta government must act on its June 2016 promise to Albertans to create Wildland Parks to protect 1.8 million hectares of caribou habitat in northwest Alberta. These identified areas do not have forestry tenures and will not adversely affect existing energy leases. New protected areas beyond those in the insufficient 2012 northeast Alberta regional plan are also desperately needed.

Alberta missed a five-year deadline in October 2017 to finish range plans that effectively protect caribou habitat. We remain concerned that further delay of clear range plan directions until after March 2018 means Alberta’s iconic caribou will continue on a downward spiral. AWA reminds the Alberta government that extinction is forever.

In 2010, provincial scientists assessed Alberta woodland caribou as ‘endangered’, although the province has not yet updated their listing from ‘threatened’. Science shows caribou recovery is both technically and biologically feasible. AWA is calling on the Alberta government to take actions to make it happen.

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