Federal government close to taking over caribou protection from foot-dragging provinces

Monday, May 7, 2018 (All day)
For Immediate Release
VANCOUVER – Wilderness Committee is cautiously optimistic that Friday’s announcement by Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna will mean concrete action for caribou. McKenna declared that southern mountain caribou are facing imminent threats to recovery in B.C. and Alberta. Hopefully this will mean that caribou finally receive the strong habitat protection they desperately need. 
“Fifteen years have gone by since southern mountain caribou were declared at risk and neither B.C. or Alberta have taken the necessary action to save the species,” said Wilderness Committee Conservation and Policy Campaigner Charlotte Dawe. “Obviously the provinces are not willing to do what it takes, so at this point federal action is the caribou’s only hope.” 
Under the federal Species At Risk Act (SARA), when a species is faced with imminent threats to its recovery the minister is required to recommend that cabinet issue an emergency order. That would allow the federal government to effectively protect the critical habitat needed for caribou recovery in B.C. and Alberta. This announcement covers 10 herds, each with less than 100 animals, mostly living in B.C. 
“We need to see an emergency order that protects and restores all critical caribou habitat in B.C. and Alberta as fast as possible,” said Dawe. “Caribou numbers have crashed because both provinces have failed to comply with the law. They have not taken their responsibility to protect caribou habitat seriously.” 
The biggest threat to caribou in B.C. and Alberta is habitat loss and fragmentation from industrial logging, mining, hydroelectric projects and oil and gas development. If implemented, the emergency order allows the federal government to take over the management of critical caribou habitat from the provinces.
“We’ve seen band-aid solutions like the wolf cull, yet both provinces have failed to give caribou what they actually need — habitat protection,” said Dawe. “They won’t stand up to big industry. An emergency order will send a message to all provinces who don’t take the federal species at risk law seriously.”
Unfortunately, 2018 has been a dismal year for southern mountain caribou as the South Selkirk herd and the Purcells South herd have dropped sharply to only three or four animals. With this federal announcement, 2018 could be the year it turns around — but only if all critical caribou habitat is put off-limits to industry and motorized recreation. 
“Nothing less than full habitat protection and restoration has any hope of pulling this iconic species back from the brink,” said Dawe.
For more information, please contact:
Charlotte Dawe | Conservation and Policy Campaigner
778-903-3992, charlotte@wildernesscommittee.org

Photo by David Moskowitz


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