The story of Caribou policy in action, or is that inaction

The story of Caribou policy in action, or is that inaction

The story of Caribou policy in action, or is that inaction


A recent story of a road being built in the Little Smokey Caribou range reflects the provincial government’s narrative of the demise of a species.  It reflects a disconnect between policy and action, both federally and provincially, and indicates an inability on the part of the government to come to terms with habitat needs of a species.

From the days of a Woodland Caribou Recovery Team recommending a moratorium on further mineral and timber allocations in caribou ranges in which the moratorium was rejected and the team disbanded, to the reliance on soft federal and provincial policy approaches of today, the story becomes clear:  a proclamation of balancing environmental protection with economic development is revealed as a falsehood and attempts to meaningfully protect habitat are isolated to small portions of the province.  Governments are unwilling or unable to proclaim that, practically speaking, the outcome of the Caribou policies, as implemented, will result in the extirpation of some herds. Short of a display of miraculous adaptability on the Caribou’s part, herds will be gone.

The range of the Little Smokey herd, according to the proposed federal recovery strategy, has 95% habitat disturbance  (with buffers included).  The recently published federal recovery strategy aims at having habitat disturbance at 35%, and this only results in a 60% chance that the caribou herd will become self-sustaining.  There are no legal provisions protecting Caribou habitat (or critical habitat) that currently apply to provincial lands (although the federal government could theoretically step in).  The federal recovery strategy relies on provincial policies to reach the 35% disturbance goal.

There is 95% habitat disturbance, what’s one more road?  The end of the story appears clear.

Figure 1:  Disturbance across the Little Smokey Caribou Range.

Little Smokey distrubance

*Based on fire data provided by jurisdictions

Disturbance Type and Amount:

Burned Areas = 0.2%
Buffered3 Anthropogenic (no reservoirs) = 95%
Total Habitat Disturbance = 95%4

3 Buffered means a 500m buffer is applied to linear and polygonal disturbances.
4 Total Habitat Disturbance is non-overlapping which means anthropogenic disturbances and burned areas that overlap are not counted twice in the total.

Source: Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada [PROPOSED] 2011Appendix F-3a: Critical habitat factsheets for remaining non self-sustaining local populations.




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