Posts Tagged culling

Sustainable development, not culling, key to reviving caribou populations in Alberta


"The caribou again are in the way."

By Michael Bloomfield, Edmonton Journal

For more than 30 years, Alberta has failed to implement the land-use guidelines necessary to protect declining caribou populations.

As collateral damage in our frenzied pursuit of natural resource revenue, Alberta’s caribou have been brought to the brink of disaster. While we should be furious, we should not be surprised. As Gordon Pitts recently wrote in a column on the shift of economic power west, “When Canadians find stuff in the ground, they take leave of their senses, unleashing contagions of get-rich-quick thinking.”

Now, as we stampede in our quest to become a Pacific power and build a pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to the B.C. coast, the caribou again are in the way. This time, if we care, not only for their sake but for ourselves and future generations, we have the power to demand change for the better. Are we ready to forgo a few dollars for a healthier environment?

Let’s make no mistake, habitat loss from logging, mining, oil and gas development and roads has been and continues to be the primary cause of the caribou decline. Wolves, if they contributed at all to the decline, were only significant because caribou were already so vulnerable. Predation has been overemphasized to avoid dealing with the real issues of power and money.

Caribou depend on mature and climax forests, and the cumulative effect of recreational and industrial activities on those forests has been devastating. The destruction of habitat fragmented a once cohesive population which stretched from B.C. through our Rocky Mountain parks into western Alberta. In turn, this fragmentation increased the vulnerability of local bands to disturbance from industrial and recreational activities in breeding, calving, migration corridors and other seasonally important areas.

Mismanagement of hunting caused further damage to already threatened herds.

To once again kill wolves to save caribou is like recycling beer cans in Fort McMurray to deal with greenhouse gases produced by oilsands development.

It’s long past time we developed a serious strategy that provides a sustainable future for us and the environment and includes a well-funded, science-based caribou recovery plan. Our economic footprint doesn’t need to squash caribou to extinction, nor liquidate the inheritance of future generations so we can enrich ourselves now.

So what’s required to achieve recovery and restoration of caribou in Alberta and Western Canada?

First, we must deal comprehensively with all of the issues and involve government, business and the public in development and implementation of the plan. It’s not enough to manage habitat for currently depressed populations and leave them perpetually at risk.

We must provide sufficient habitat to allow recovery to self-sustaining levels. Such action must include protection of migratory routes and seasonally important areas.

Furthermore, there must be a moratorium on new industrial and recreational activity in critical caribou range, coupled with urgent research into the effects of existing industrial activity and motorized recreation on caribou and their habitat. Where necessary, herd augmentation and adaptive management practices should be employed.

Albertans have been blessed with exceptional wealth derived from natural resources. With privilege comes responsibility and Albertans, therefore, have a serious duty to protect caribou and provide adequate habitat for their long term recovery.

After I left Alberta in 1982, I continued to work for the caribou, urging the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada to recognize the woodland caribou as a rare species, something done in 1984. In 2000, the committee designated caribou as a threatened species.

So where are we today? Nearly 25 years of Alberta’s caribou “recovery” process has brought looming disaster. Despite compelling evidence, government continues to risk caribou survival to squeeze a bit more revenue out of Alberta’s wilderness.

In July 2010, the Alberta government updated its report on the status of the woodland caribou. In response to dismal results, the Alberta government ignored the advice of its own scientists and failed to downgrade caribou from threatened to endangered status.

Then in January 2012, federal Environment Minister Peter Kent delivered another blow to caribou survival, deciding not to recommend emergency protection for critical habitat for threatened caribou herds in Alberta.

If those trusted to defend the environment abdicate their responsibilities, it’s in our hands. Either we make it clear to our political and business leaders that we want a more environmentally sustainable approach to development with ample room for caribou and other endangered species, or accept that we are partners in this deadly greed.

You can start by asking candidates in the current election campaign to pledge themselves to action now before the caribou disappear.

“We must save caribou from our deadly greed”

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

Habitat loss from logging, mining, oil and gas development and roads is the primary cause of Alberta's caribou decline. The role of wolves has been overemphasized to avoid dealing with real issues of power and money.

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