Over 10,000 in Manitoba ask for protection of large caribou habitats


Call for action as conservation group awaits release of provincial strategy to save the threatened species.

Winnipeg, October 13, 2015.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) released a petition of over 10,000 signatures collected in Manitoba, asking the provincial government to keep its commitment to protect large intact boreal forest habitat vital to the survival of threatened woodland caribou populations.

Boreal woodland caribou are listed as “threatened” across Canada, requiring by law that provincial governments develop action plans for recovery of local populations. CPAWS is hopeful that the final provincial recovery strategy, expected soon, will maintain the precedent-setting commitment set out in the 2014 draft strategy, to conserve large intact caribou habitats.

“Keeping the commitment to protect large intact boreal forest habitats will be great news for caribou, a variety of wildlife, and people. The woodland caribou’s boreal home is the world’s largest source of unfrozen fresh water, the northern lungs of the planet, and its massive carbon stores help to curb climate change.” said Ron Thiessen, Executive Director of the Manitoba Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “It’s clear this is something that large numbers of Manitoban’s support.”

Scientists consider caribou, the Canadian icon on our 25 cent piece, as indicators of the health of the boreal forest. If caribou no longer inhabit an area, it is an indication that the boreal forest there may no longer be fully-functioning and providing critical ecological services. The biggest threat to caribou survival is habitat loss and fragmentation, which increases the odds for predators and elevates risk of contracting disease from other mammals.

Boreal woodland caribou still inhabit much of the boreal forest in Manitoba but have been lost from much of the southern part of their range due to human encroachment including industrial activity and their associated road networks that failed to consider the impacts to the species. The most notable area where they no longer occur is Whiteshell Provincial Park.

“If we plan wisely for woodland caribou survival, what has happened in the south can be prevented in the north and a healthy boreal forest will be here for us and for future generations,” added Thiessen.

At the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010, Canada endorsed an international commitment to protect at least 17% of our land and fresh water by 2020, and to improve the quality of our protected areas. Protecting large scale woodland caribou habitat will help Manitoba to do its part to reach this goal. Presently, 10.8% of the province is protected.

The boreal forest supports bountiful wildlife and resources. As the ancestral home of Indigenous peoples, it is key that planning for wildlife and the future of the boreal is done in partnership with them, recognizes treaties and rights outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and with free, prior, and informed consent.

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View the draft recovery strategy at https://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/wildlife/sar/pdf/caribou_strategy.pdf

CPAWS review of draft recovery strategy at
http://cpaws.org/uploads/CPAWS_Caribou_Report_2014.pdf

For more information and interviews, contact: Ron Thiessen, 204-794-4971 or ron@cpawsmb.org