Report: Manitoba a caribou recovery leader across Canada

December 14, 2015

Manitoba a leader in otherwise limited nationwide woodland caribou recovery in 2015;
Saving threatened species will help move us toward climate goals

Winnipeg – In its third annual review of government action to conserve Canada’s boreal caribou, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) finds there has been spotted progress – with too few jurisdictions showing significant leadership in protecting the species that has long graced our 25-cent piece.  Under the federal Species-at-Risk Act, all provinces and territories are required to have plans in place to recover their boreal woodland caribou populations by 2017, based on the 2012 Final Recovery Strategy for Boreal Woodland Caribou.

“In Manitoba, we are giving credit to the government for protecting 900km2 of Boreal Woodland caribou habitat south of The Pas with the designation of the Red Deer Wildlife Management Area and for releasing a strong provincial recovery strategy for the species in 2015. Though we are still concerned that the province’s timelines for caribou plans fall short of national requirements , Manitoba stands out as a leader in woodland caribou recovery efforts’’ says Ron Thiessen, Executive Director of CPAWS Manitoba.

Caribou recovery and climate change mitigation are inextricably linked. In Manitoba alone, the boreal forest, habitat of the woodland caribou, stores an estimated 19 billion tonnes of carbon in its soils and vegetation. This compares to roughly 1000 years of Manitoba’s greenhouse gas emissions . As the world is focused on finding climate change solutions in the wake of the Paris climate talks, the significant role that large-scale, protected woodland caribou habitats can play should be accounted for and be a key tool in efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

‘Keeping Boreal carbon from being released into the atmosphere will help curb climate change. With fresh goals and commitments from the federal and provincial governments to protect caribou and address climate change, pursuing large scale boreal conservation will help both the province and the nation make good on those pledges’ added Thiessen.

Another recent provincial commitment to sufficiently support Indigenous lead land use planning also holds great potential for the protection of woodland caribou habitat and climate mitigation as it is a proven mechanism for balancing conservation and sustainable developments.  CPAWS is looking forward to hearing upcoming details from the province.

In addition to Manitoba, CPAWS observed notable positive government policy actions in 2015 on caribou conservation in Saskatchewan and early positive signs of change in Alberta’s new government’s approach to caribou habitat protection. They gave all other provinces and territories much more mixed reviews, with the biggest concerns reserved for British Columbia and Ontario.

In terms of acres on the ground, new protected areas established in 2015 in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba will conserve approximately 16,000 km2 of caribou habitat – 16 times more than was protected last year. However, this represents only about 1% of the total area of boreal caribou habitat identified as “critical” in the federal recovery strategy.

Boreal Caribou occupy about 2.4 million km2 of Canada’s boreal forest – less than half of the range they occupied in the 19th century.  The biggest threat to their survival is habitat fragmentation, which increases access by predators and exposure to a lethal parasite called brainworm. Scientists consider caribou as bellwethers of the health of the boreal forest, which also cleanses our air and water in addition to moderating climate change.

In Manitoba, woodland caribou are considered threatened under the federal Species-at-Risk Act and Manitoba’s Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act.

For interviews, contact:  Ron Thiessen, Executive Director of CPAWS Manitoba
[email protected] , (204) 794-4971

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