Manitoba’s Caribou Strategy Will Fail to Save Threatened Species

August 28, 2007

(Winnipeg/Ottawa) The Manitoba government has the right goals to recover its threatened boreal woodland caribou, but its current strategy will not achieve the recovery of the species, according to a report released today by Sierra Club of Canada and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

The groups state the province needs to take immediate action to identify critical habitats and protect large areas of boreal forest.

“All the major threats to boreal woodland caribou across Canada stem from human-caused alteration of their habitat” said Jean Langlois, National Campaigns Director of Sierra Club of Canada. “The federal and provincial governments need to quit stalling, identify caribou habitat, and protect it.”

Overcoming the shortcomings of the current strategy will require that the Manitoba government:

  • Act in the short term to create new protected areas in woodland caribou range, including the First Nations land protection requests on the east side of lake Winnipeg.
  • Identify (describe and map) the critical habitat of woodland caribou in Manitoba.
  • Address the principal causes of loss of woodland caribou habitat in Manitoba: logging, mining, hydroelectric development.
  • Live up to its commitment in the Woodland Caribou Conservation Strategy for Manitoba (2000) that “Habitat considered critical for the continued viability of a woodland caribou range will be protected by legal designation. No development will occur within these protected areas.”

Last year, the Manitoba government granted legal protection for woodland caribou under the Manitoba Endangered Species Act, which mandates habitat protection for listed species. The groups are asking the province to make the law a reality on the ground by protecting large, intact habitats required for caribou survival. They say that granting the huge land protection requests of First Nations in the vast, unspoiled east side of Lake Winnipeg will go a long way toward fulfilling the Manitoba government’s legal commitment to protect woodland caribou habitats.

The woodland caribou’s home on the east side of Lake Winnipeg is part of the largest intact section of boreal forest in the world. The boreal forest is Earth’s largest source of fresh water, a major contributor to the planet’s oxygen supply, and is a critical component in global climate regulation.

“Healthy woodland caribou populations indicate a healthy boreal forest ecosystem,” said Ron Thiessen, CPAWS Manitoba Executive Director. “Protecting the majority of the boreal forest from industrial developments is key to ensuring a robust future for all life that depends on it.”

The federal Species at Risk Act requires that a recovery strategy be prepared for each species listed as endangered or threatened. The Act mandates that the recovery strategy include an identification of the species’ critical habitat, to the extent possible. The federal government has committed to identifying critical habitat in the national recovery strategy for the boreal woodland caribou. “We are calling on the provincial government to collaborate on the swift identification of critical habitat,” adds Mr Langlois.

“For woodland caribou, because of a delay of approximately two decades between the habitat changes and population demise …there is urgency to detecting, diagnosing, and treating a decline”, wrote Dr. James Schaefer who reviewed the provincial strategy.  “This time lag between habitat loss and caribou disappearance [is] known as the ‘extinction debt’.”

According to a provincial government study, it is estimated that the Manitoba woodland caribou population has decreased by 50% since 1950.


For more information:

Ron Thiessen, CPAWS Manitoba, (204) 453 6346, or (204) 794 4971
Jim Schaefer, Trent University, (705) 748 1011 ext 768

Help Keep Manitoba Wild


CPAWS Manitoba has helped establish 23 parks and protected areas thanks to people like you.

With your help, we can protect half our lands and waters for future generations of people and wildlife.