Province unveils plan to repopulate caribou

April 15, 2006

THE Manitoba government has produced a long-awaited recovery strategy for the woodland caribou but still refuses to list the species as threatened.

The new recovery strategy includes funding for two new biologists who will focus on woodland caribou conservation on the east side of Lake Winnipeg and in northern Manitoba.

Yet, even though woodland caribou have been on the federal list as an endangered species for many years, Manitoba has refused to include them on the provincial list.

The 20-page report details how some of the caribou are at high risk because of imminent development activity but doesn’t indicate that the province will do anything specific about that.

On these ranges, caribou numbers could decline, “thus an action plan must be developed,” the report states.

Gwen Barlee, policy director with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee in Vancouver, was not impressed.

“It is incredibly ambiguous,” she said. “You could drive a truck through the holes in this document.”

She and other wildlife conservation advocates are disappointed the strategy does not commit to protecting caribou habitat that is being degraded by logging and other resource development.

Ron Thiessen, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said reluctance to limit development activity is why the province continues to leave caribou off the threatened species list. He said if caribou were on the list, the Endangered Species Act could force the government to devote more resources to habitat protection.

“It is ironic that the Manitoba government has produced a recovery strategy when they have failed to acknowledge that the caribou is even at risk.”

Although overall numbers have remained steady over the past several years at between 1,800 and 3,100 in Manitoba, that is only half the population of 50 years ago.

The province has spent close to $500,000 per year on the protection and conservation of caribou for the past several years, far more than on any other species. A department official said about 100 Manitoba caribou are fitted with radio transmitters so researchers can monitor their range.

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