Santa’s reindeer’s cousins faring better in Manitoba than most other jurisdictions, new national report finds
Winnipeg – In the first annual assessment of how well provinces and territories are enacting the requirements for conservation plans under the federal government’s National Recovery Strategy for Boreal Woodland Caribou, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) find the majority are lagging behind badly.
“In Manitoba though, we’re pleased to see that some positive steps have been taken over the past year to develop conservation measures for Boreal woodland caribou. This is a credit to our province because it is among only three that received a “medium” grade for making progress on conserving this iconic but threatened species,” says Ron Thiessen, Executive Director of the CPAWS Manitoba chapter.
According to CPAWS’ communications with the Manitoba Conservation Minister, the upcoming provincial caribou conservation strategy will set a national precedent by identifying that conserving large, intact habitats is the cornerstone of keeping caribou on the landscape. Manitoba, in partnership with local First Nations, has already legally protected huge tracts of caribou habitat on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. Manitoba also deserves credit for conducting research to monitor the health of caribou populations in the province. The government and industry partners have over 200 collars in operation that track caribou movements to increase knowledge for developing protection measures.
“We gave low grades to six of the nine provinces and territories that still shelter boreal woodland caribou on their overall performance in conserving caribou over the past year. Only three jurisdictions, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, received “medium” grades because they have made some welcome progress in conserving Santa’s reindeer’s Canadian cousins,” says Eric Hebert-Daly, CPAWS National Executive Director.
Canada’s boreal woodland caribou are of the same family as domesticated “reindeer” found in Nordic countries. However, more than half of Canada’s boreal woodland caribou populations are estimated to be at risk of extinction.
The groups gave low grades to the Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador for their performance in advancing caribou conservation measures over the past year.
The biggest threat to caribou’s survival is habitat fragmentation, which increases access by predators. Scientists consider caribou as bellwethers of the health of the Boreal forest, which also cleanses our air and water, and stores vast amounts of carbon within its soils, moderating climate change.
CPAWS and the David Suzuki Foundation conducted an extensive survey of provincial and territorial governments, and also drew on their direct experience participating in caribou conservation processes across the country to develop their report called Population Critical: How are Canada’s Boreal Woodland Caribou Faring?
The groups found that in addition to a lack of concerted effort by most provincial and territorial governments to create effective caribou conservation plans, recovery of the species is also hampered by a lack of legislative tools to enforce protection in some provinces and territories, and a failure in virtually all jurisdictions to consider the cumulative effects of new development proposals and infrastructure, such as roads and power lines, on the health of the boreal forests and wetlands caribou rely on for survival.
Copies of the executive summary and full report, including the grades by province and territory, can be found at www.cpaws.org.
For interviews, please contact:
Ron Thiessen, Executive Director, CPAWS Manitoba
(204) 794 4971 or (204) 453 6346