Feds announces plan to protect caribou after legal action taken
A Woodland cariboo bull in Torngats is seen in this undated handout photo. (Mike Bedell / THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, CPAWS)
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, July 27, 2017 9:01PM EDT
OTTAWA -- The federal government has come up with a proposed plan to protect Canada's threatened boreal caribou population, three months after a wildlife conservation group took the environment minister to court over the matter.
The plan released Thursday night notes that the provincial and territorial governments have primary responsibility for the lands where the caribou are found.
But it says federal officials will require reports on progress to ensure that protection and recovery efforts are effective.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society filed an application for judicial review in Federal Court last April, accusing Environment Minister Catherine McKenna of not telling Canadians how the caribou are being protected.
Society lawyer Frederic Paquin said at the time the Species at Risk Act requires her "to form an opinion about whether or not the critical habitat of the woodland caribou is protected."
According to a federal government news release issued Thursday, the proposed plan "fulfills Canada's commitments under the federal Species at Risk Act."
The news release says the government plan presents measures including science to support recovery, including the establishment of a knowledge consortium, and a focus on critical habitat.
The plan also encourages provinces and territories to complete their range-planning work as soon as possible.
Provinces and territories are now working to develop range-specific plans or other similar documents for boreal caribou by this October.
The release says the plan will require "unprecedented levels of innovation, co-operation, and collaboration amongst the federal government, provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, industry, environmental organizations, and local communities."
Indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and other parties will be invited to take part in a series of webinars on the proposed action plan and to submit written feedback on the document by Sept. 27.
The legal action by the wilderness society contended there have been no reports on the issue since 2012.
Spokesman Eric Hebert-Daly has called the caribou an "umbrella species." Protecting their boreal forest habitat would also protect the habitat of many others, as well as fresh water sources and carbon sinks which help combat climate change.
The woodland caribou habitat spans nine provinces and territories. Historically, their range covered more than half of present-day Canada, but they now occupy about 2.4 million square kilometres, about half their 19th-century territory.
The species was designated in 2002 as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. In 2011 Environment Canada estimated there were about 34,000 woodland caribou in 51 ranges in nine provinces and territories from Newfoundland to the Yukon.