Posted on October 1, 2012 (updated: October 1, 2012)

Environment groups ask Federal Court for minister’s hand on caribou protection

EDMONTON — Environment Minister Peter Kent’s failure to reconsider emergency protection for woodland caribou in northeastern Alberta has prompted environmental groups to ask for the Federal Court’s help.

Six months ago, the Court called Minister Kent’s decision not to recommend emergency protection for woodland caribou “out of the blue,” and ruled that it ignored scientific evidence and must
be set aside. The Minister was instructed to reconsider the government’s position, but has yet to show any signs of activity on the file.

Ecojustice, on behalf of the Pembina Institute and Alberta Wilderness Association, has asked the Court to amend its ruling to include a deadline to force a response from the Minister.

Protections for caribou in northeastern Alberta need to be implemented soon. Some herds have declined by more than 70 per cent during the past 15 years.

“We’ve been waiting six months to see the Minister’s decision, but he has not followed the court’s Order,” said Melissa Gorrie, Ecojustice staff lawyer.

“The caribou herds in northeastern Alberta are in serious decline, and if their numbers are going to recover, the habitat they need to survive needs immediate protection from further oilsands development,” said Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute.

Abundant scientific evidence indicates that oilsands operations contribute to caribou population declines. As of July 2010, there were 34 current or approved oilsands projects and 12 additional proposed projects within the herds’ ranges.

A 2009 government study found that if the current industrial development trend continued, caribou in northeastern Alberta are likely to become extinct in less than 40 years.

“Minister Kent has a second opportunity to give this iconic Canadian animal a chance for survival,” Gorrie said. “Given the evidence, and the court’s decision, the only reasonable conclusion Minister Kent can come to is that he must immediately recommend emergency protection for the caribou.”

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