Posted on October 31, 2017 (updated: June 20, 2019)

Statement: Federal report shows provinces’ ‘complete failure’ to protect caribou

A newly-released report shows the provinces have failed to take meaningful steps to protect threatened boreal caribou and highlights the need for federal action, Canada’s largest environmental law charity says.

According to the five-year report on the progress of recovery-strategy implementation for boreal caribou, habitat conditions have worsened in the majority of the country’s 51 boreal caribou ranges since the federal government released its Recovery Strategy in 2012.

Habitat destruction and fragmentation can have devastating effects on boreal caribou herds by exposing them to predators such as wolves and limiting their ability to forage for food.

“Boreal caribou need large areas of undisturbed habitat – more than 95 per cent of which lies under provincial and territorial jurisdiction – in order to survive.” Ecojustice lawyer Barry Robinson said.  “Once damaged, it can take decades to restore this habitat and recover declining caribou populations.”

Ecojustice is calling on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna take steps to extend federal protection to boreal caribou on provincial lands.

Automatic protections under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) generally only apply to federal species and species living on federal lands, but Cabinet can extend these protections by making a safety net order under the law.

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change has the power to recommend a safety net order if she determines that provincial laws are not doing enough to protect an at-risk species.

“Five years after the Canadian government released its recovery strategy, it is clear that the provinces have failed to take meaningful steps to protect and restore caribou habitat and populations.” Robinson said. “It is time for the Minister to exercise her powers and order protections for these declining herds.”

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