Boreal caribou, holding their majestic antlers high on the Canadian quarter, are in trouble. These forest-dwelling animals thrive among old-growth trees and wetlands, and they are under increasing threat from human activity. When their range is broken up by mining, forestry and other industrial development, caribou’s long-term health is affected. In October 2018, conservation biologist Justina Ray told the Globe and Mail that the iconic Canadian species is “on a pathway to extinction in every region where it is currently found.”
This is not a sudden development. Six years ago, in 2012, the federal government told provinces to make plans to protect threatened caribou. That never happened, and now the situation has worsened significantly for some Ontario ranges. Between 40 and 50 per cent of caribou ranges in Ontario have been lost since the late 1800s.
Years of continuing declines and increasing industrial disturbance led to a federal progress report that confirmed boreal caribou were doing poorly, with seven out of 12 herds in Alberta identified as being in decline. In 2017, Ecojustice petitioned Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna to recommend a safety net order under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to protect five herds of boreal caribou in northeastern Alberta.
So far, the Minister has not acted — even though the Alberta government recently backtracked on its boreal caribou protection plan, announcing further delays to its already-overdue range planning.
Caribou cannot wait any longer for help, so it is time to redouble our efforts to get them the protections they need. We have expanded our ask to the Minister with a new petition: Ecojustice, acting on behalf of clients David Suzuki Foundation, Ontario Nature and Wildlands League, is asking the federal government to recommend a safety net order in two caribou ranges in northern Ontario.
Boreal caribou are an important part of Canada’s natural and cultural landscapes, and a sacred and valuable resource for Indigenous peoples. They are a key indicator of the health of Canada’s wild and beautiful boreal forests. We cannot let caribou dwindle and disappear when something can be done now to reverse their decline.
Will you raise your voice to protect caribou in Ontario and Alberta?
Photo of a boreal caribou by peupleloup, via Flickr. Image obtained under Creative Commons.