Boreal Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan (by V. Nader)


Source: The Canadian federal government is employing SARA to protect the threatened boreal caribou.


On July 27, the Canadian federal government released the federal action plan proposal for the protection and recovery of the boreal caribou. The following are recovery measures, under three categories, that the federal action plan presents to protect the threatened species:

  • science to support recovery, including the establishment of a knowledge consortium
  • recovery and protection, with a focus on critical habitat
  • reports on progress to ensure that recovery efforts are effective

The boreal caribou are significant to Canadian culture as they are part of our landscape and contribute to our unique biodiversity, so much that they appear on our quarter. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “Caribou are barometers for healthy forests. If caribou aren’t doing well, our forests are in trouble.” The fact that the species are threatened with extinction indicate that the forests are not doing well and this is due to the impacts of industrial activity in the boreal. As a result of human actions, such as over-hunting and habitat destruction, their habitat is disturbed and fragmented. This, in turn, has resulted in boreal caribou being susceptible to the attacks from wolves, their natural predators, because they do not have the protection of an intact habitat to survive.

A scientific research found a direct relationship between the total level of habitat disturbance in a caribou’s range and calf survival. This approach was utilized by Environment Canada as a framework from which to create management directives for provinces in the recovery strategy. The strategy directs provinces to maintain or restore a minimum of 65 per cent of each range in an undisturbed condition. This affords caribou only a 60 per cent probability of persistence. Consequently, in 2012, the federal, provincial, and territorial government collaborated and agreed on a recovery strategy for the boreal caribou which fulfills Canada’s commitments under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).

SARA was enacted in 2002 by the federal government and its purpose is, essentially, protect and prevent wildlife from disappearing. Seven out of thirteen provinces and territories have stand-alone species at risk legislation. This means that those that don’t, although they possess wildlife acts and regulations, they do not have a piece of legislation that is specific to endangered species and the protection of critical habitat. This is noteworthy because provinces and territories need to ensure that they are trying their best to safeguard various species, such as the threatened boreal caribou. The action plan is partial at this time since it does not address all of the measures, as required in the SARA. Fulfillment of SARA requirements will be accomplished as provinces and territories complete their range plans or similar documents by October 2017.

Many provinces have tried to prevent caribou from becoming extirpated by employing inadequate solutions, such as killing caribou predators (wolves and bears) or creating barriers between caribous and their predators. These actions are just as damaging to the ecosystem because they are further hurting biodiversity. Instead of inflicting violence against animals, I think provinces and territories need to shift the focus onto ourselves, humans, and recognize the damage that we cause through industrial activities. Perhaps we should take a hands-off approach, literally, and work towards no longer disturbing their habitat. The David Suzuki Foundation has many recommendations for this issue such as restoration initiatives for highly degraded habitat, the government helping industry to understand the importance of preserving the land whilst conducting business, and society changing consumptions habits and holding the government accountable for ensuring that species have the necessary habitat to survive.

I believe we should care about protecting species because of the intrinsic value they offer. At first glance, it may appear that they do not offer direct economic or extrinsic value, so people may think “why should we care?” But species, such as the boreal caribou, contribute to Canada’s diverse ecosystem and are crucial to our well-being, in addition to landscape and culture. In the case of the boreal caribou, it is part of Canada’s rich historical background and gives Canada its unique identity. It would be difficult to imagine Canada without the boreal caribou and it would be so sad to lose the species, or any species for that matter, as a result of human exploitation of resources. I hope that the provinces and territories involved put their full efforts towards restoring the caribou population and adopting sustainable practices involving the protection of all species. Otherwise, the next few generations may not be able to recognize the significance of the caribou on the quarter.



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