boreal-caribou

Caribou

In northeast B.C., boreal caribou are in dire straits. These animals try to survive in a forest heavily fragmented by oil and gas and countless roads. So how do you save one of B.C.’s most threatened caribou?

More habitat needed

In British Columbia, boreal caribou live in the far northeast corner of the province. This rugged area consists of old-growth forest rich in lichens, which the caribou feed on in the winter, and is speckled with lakes, rivers and marshes. However, this seemingly pristine habitat is over-run by industrial development, predominantly from the oil and gas sector. According to the federal recovery strategy, all 6 of the boreal caribou herds in B.C. are not “self-sustaining”.

In June 2010, the BC government set aside Resource Review Areas (RRAs) on over 500,000 hectares of Boreal Caribou range. In these RRAs, no new gas tenures will be sold for a 5-year review period. In addition, the BC government has created a plan to set aside 3.5 million hectares of land as “protected” habitat that also allows industries to operate under certain guidelines. 

In our opinion, the provincial plan is not good enough. It only provides long-term recovery goals for four of the six populations - essentially writing off two herds - even though the federal Recovery Strategy deems recovery of all six populations to be feasible. More needs to be done to protect the actual areas vital to all six of the caribou herds.

Boreal caribou quick facts

  • The word caribou is thought to derive from the Micmac “xalibu”, meaning “the one who paws”.
  • Boreal caribou have relatively thick antlers (both sexes) and don’t migrate.
  • They are hunted by wolves, bears, coyote, cougar, lynx and humans.
  • They eat lichen as their primary food source; they can smell it beneath the snow

The threat

Industry isn't going away

Oil and gas is well established in northeast British Columbia. Reclaiming lost habitat is a limited option at best. British Columbia doesn't have endangered species laws. The Province needs to work to ensure caribou have space to survive on a largely human-impacted landscape.

What CPAWS is doing

CPAWS works with First Nations and B.C. governments, as well as industry, to fine-tune a new plan for the boreal caribou.

We actively work to increase public support for caribou protection in B.C. and across Canada through the Caribou and You campaign, gathering over 2000 signatures each winter for the past three years. We attend community festivals and fairs to engage with the public on caribou protection face-to-face, where we find the greatest caribou fans in younger generations.

CPAWS is also working to...

  • get the best possible conservation outcomes for the caribou listed under the Species at Risk Act in northern BC. This includes boreal caribou and other kinds of caribou in northern B.C.
  • create a new National Park in northern B.C. that includes important woodland caribou habitat.
  • collaborate with First Nations to protect important caribou habitat in their traditional territory.
  • bring outcomes from the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement to BC.

We get results!

CPAWS BC was instrumental in protecting the 6.4 million hectare Muskwa-Kechika Management Area, which includes a series of large protected areas for species like the Woodland Caribou.

We provided information to the Taku River Tlingit on how to do land use planning in an era of climate change – to make sure that caribou habitat will be protected even as our climate changes significantly over the next 100 years. The land use is complete and 13 new parks have been established. The Kawdy herd of caribou now has permanently protected habitat.

CPAWS BC and other environmental groups played an important role in protecting over 2.2 million hectares of mountain caribou habitat in the globally unique Inland Temperate Rainforest. The plan also commits the BC government to developing more sustainable forestry practices in the surrounding forest habitat.

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