Dwindling caribou herds in B.C., Alberta face dire threat: feds

‘Immediate intervention is required to allow for eventual recovery’

(The Canadian Press)

The federal government is one step away from moving in to protect dwindling caribou herds in Alberta and British Columbia after finding them under imminent threat.

The finding, released by Environment Canada on Friday, covers 10 herds in the Southern Mountain population. They are all smaller than 100 animals and continue to decline. Seven are in British Columbia and the rest are all or partly in Alberta.

“Immediate intervention is required to allow for eventual recovery,” says a department document.

The finding obliges the environment minister to ask cabinet to issue an emergency protection order under the Species At Risk Act if the two provinces don’t do enough to remove threats to the herds’ recovery.

READ MORE: Province seeks feedback on caribou recovery program

Emergency protection orders allow Ottawa to control activity on critical habitat that is normally governed by the provinces. That would include energy development, forestry and agriculture.

The federal government has used the power twice before for the western chorus frog and the sage grouse. The protection order for the grouse affected the drilling plans of several Alberta energy companies.

The ministry’s analysis was being done as court actions from conservation groups sought to push Environment Minister Catherine McKenna into enforcing provisions of the law, said her parliamentary secretary Jonathan Wilkinson.

“In the short term, what it means is that we need to go and have conversations with the governments of B.C. and Alberta and relevant stakeholders to discuss how we actually move forward,” he said. “There is a high degree of urgency.”

There is, at most, a few months to do the work, said Wilkinson.

“If we don’t act, somebody will go to court and the courts will certainly find the minister has a requirement to go to cabinet.”

Another finding released earlier this week said the provinces are failing to adequately protect critical habitat for woodland caribou as well. It concluded the provinces don’t require their regulatory bodies to follow federal environmental legislation.

Friday’s release acknowledges Alberta and B.C. are taking some steps to help the herds, but concludes they aren’t doing enough.

“Such measures are not currently complemented by the significant habitat protection or restoration measures necessary to improve the likelihood of recovery in the long term.”

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said she knew the finding was coming.

“We are in a situation where the courts are beginning to lose their patience with the federal government,” she said. ”That is why Alberta must demonstrate progress.”

Caribou habitat has been so damaged by decades of industry presence that wildlife managers must resort to extreme measures while they rehabilitate thousands of square kilometres of seismic lines, cutblocks, well pads and resource roads.

Meanwhile, local communities have come to rely on current levels of industry to sustain them.

Phillips blames the situation on decades of inaction by previous Alberta governments.

“We went through about 25 years of the previous government doing precisely nothing — sweet tweet — on this file.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Gallery: Kid’s Bike Parade

Williams Lake bicycle festival carries into the weekend

Bicycle Festival pedals into Williams Lake

Plenty of activities - for bicyclers and non-bicyclers - through weekend

Tsilhqot’in community names officially recognized by Province

Tsilhqot’in names will now appear on provincial government resources, maps and databases

Indian Horse audiobook narrated by Williams Lake city councillor

Jason Ryll is the voice of Saul Indian Horse in a new audiobook

Hospital Trust to host BBQ and barn dance at Jacobson Ranch

Western themed fundraiser for Cariboo Foundation Hospital Trust

VIDEO: Grand Forks shores up defences as floodwaters rise to peak levels

Canadian Forces, volunteers working to protect low-lying areas

Chilliwack Chiefs moving on to RBC Cup final after thrilling win over Ottawa

Kaden Pickering scored the winning goal in the 3rd period as Chilliwack won their semi-final 3-2.

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

More than four dozen firefighters and building inspectors came out to help

Wellington Dukes pull off epic upset of Wenatchee at RBC Cup

The Dukes are off to the championship game after downing the Wild 2-1 Saturday at Prospera Centre.

Canada to face U.S. for bronze at world hockey championship

Canada was looking to play in the gold medal game for a fourth straight year, but saw 3-2 loss

Searchers for Vancouver Island father turn focus to Cowichan River

Cowichan SAR joined by many other SAR groups, volunteers now determined to find missing man

Vacationers urged to check for stowaway bats that could carry deadly disease

‘White-nose syndrome’ has killed millions of bats in North America, but hasn’t arrived in B.C. yet

Are B.C.’s gas prices enough to keep you from travelling May long weekend?

Gas prices in B.C. ranging from 125 cents per litre to more than 150 cents

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle wed in Windsor as millions watch

Windsor sparkled on a warm spring day as tens of thousands of people jammed its quaint roads

Most Read