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

B.C. turns up the heat

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for most the province due to high temperatures

MARS Wildlife Rescue offers some tips on keeping hummingbird feeders clean

Mould from dirty hummingbird feeders can be fatal

30 degrees and warmer forecasted with heat wave in B.C.

The weather could stay well into next week, according to Environment Canada

‘Daddy bonus’ common in B.C. workplaces, study finds

UBC researchers say dads don’t have to be number one in the office to get a raise

Northern Health Authority expands medical bus use

Over 60 or have mobility challenges? You can now travel on Northern Connections.

Homeless people living on ‘Surrey Strip’ move into modular housing

BC Housing says 160 homeless people are being moved into temporary Whalley suites from June 19 to 21

Fake attempted abduction not funny to B.C. neighbourhood residents

Two teenage boys won’t face criminal charges after scaring girl

Mosquitoes out in full force already? Blame the weather

But a B.C. mosquito expert says the heat wave will help keep the pests at bay

Man pleads not guilty in 1987 slayings of B.C. couple

William Talbott of SeaTac was arraigned Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court

New GOP plan: Hold kids longer at border – but with parents

Move would ease rules that limit how much time minors can be held with their parents

Without a big data strategy, Canadians at risk of being ‘data cows’

Presentation said artificial intelligence could give Facebook and Amazon even more power

Five B.C. families stuck in Japan as Canada refuses visas for adopted babies

Lawyer points to change in American policy around adoptions from Japan

It may be ‘lights, camera, action!’ for talented B.C. doctor

Rob Forde is waiting to hear if he’ll become The Basement Doctor in his own reality show

Police find capsized boat near Tofino, 3 men still missing

Five men were aboard the boat when it sank off Vancouver Island early Monday morning

Most Read