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

Spartans squeak out pre-season soccer victory in Oregon

Trinity Western’s women’s soccer team plays in Washington today, then at home on Saturday night.

Langley woman’s graduation marks expansion of PTSD service dog program

Delta-based B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs Society and Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs merging to service to more veterans

Bevy of remarkable birthdays celebrated in Aldergrove

Maudie MacPherson (age 101), Vera Banner (91) and Alice Utas (95)

Take-home naloxone may be replacing 911 calls in parts of Lower Mainland

Naloxone kits handed out up 29% over 2017, ambulance calls and emergency visits down 22-24%, deaths hold steady

Pond hockey banned in public parks under updated Township bylaw

Public spaces bylaw imposes new restrictions on smoking, possession of drug paraphernalia, geocaching and more

PHOTOS: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

The rest of the province also dealing with thick haze as smoky skies continue

VIDEO: Ground crews keep a close eye on largest B.C. wildfire

Originally estimated to be 79,192 hectares, officials said more accurate mapping shows smaller size

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada paid for study to understand Canadian attitudes

These are the highest-paid actresses of 2018

In its list released this week Forbes said all 10 earned a total of $186 million before tax

VIDEO: World of Magic coming to Vancouver

Seven magic shows will appear at the Vancouver Playhouse from September 7 to 9

Safeway union urges rejection of mediator recommendations

Says mediator asks for too many concessions

Fire chases B.C. crews out of their own camp

Crews in Burns Lake had to leave after a wildfire reportedly overtook their sleeping quarters

To address peacock problem, B.C. city moves ahead on trapping plan

Surrey’s new bylaw focuses on ensuring people no longer feed the birds, ahead of relocation

Most Read