North American Caribou Workshop 2018
- Published on Nov 09 2018 |
By: Zoe Guile, CPAWS-NWT Conservation Coordinator
Last week I attended the 17th North American Caribou Workshop (NACW) in Ottawa.This workshop brought together people with a vested interest in caribou to share indigenous knowledge, science, and experiences. We discussed the status of caribou in North America and key challenges to their conservation, management, and recovery.
The status of caribou populations in North America is dire. For example, the Bathurst herd of Barren-ground caribou, whose historic range includes the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Saskatchewan, have declined by 96 per cent since the 1990s. There are three main factors that affect caribou population decline; human activity, wildfire, and climate change. It was reported at the NACW that all caribou herds are on a pathway to extinction due to these factors (read more in the Globe and Mail). Many attendees expressed their frustrations with the lack of action on caribou recovery while we continue to meet and discuss research and recovery strategies at length.
Some key takeaways from the workshop included that there is:
- A need for environmental assessment to more meaningfully consider protection of caribou. Only one project that has gone to the environmental assessment phase has ever been rejected in order to protect caribou habitat.
- A necessity for purposeful implementation of the Species At Risk Act. Caribou populations continue to decline while recovery planning carries on past legislated deadlines.
- A lack of consideration of cumulative effects in Environmental Assessment and land use decision making.
- A significant need for greater public education on issues facing caribou populations.
Some outcomes that I hope to see before the next NACW in 2020 are:
- Protection of habitat. Habitat loss will continue to be the most significant driver of caribou decline in the coming years. By conserving large and connected areas of habitat, we can mitigate decline and give a chance to population recovery.
- Canadians from across the country support the efforts of Indigenous communities to protect lands for their ecological and cultural value and for future generations. Conservation has its greatest success when management and stewardship activities are led by the knowledge and experiences of local peoples. You can read more about Canada’s newest Indigenous Protected Area, Edéhzhíe, which protects habitat for boreal woodland caribou here.
- A serious effort to improve road access management. Governments across North America are behind the curve on managing roads for wildlife, especially where a new roads bring access into an undisturbed landscape. Roads through caribou habitat, mostly for industrial access, disrupt herd movement and act as pathways for predators and humans to hunt caribou more efficiently.
I found that the necessity for greater public education on issues facing caribou was made abundantly clear at the NACW. There is a need for the public to become aware of issues facing caribou so that they are compelled to take action. I am looking forward to using the knowledge gained at the workshop to engage in caribou management and share important issues with the public in a more meaningful way.
Although caribou populations are declining there was still an heir of hope at the NACW. Many committed people are putting their all into caribou recovery. Indigenous leaders, scientists, conservationists, industry and governments must must work together to ensure a future for caribou.
Add your name to the list of over 150,000 Canadians who expect our Government’s to protect caribou and their habitat here.