Caribou need land: committee

A committee tasked with saving Alberta’s dwindling population of caribou will recommend the province set aside vast swatches of land to keep the iconic animal from disappearing from parts of the province within decades.

CALGARY — A committee tasked with saving Alberta’s dwindling population of caribou will recommend the province set aside vast swatches of land to keep the iconic animal from disappearing from parts of the province within decades.

The recommendations from the Alberta Caribou Committee are based on computer modelling that suggests drastic and immediate action is needed to protect the animals that roam the northeastern part of the province.

“This is quite unprecedented,” said Cliff Wallis of the Alberta Wilderness Association, who sits on the committee. “It’s about time.”

The recommendations stem from a technical report on the region which suggests thousands of kilometres of habitat need to be protected in order for the animals to rebound.

“All monitored populations are currently in decline,” consultant Terry Antoniuk told a meeting of the committee Tuesday.

Projections suggest the animals won’t survive in any number in the region past 20 to 40 years unless something changes, he said.

Even if current habitat is protected and future development forbidden over thousands of kilometres, it won’t be enough to sustain the population, he said.

Habitat protection needs to be combined with measures aimed at keeping wolf populations low in order to allow the caribou to survive.

“We’re talking about a fundamentally different way of doing business,” Antoniuk said, adding “tough decisions” need to be made about protecting the animals and industrial land use.

George Hamilton, the committee’s interim program manager, said the group won’t suggest where or how the protected areas are brought in.

“The technical team said we do need to establish some areas where the focus is going to be on maintaining good caribou habitat,” he said.

“It doesn’t answer the question of where those are going to be, or how big they are, or whether they are the basis of a new park or protected area.”

Early monitoring data presented at the meeting, although imprecise, also found that nine out of twelve caribou populations counted across the province declined over the last year.

“I think the numbers tell it all,” said Wallis.

He pointed out that no habitat has yet been protected for caribou in the four years since the committee was created.

“It shows a total lack of commitment on part of the Alberta government to what’s needed to recover caribou.”

The committee — made up of government, industry and environmental groups — will try to have its recommendations considered as the government puts together a land-use framework across the province.

Dave Ealey, spokesman for Sustainable Resource Development, said after the meeting that the government has to balance many interests when figuring out how land will be used.

Industry and social uses must be considered along with environmental issues such as caribou conservation, and legislating protected areas might not be the best way to go, he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels winger Arshdeep Bains had two assists in the first period Monday against the Lethbridge Hurricanes in WHL action in Lethbridge. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Hurricanes hand Red Deer Rebels ninth straight loss

Hurricanes 5 Rebels 2 (Saturday) Hurricanes 8 Rebels 5 (Monday) The goals… Continue reading

Red Deer City Hall. (File photo)
Red Deerians will see a slight tax increase, but the municipal portion is at zero per cent

The provincial educational requisition went up by about half a per cent

The length of grass on people’s lawns could be part of the new Community Standards bylaw being considered by Red Deer city council. (Black Press file photo).
Loitering, noise complaints, swearing covered in proposed bylaw

A few old rules could be dropped and new rules added

Sweden skip Niklas Edin makes a shot against Scotland in the Men's World Curling Championship gold medal final in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, April 11, 2021. Curling's Humpty's Champions Cup in Calgary has been pushed back a day due to the delayed finish of the men's world championship. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Start of Humpty’s Champions Cup pushed back a day in Calgary

Start of Humpty’s Champions Cup pushed back a day in Calgary

Men’s world curling championship in Calgary concludes amid COVID scare

Men’s world curling championship in Calgary concludes amid COVID scare

New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, April 12, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Higashioka and Cole help Yankees beat Blue Jays 3-1

Higashioka and Cole help Yankees beat Blue Jays 3-1

Alberta doctors say trust must be rebuilt after proposed new labour deal rejected

Alberta doctors say trust must be rebuilt after proposed new labour deal rejected

People line up in the rain for a COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic at the Masjid Darus Salaam in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood in Toronto on Sunday, April 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Provinces defend health restrictions as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise

Provinces defend health restrictions as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on March 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta legislature Speaker apologizes for condemning new COVID health restrictions

Alberta legislature Speaker apologizes for condemning new COVID health restrictions

Ukraine’s leader requests a talk with Putin, gets no answer

Ukraine’s leader requests a talk with Putin, gets no answer

Madelyn Boyko poses along with a number of the bath bombs she makes with her mom, Jessica Boyko. Madelyn says she enjoys making the bath bombs with her mom as it is a special time for just the two of them. (Photo Submitted)
5-year-old Sylvan Lake girl selling bath bombs in support of younger brother

Madelyn Boyko is selling bath bombs for CdLS research in honour of her younger brother

Most Read