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Provinces miss federal deadline on caribou strategies

Despite progress on provincial recovery plans, the future doesn’t look bright for caribou in Canada. A report released by the federal government Tuesday shows populations continue to decline and habitat disturbance increase.

Five years ago, Ottawa tasked nine provinces and territories where boreal caribou are found to come up with their own strategy to protect their habitat, but none have made the October 5, 2017 deadline.

“However, some progress has been achieved,” the report reads. “For example, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec released draft or final range plans or similar planning or policy documents, or portions thereof.”

Alberta has committed to completing a draft provincial range plan for all herds by December 2017. Draft plans for the Little Smoky and A La Peche ranges were released in 2016, and included a fenced caribou rearing facility, restoring more than 10,000 kilometres of seismic lines, and continuing to shoot wolves to reduce predators.

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In the meantime, numbers are still on the decline. The government says, based on its best available data, that many local populations continue to decrease, with 10 made up of less than 100 animals.

“There are several small local populations, some of which are isolated, that continue to be at greater risk of extirpation or of not achieving or maintaining self-sustaining status.”

Habitat disturbance by factors like human activity and fire increased in roughly 67 per cent of caribou ranges between 2010 and 2015, while it decreased in 17 per cent and stayed the same in 16 per cent. Just looking at human activity, it went up in 57 per cent of ranges.

Environment Canada will be doing its own assessment of the protection of caribou and their habitat based on the provinces’ plans. It’s expected to be done in early 2018.

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