Petition asks province to protect Manitoba's caribou

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) says it has received more than 10,000 signatures of support for caribou protection within Manitoba. The province is set to release a caribou strategy in the next few days, the conservation minister says.

'It's clear this is something that large numbers of Manitobans support'

A woodland caribou on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. The species has been listed as threatened since 2006 in Manitoba. (Courtesy of Ron Thiessen)

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) says it's received more than 10,000 signatures on a petition asking the Manitoba government to keep up a commitment to restore the caribou population and protect the province's boreal forest. 

The Manitoba government is set to release a 10-year strategy on restoring woodland caribou numbers in the next few days, Conservation Minister Tom Nevakshonoff says.

Manitoba's boreal caribou populations were listed as threatened in 2006 under the province's Endangered Species Act. Parks Canada lists caribou as threatened in other parts of Canada as well. The threatened status requires, by law, that provinces take action to recover populations, said CPAWS.

"The woodland caribou's boreal home is the world's largest source of unfrozen fresh water, the northern lungs of the planet, and its massive carbon stores help to curb climate change," said Ron Thiessen, executive director of CPAWS' Manitoba chapter, in a news release Tuesday.

"It's clear this is something that large numbers of Manitobans support," he said.

The biggest threat to woodland caribou, according to CPAWS, is habitat loss and fragmentation. The migratory species requires thousands of square kilometres of unbroken wilderness to thrive.

In Manitoba, industrial activity and road construction have led to encroachment into the boreal forest, said CPAWS. Whiteshell Provincial Park is one notable region of Manitoba's boreal forest where caribou are now absent.

"With human developments opening up access to remote habitats that caribou go to hide from predators such as wolves, caribou face decreased odds of survival," said Thiessen in an email to CBC. "CPAWS believes the province will uphold its commitment to conserve large intact caribou habitats, and the next step will be ensuring that they put the resources in place to make it real on the ground."

Manitoba to release caribou plan

Nevakshonoff, the minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship, said the province will be releasing a 10-year strategy in the next "few days."

"Thanks to CPAWS for their continued commitment to promoting and protecting our boreal and caribou habitat. We've been proud to work together with them, industry and First Nations to ensure the persistence of local caribou populations and the habitat they depend on," Nevakshonoff said in an email, "We are putting the finishing touches on a 10-year strategy that works to both protect the caribou's environment and the provincial economy."


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