Nfld. & Labrador

Province, feds reach agreement to protect dwindling Labrador boreal caribou herds

The new agreement, along with $5.4 million in federal funding, is good for both the caribou and Labradorians, the Nunatsiavut government says.

'The future looks bright for boreal caribou,' says Jim Goudie

George River caribou, spotted here outside Nain in 2018, also have dwindling numbers, much like the Mealy Mountain herd. (Submitted by Brandon Pardy)

The federal and provincial governments have announced an agreement for the conservation and protection of boreal caribou in Labrador.

In a statement released Thursday, the province said the agreement includes $5.4 million in funding from Ottawa and will guide efforts to preserve the Mealy Mountain, Lac Joseph and Red Wine caribou herds.

Populations are declining in the three sedentary herds and the animals are under a hunting ban. The Red Wine herd was estimated at just 20 animals in 2015.

The agreement will also lead to the development of a conservation plan to be implemented over the next four years, focusing on research, monitoring and collaboration with Indigenous governments and organizations.

'Great for caribou'

Jim Goudie, deputy minister of lands and natural resources with the Nunatsiavut government, says his government has been working with the province for over a year on caribou conservation. 

Goudie says the caribou are always a "hot button topic," but the agreement is positive news.

"I thought it was a great day for the boreal caribou of Labrador. I think it was a long time coming. I think for years they've been put on the back burner," he said.

"I think it's great for caribou. I think it's great for Labradorians."

Goudie said there are a number of issues facing the boreal caribou, including illegal harvesting, and more scientific study and education about the herds is needed.

It's going to make a dramatic difference in how we view boreal caribou management.- Jim Goudie

He said the funding will likely go toward strengthening Nunatsiavut's presence on the ground in the Mealy Mountain area for stewardship and conservation.

"There's a lot of different aspects to it and how we spend our portion of the funding, we're still hammering out the nuts and bolts of that.… It's going to go a long way. It's going to make a dramatic difference in how we view boreal caribou management," said Goudie.

"A lot of different segments of work that can be done with boreal caribou is being covered under this plan."

Goudie said Nunatsiavut, the NunatuKavut Community Council and Innu Nation have all had discussions with the province about the agreement.

He said contribution agreements now have to be finalized and then programs can be launched.

"The future looks bright in regards to boreal caribou — certainly in terms of a funding perspective."

Provincial Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne said in Thursday's statement he hopes the measures will help to grow the herds.

"I am very pleased to announce this bilateral agreement that formally recognizes Indigenous participation and traditional Indigenous knowledge in the future recovery and protection of Labrador's boreal caribou herds," Byrne said.

"The provincial government is fully aware of the cultural significance of boreal caribou to the people of Labrador and is anxious to begin work with all partners to implement a comprehensive plan that provides for enhanced conservation and recovery efforts."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Tyler Mugford

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