More can be done to protect caribou, says conservation group
"Only one percent of the habitat of the caribou has been protected in the last year"
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) has released its third annual report on how governments are doing at protecting Canada's boreal woodland caribou, and they are saying there's more that can be done.
"Overall, only one percent of the habitat of the caribou has been protected in the last year, which is a long way off from what's necessary for the caribou to be sustained over the long term," said CPAWS national executive director Eric Hébert-Daly.
Hébert-Daly said that the biggest decline in caribou populations is related to fragmented habitats, damaged by road construction or industrial development, for example.
He said his organization is looking for protected areas and healthy ecosystems that can support the boreal woodland caribou.
'Solution to a whole set of different problems'
The Mealy Mountains National Park, officially named a national park in August, is one of those protected areas.
Hébert-Daly said that the park creates eco-tourism opportunities and gets people talking about nature, but goal of the park isn't to specifically protect caribou. He said it is an added benefit, however.
"When you're able to protect caribou habitat like that as part of another plan, that's the kind of think we'd love to see happen across the country," he said.
Hébert-Daly added that protecting caribou can have many advantages. He said that the caribou are an "umbrella species" and if their habitats are protected, other species are also protected because the caribou require a significant habitat themselves.
Protecting these habitats can also help with issues of climate change. Hébert-Daly said that eco-tourism opportunities and clean air and water can stem from protected habitats.
"Protecting the caribou herds is actually a perfect solution to a whole set of different problems," he said.
Hopeful for new provincial plan
Hébert-Daly said that his group have been examining the progress made on protecting caribou habitats since the federal government released its boreal caribou recovery strategy three years ago.
He said that provincial governments have jurisdiction over their land use and natural resources, and that they have until 2017 to provide the federal government with plans to aid the recovery strategy.
Hébert-Daly is hopeful that the new provincial government will look closely at the boreal caribou recovery strategy and put a solid plan in place.
He said that CPAWS have worked with companies across the country to identify where responsible resource development can be carried out and where the most sensitve caribou habitats are.
He said it is possible to protect habitats with careful planning, and he hopes that new protected areas will be created for caribou with the help and planning of the federal and provincial governments.