Caribou under growing threat: CPAWS’ annual report


December 16, 2014

Caribou under growing threat: CPAWS’ annual report

Whitehorse — In its second annual review of governments’ efforts to conserve Canada’s boreal caribou, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) finds that threats from industrial development to boreal woodland caribou have continued to increase while conservation and restoration efforts have shown little progress across the country.

In Yukon, we are particularly concerned about the boreal caribou that reside in the Peel Watershed. 

In other parts of the country, CPAWS found examples of threats growing within vital caribou habitat including:

Manitoba has approved a mine in one of its provincial parks; natural gas extraction and exploration activities continue to increase in BC; a peat harvesting project is advancing in Saskatchewan; and Alberta has approved about 5,000 km2 of additional oil and gas leases in the past two years. 

The biggest threat to the survival of boreal caribou is habitat fragmentation, which increases access by predators. Scientists consider caribou as bellwethers of the health of the boreal forest, which also cleanses our air and water, and stores vast amounts of carbon within its soils, moderating climate change. 

The 2012 release of the Federal Recovery Strategy for boreal caribou under the Species-at-Risk Act outlined the critical need for conservation and restoration measures in vital caribou habitat across Canada, and called for provinces and territories to complete conservation plans by 2017.   As of this fall, CPAWS found six of the 51 required plans to be in various stages of development, with none completed so far that meet the federal government’s requirements.

“In Yukon so far no caribou range conservation plans have been started. Range planning for boreal caribou in Yukon will take place with the Gwitch’in portion of the NWT range plan process, which is still several years away.  In the meantime, the Peel Land Use Plan is one legal tool that could be leveraged to conserve boreal caribou populations in this region,” says CPAWS Yukon Conservation Campaigner, Amber Church.

CPAWS found that only one province and one territory implemented concrete measures that will protect boreal woodland caribou in the past 12 months. Manitoba created a new park protecting about 1,000 km2 of habitat, and Northwest Territories listed boreal caribou as threatened under its new species-at-risk legislation.  Quebec and Newfoundland cut back staff allocated to caribou planning.

In the meantime, on December 1st the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)  issued notice that Canada’s entire boreal woodland caribou population is declining because “much of its habitat has been degraded … especially in the southern part of its range.” It cited cumulative impacts of industrial activity as the chief reason, and also for the first time listed the Newfoundland island caribou population as of “special concern” due to its dramatic drop in numbers since the 1990s.

“In light of these findings, we urge immediate action by Yukon to implement caribou habitat conservation and restoration measures while the longer-term range plans required under the Species-at-risk Act are being put in place,” adds Church.  This includes listing boreal caribou as a “specially protected species” under the Yukon Wildlife Act and choosing not to appeal the recent decision made by the Yukon Supreme Court in the Peel Watershed Court Case.”


View full report at:

For interviews, contact: Amber Church, Conservation Campaigner, CPAWS Yukon
867-393-8080 x 2