Brief History

Alberta Woodland Caribou Conservation: Brief History 1978-present

2017 November- Ecojustice on behalf of Alberta Wilderness Association, Cold Lake First Nations and David Suzuki Foundation, petitions the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada to issue a safety net order to protect critical habitat of northeast Alberta caribou populations. October- Alberta government misses 5-year deadline to produce caribou range plans that prescribe how ranges will be managed to achieve at least 65% undisturbed habitat.

2016 June– the Alberta government releases a draft range plan for public comment for the west central Little Smoky-A La Peche caribou. The draft plan proposes habitat restoration, energy project guidelines, and some limited short-term forestry reductions but does not indicate how long-term caribou habitat requirements will be achieved. June– Alberta also commits to establish three Wildland Provincial Parks in northwest Alberta caribou ranges that will not adversely affect existing energy leases, in areas without existing forestry.

2015 Late 2015– the Alberta government: commits to achieving self-sustaining caribou populations; defers sales of new energy leases in all caribou ranges until range plans are finalized; and appoints a Little Smoky-A La Peche mediator to meet with stakeholders and indigenous communities. July – Little Smoky-A La Peche Ministerial Task Force report reflects early 2015 government-industry discussions that excluded indigenous and environmental groups.

2014 December– Little Smoky-A La Peche multi-stakeholder Advisory Group ends without report or recommendations. May– Alberta’s ‘mountain’ woodland caribou are assessed as ‘Endangered’ by Canada’s Species at Risk Act scientist advisors (COSEWIC).

2013 Mid 2013– Alberta’s Little Smoky-A La Peche multi-stakeholder Advisory Group starts. Ahead of that, logging deferrals are expanded in some parts of these ranges and new mineral rights sales are deferred across the two ranges until range plans are completed- report expected mid-2014.

2012 October 5– Canadian government releases the final boreal woodland caribou federal recovery strategy in October, 5 years past the Species at Risk Act’s deadline. Provinces and territories are given 5 years to develop range plans outlining how they will manage each of their boreal woodland caribou ranges to achieve a minimum of 65% undisturbed habitat over time, which would provide a 60% probability for populations to be self-sustaining.

2011 July– A Federal Court ruling on an ENGO legal action orders the Canadian government to release its draft boreal woodland caribou recovery strategy.  July– the International Boreal Conservation Science Panel’s report states: “To conserve woodland caribou means dispensing with business as usual, which has demonstrably and repeatedly failed to meet caribou conservation needs…Although the challenge of conserving caribou may look daunting, science indicates that both caribou conservation and resource exploitation are possible—if society makes room for caribou in the boreal forest in its plans and desires for the future… Protected areas provide insurance against unfavourable outcomes as well as a template for evaluating the effectiveness of management prescriptions beyond protected areas’ boundaries.”

June– Alberta produces a two‐page woodland caribou policy committing to achieve naturally sustaining woodland caribou populations and prioritizing caribou habitat maintenance and restoration. There is no schedule for implementing actions.

2010December– Alberta government’s science advisory panel revises the woodland caribou assessment to ‘Endangered’ instead of the less serious ‘Threatened’, but government does not change its listing. July– The Alberta government’s updated woodland caribou status report finds that most caribou populations are in decline and adds: “Provincial land-use guidelines for industrial activities have not succeeded (as a sole tool) in providing for long-term caribou population and habitat conservation.” July– the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Enoch Cree Nation, Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation demand that the federal Environment Minister provide emergency protection for northeast Alberta caribou. August– Ecojustice on behalf of Alberta Wilderness Association, Pembina Institute and Sierra Club Prairie Chapter makes a similar request.

2009 Aprilthe last four members of Banff’s caribou herd are killed in an avalanche. For decades, their foothills winter grounds outside the parks were blocked and fragmented by roads and industrial development, while inside the parks, artificially high elk populations plus roads and trails into key caribou areas made wolf predation easier.

2008May– The West Central Alberta Caribou Landscape Plan is submitted to the Alberta Caribou Committee. The Plan is prepared by a multi-sector planning team (government, industry, ENGOs) and although the team can’t agree on final recommendations, there is sufficient information and analysis contained within the plan for the Alberta Caribou Committee to recommend significant reductions in oil and gas and forestry development within the A La Peche, Little Smoky and Redrock-Prairie Creek caribou ranges. However, the recommendations are ignored by the government of Alberta.

2006 Alberta requires mountain pine beetle-related forestry surge cuts in western caribou ranges, contradicting some previously established caribou management agreements.

2005 The province starts an annual winter wolf cull in west central Little Smoky-A La Peche caribou ranges while continuing to permit extensive new industrial disturbance. The Alberta Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan, authored by a multi-sector group, is released but the Alberta government rejects its recommendation to halt further mineral and timber allocations pending range plans where caribou populations are at immediate risk of extinction.

2004-5 Several companies defer logging in parts of some west-central caribou ranges and start a voluntary coordination of roads and other infrastructure. This slows some new disturbance, but overall habitat conditions continue to worsen.

2003 – Canada’s Species at Risk Act comes into force and lists woodland caribou as ‘Threatened’.

2001 The Alberta government’s woodland caribou status report states there have been reductions in some populations and the distribution of woodland caribou in Alberta has contracted.

2000 Scientific experts on the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designate boreal woodland caribou as ‘Threatened’.

1997 – Alberta woodland caribou are re-designated as ‘Threatened’ when that category is added to Alberta’s Wildlife Act.

1996 – Recommendations of Alberta’s multi-stakeholder Woodland Caribou Conservation Strategy Development Committee are not implemented.

1993 – The Strategy for Conservation of Woodland Caribou in Alberta is not implemented.

1987 Alberta lists woodland caribou as ‘Endangered’ under its Wildlife Act.

1986 – Alberta’s Woodland Caribou Provincial Restoration Plan is not implemented.

1979-1983 – A major study of west central Alberta caribou identifies the connectedness of BC, Jasper and Alberta populations and the need to limit industrial and recreational disturbance in home ranges, including migratory corridors.

1980 Caribou recreational hunting ends in Alberta.

1978 Provincial biologists and Alberta conservation groups establish a Caribou Management Outline for Alberta, which includes these elements: the government must no longer delay action that would reverse the long-term causes of caribou decline; a regional access management plan for industry and recreation must be created; a province-wide ban on hunting caribou must be initiated; and wolf control must not be considered until a recovery program focusing on the cause of the caribou decline has been enacted.

Who is working to save caribou?

The organizations listed below are working to save caribou, secure legislative protection for their habitat and help develop better management of our forests for wildlife and jobs.

We can’t succeed without your help and support!

You can contact any one of these organizations for further information.

Harmony Foundation
The Calgary Foundation

This website supported by funding from Harmony Foundation and The Calgary Foundation