Woodland Caribou are an iconic Canadian species and they are in real trouble.
Woodland caribou are beautiful creatures, perfectly adapted to Canada’s forests. With their large hooves, they ‘crater’ through winter snow to find lichen to eat, and move over wetlands and snowpack that other animals cannot easily cross. They live in old growth forests and peat wetland areas, which other prey species such as deer and moose avoid. That’s how caribou have been able to live alongside natural predators like wolves and bears for thousands of years.
Even if most of us never see majestic wild caribou, we know it is important that they thrive.
Healthy Caribou. Healthy Forests. Healthy Communities.
Today, woodland caribou survival is threatened by relentless resource development in their critical habitat and by the fear of change. The best scientific standard is to manage forests so at least 65% of a population’s home range is undisturbed. Local communities will prosper along with caribou if resource management changes, adapts to what has happened and is based on ecosystems and the recovery of overly exploited forest.
We need comprehensive range plans with protected areas, extensive cutline recovery, and clustered development so caribou can recover and communities can thrive. We also need those plans to respect Indigenous rights and knowledge. Healthy forests mean there will be long-term jobs for communities. Forests capture carbon, regulate climate, produce oxygen and deliver other ecological benefits. Forests provide homes and resting places for hundreds of other species and their wise management is vital to our health and economy.
Caribou and resource jobs are not competing goals. Both depend on healthy forests. The best way to save caribou and jobs is to manage our forests responsibly.
For more than forty years conservationists have been calling upon government and industry to work with resource communities, First Nations and environmental groups to protect caribou and their habitat and to diversify economic opportunities in resource dependent areas.
Despite repeated assurances of protective actions from government and industry, resource extraction impacts kept increasing, pushing caribou in many areas to the brink of extinction. In 2012 Environment Canada committed to carry out a long-overdue national caribou recovery strategy and gave provinces five years to develop range management plans to reach at least minimum caribou habitat requirements over time. Alberta missed the 2017 deadline.
In 2020, to avoid a federal habitat protection order, Alberta signed an agreement with the federal government, committing to finish its caribou range plans by 2025. The plans must coordinate cutblocks, access routes and other infrastructure to enable sustainable resource development and achieve caribou habitat objectives over time.
Alberta approved its first two range plans – for Cold Lake (in northeast AB) and Bistcho (in northwest AB) – in April 2022, four months behind the new schedule. These plans slowly move Alberta towards cumulative effects management down the road; they lack strong actions in the crucial first decade to maintain and restore caribou critical habitat, and lack measures to support Indigenous land-use goals including Indigenous Protected and Conserved areas.
Now Alberta needs strong encouragement to approve and implement timely, effective plans for healthy caribou populations, forests and communities.
Time is running out!
Act now for healthy caribou and forests for generations to come:
Contact decision makers; let your representative know you care about caribou.
Read our Questions and Answers section.
Invite your friends to learn more at caribou4ever.ca.
Raise awareness in your school, workplace or community – use these cards and brochures.
Questions and Answers
Here are some common questions and answers about the effects of woodland caribou habitat protection.
Resources You Can Print
What’s happening now?
Here are some updates on what we’ve been doing to support this cause.
March 30, 2023 AWA article: Alberta Forestry Decisions: A Roadblock to Caribou Recovery?
January 5, 2023 AWA article: Guardians of the Territory: Dene Tha’, Bistcho Lake, and Indigenous-led Conservation
January 5, 2023 ENGO News: Jasper National Park Buys Out Tonquin Valley Leases to Help Caribou Survive
December 20, 2022 AWA article: Endangered Caribou are Just One Sign of a Deteriorating Environment
November 21, 2022 AWA article: What’s Next for West Central Alberta’s Upper Smoky Caribou?
November 7, 2022 AWA article: Saving the Caribou: West Central Alberta Closing in on Action
October 24, 2022 AWA article: Jasper Consults on Caribou Conservation Breeding Plan
September 16, 2021 CPAWS report: The importance of the Moon Creek area for species at risk recovery: A report on impacts of proposed logging by West Fraser Mills Ltd. (Hinton) in caribou critical habitat
Expand to see news from 2017 to 2019
Who is working to save caribou?
Caribou across Canada are in crisis, with many herds facing extinction due to decades of neglect. The governments and resource companies responsible for their protection are not getting the job done, failing to set aside the habitat crucial to their survival and recovery. The organizations listed here are among the leaders campaigning to save caribou along with many First Nations. Visit their websites, inform yourself and please get involved. Thank you.