Alberta’s Draft Provincial Woodland Caribou Range Plan is a working document that seeks to find a balance between achieving self-sustaining caribou populations, meeting federal requirements under the Species at Risk Act and addressing economic and environmental realities here at home.
Throughout the first half of 2017, the government held Phase 1 engagement, which involved First Nation and Métis information sessions, stakeholder meetings and an online public survey and open feedback form. Feedback received during the first phase of engagement informed the draft plan. Phase 2 of engagement on the draft plan itself begins today and ends in March 2018.
“This is an important step in building a made-in-Alberta plan that will protect caribou and jobs. We know that the environment and the economy go hand in hand and that doing nothing is not an option. That’s why we are taking a collaborative, balanced approach that will be good for the caribou and good for Albertans," said Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips.
In 2012, the federal government issued a requirement that provinces develop plans for caribou recovery by 2017. Failure to act could result in an environmental protection order from Ottawa, as was the case with the greater sage grouse in 2014 which affected energy development in the southern part of the province.
The Alberta government will spend more than $85 million over the next five years for habitat restoration, rearing facilities and other measures to improve caribou outcomes. This includes the $9.2 million already spent to date on caribou recovery.
Habitat restoration, in partnership with Indigenous peoples, industry and the federal government, will be an important part of caribou recovery planning and will help the province move toward the federal goal of 65 per cent undisturbed habitat within caribou ranges.
“We are proud to be working on forming partnerships with Indigenous peoples, industry and the federal government for habitat recovery work, which is a crucial part of our caribou recovery strategy and a great investment in Alberta’s future," Phillips said.
This fiscal year, the Alberta government allocated more than $5 million for habitat restoration efforts. Restoration work has begun in the Little Smoky and A La Peche ranges where, in partnership with industry, 70 kilometres of legacy seismic lines are being deactivated and 100,000 trees are being planted. The province hopes to replicate this approach across other caribou ranges.
In addition to restoration, the draft plan proposes a variety of tools, including:
- Integrated Land Management: achieving a working landscape where carefully managed industrial activity can co-exist with caribou.
- Habitat protection areas: establishing candidate areas that will support caribou recovery without affecting existing forestry or energy activities.
- Rearing facilities: providing safe habitat for caribou population growth, as well as economic certainty and job opportunities for local communities.
The Alberta government encourages all interested parties to submit feedback online and participate in public information sessions held in communities throughout caribou ranges. These sessions are scheduled for:
- Feb. 20, 2018 – Whitecourt
- Feb. 22, 2018 – Edmonton
- Feb. 27, 2018 – Cold Lake
- March 1, 2018 – Fort McMurray
- March 6, 2018 – High Level