Com­pa­nies call out Cana­dian cari­bou con­ser­va­tion

Oc­to­ber 5 dead­line passes and cari­bou range plans not com­pleted

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - FRONT PAGE - PETER LOZINSKI

Agroup of multi­na­tional com­pa­nies worth nearly $600 bil­lion are im­plor­ing the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment to do more to pro­tect threat­ened bo­real cari­bou.

The group of com­pa­nies in­cludes house­hold goods man­u­fac­tur­ers Proc­ter and Gam­ble, pa­per towel man­u­fac­turer Kim­ber­ley-Clark, fash­ion re­tailer H&M, or­ganic food pro­ducer Amy’s Kitchen, ice cream pur­vey­ors Ben and Jerry’s, pub­lisher Grey­stone Books, IT com­pany Rose In­ter­na­tional and re­li­gious pub­lisher Liturgy Train­ing Pro­duc­tions.

The com­pa­nies high­lighted con­cerns that the bo­real for­est, its species and hun­dreds of In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties that de­pend on the for­est are threat­ened by un­sus­tain­able log­ging prac­tices.

The sig­na­to­ries of the let­ter are all com­mit­ted to sourc­ing sus­tain­able pulp, pa­per and other for­est prod­ucts.

Cari­bou are listed as a threat­ened species. Sur­veys have in­di­cated that only 14 of the coun­try’s 51 cari­bou ranges are self-sus­tain­ing, and that 30 per cent of the cari­bou pop­u­la­tion could dis­ap­pear in the next 15 years if ac­tion isn’t taken.

In 2012, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment gave prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries an Oc­to­ber 5 2017 dead­line to pro­duce range plans to pro­tect bo­real cari­bou and its habitat.

The plans must in­clude con­ser­va­tion of at least 65 per cent of range habitat.

None of the nine prov­inces or ter­ri­to­ries with bo­real cari­bou pop­u­la­tions hit the dead­line.

“Based on our en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mit­ments to our cus­tomers, we seek ma­te­ri­als that are free of con­tro­versy and have been ac­quired through sus­tain­able har­vest­ing,” the let­ter signed by the com­pa­nies said.

“While we com­mend in­di­vid­ual forestry com­pa­nies that have cer­ti­fi­ca­tion … we strongly be­lieve scientifically rig­or­ous prov­ince-wide wood­land cari­bou pro­tec­tion plans are needed to re­as­sure buy­ers that bo­real prod­ucts have been pur­chased at the ex­pense of this threat­ened species and their in­tact for­est habitat.

“We echo the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s re­quest that prov­inces sub­mit ro­bust cari­bou habitat pro­tec­tion plans that are grounded in science, and ask that you sub­mit these with the con­sul­ta­tion and con­sent of In­dige­nous peo­ples whose tra­di­tional ter­ri­to­ries in­clude wood­land cari­bou habitat.

“We also call on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to take strong in­terim mea­sures to pro­tect crit­i­cal wood­land cari­bou habitat un­til re­cov­ery plans can be fully im­ple­mented.”

While the Oc­to­ber 5 dead­line passed with­out any plans in place, dif­fer­ent prov­inces are at dif­fer­ent stages of de­vel­op­ing the range plans. Some have plans nearly fin­ished, while other ju­ris­dic­tions have barely started.

Ac­cord­ing to a De­cem­ber 2016 re­port from the Cana­dian Parks and Wilder­ness So­ci­ety (CPAWS), Saskatchewan is one of the prov­inces do­ing the most tan­gi­ble work in pro­tect­ing cari­bou.

In 2016, the re­port said, Saskatchewan ap­proved a for­est man­age­ment plan that in­cludes a 20-year de­fer­ral on har­vest­ing 2,230 square kilo­me­tres of cari­bou habitat, as well con­ser­va­tion prac­tices through­out those 20 years.

The gov­ern­ment has also been ac­tively meet­ing with groups to com­plete range plan­ning.

Fi­nally, the re­port said, sci­en­tists look­ing at bo­real wood­land cari­bou in the north­ern range have found the pop­u­la­tion to be in good health, an im­por­tant first step to­wards un­der­stand­ing what needs to be done from a man­age­ment per­spec­tive.

Saskatchewan is set to make even more progress.

Ac­cord­ing to Kevin Mur­phy of the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment, the Saskatchewan pub­lic and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will see the first range plan later this month. The frame­work in that plan will be used for the out­stand­ing four plans still in devel­op­ment

“We are plan­ning to re­lease our draft range plan for the cen­tral bo­real plain at the end of Oc­to­ber,” Mur­phy said.

‘We’re go­ing to re­lease that to all of our key col­lab­o­ra­tors the pub­lic and to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for com­ment.”

Us­ing the cen­tral range base tem­plate, de­tailed work on the bo­real shield and east and west bo­real plain ranges will be com­pleted be­tween 2018 and Oc­to­ber 2020.

‘We’ve staged it out over time, but the base frame­works and all of the guid­ing prin­ci­ples will be re­leased in Oc­to­ber with our first range plan and will ap­ply to all of them,” Mur­phy said.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is aware of Saskatchewan’s time­line and has been sup­port­ive, Mur­phy said. The feds have also been ap­pre­cia­tive of the prov­ince’s col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach, and all the data that’s been col­lected.

The data in­cludes on­go­ing mon­i­tor­ing of the pro­vin­cial cari­bou pop­u­la­tion, look­ing at ge­net­ics and herd struc­ture. That work will con­tinue.

That col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach is what led to the de­lay in the plans be­ing re­leased.

“With all the stake­hold­ers, First na­tions, Métis, trap­pers, in­dus­try groups, aca­demics and oth­ers, we wanted to build a solution that in­cor­po­rated their wis­dom, their knowl­edge and their guid­ance, not to pro­duce some­thing that’s top down,” Mur­phy said.

“Build­ing that kind of col­lab­o­ra­tive, con­sen­sus-based solution takes time. Our plan has al­ways been for Oc­to­ber of this year. With every­one in­volved, I think we’ve done a fairly good job of pulling that to­gether.”

Hav­ing that buy-in is vi­tal, es­pe­cially from the forestry in­dus­try.

“If we don’t have the forestry in­dus­try to help us mimic the nat­u­ral dis­tur­bance of the ecosys­tem, we will have worse cari­bou habitat in 50 years than we have to­day,” Mur­phy said.

“Far bet­ter that we have eco­nomic uti­liza­tion and al­low peo­ple to have liveli­hoods from the bo­real for­est than to have cat­a­strophic ire or blow down sit­u­a­tions. They’re a vi­tal part­ner.”

CPAWS is also work­ing closely with a hand­ful of forestry com­pa­nies.

Florence Daviet, the CPAWS na­tional for­est pro­gram di­rec­tor, said that while an in­dus­try group has called out the range plan­ning frame­work set fed­er­ally, in­di­vid­ual com­pa­nies have been ea­ger to help con­serve cari­bou habitat.

She said Tem­bec, ALPAC and Wey­er­haeuser have been tak­ing proac­tive steps to find so­lu­tions.

The min­ing in­dus­try has also been sup­port­ive.

“They’ve been ar­tic­u­lat­ing that they find it very frus­trat­ing this topic hasn’t been ad­dressed,” Daviet said.

“There’s a lot of un­cer­tainty, and for them, it’s a busi­ness is­sue be­cause they don’t know where to in­vest, whether they’ll have access to an area they might want to mine. It’s been freez­ing them in­stead of help­ing them know how to move for­ward. It’s im­por­tant to get these plans com­pleted and pro­tec­tion es­tab­lished so we know what the play­ing field looks like.”

Daviet stressed the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing wood­land cari­bou.

‘The cari­bou are ex­tremely im­por­tant, es­pe­cially in places where the herds are fac­ing an extreme amount of dis­tur­bance. The faster these plans can be made, the eas­ier it is to find so­lu­tions that work,” she said.

‘The longer you wait, and the more ac­tors there are on the land­scape, the harder it is to find ap­pro­pri­ate so­lu­tions.”

Daviet called bo­real wood­land cari­bou an um­brella species. She said if their habitat is pro­tected, sev­eral other species will thrive as well. That in­cludes wolver­ines, griz­zlies, other species of cari­bou and bo­real birds.

“We’ve been see­ing huge de­clines in bo­real birds be­cause they breed in the bo­real for­est and need large, in­tact for­est land­scapes,” she said.

“Cari­bou are sen­si­tive to in­dus­trial dis­tur­bance, they’re con­sid­ered the ca­nary in the coal mine. If we’re los­ing cari­bou, we know there are other species com­ing in be­hind if we don’t ad­dress the prob­lem.”

That’s why it’s so frus­trat­ing for Daviet that so lit­tle progress has been made on cari­bou con­ser­va­tion.

She un­der­stands the plans are com­pli­cated, but prov­inces have been aware for five years that they needed to put these range plans to­gether.

‘Five years have passed and there’s very lit­tle cari­bou habitat pro­tec­tion. It’s dis­cour­ag­ing that we’ve hit this five year mark and still have no cari­bou habitat clearly pro­tected,” Daviet said.

“With nine prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries: Yukon, North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, BC, Al­berta, Man­i­toba, Saskatchewan, On­tario, Que­bec and New­found­land and Labrador, that’s a lot of area and places for peo­ple to make land use de­ci­sions of how they’re go­ing to han­dle this pro­tec­tion.

“There’s a lot of work to do.”

STEVE FOR­REST/WIKI­ME­DIA COM­MONS

Cana­dian wood­land bo­real cari­bou are threat­ened, and prov­inces had un­til Oct. 5 to come up with range plans to con­serve the species. The dead­line passed, and very lit­tle work has been done to pro­tect the habitat of this Cana­dian icon. Now, a group of multi­na­tional com­pa­nies com­mit­ted to sus­tain­ably-sourced pa­per prod­ucts are adding their voices to the call to pro­tect the cari­bou.

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