Cari­bou de­cline a ‘dis­as­ter’

The Compass - - OPINION - Ed­i­tor’s note: the fol­low­ing let­ter has been sent to En­vi­ron­ment and Con­ser­va­tion Min­is­ter Terry French, and copied to The Com­pass, other politi­cians and me­dia out­lets.

Dear Mr. French

What a dis­as­ter! I read the lat­est cen­sus on the Ge­orge River herd for 2012 and must say at the rate we are go­ing in this prov­ince ev­ery­thing should be ex­tinct in a few years. There are 20,000-plus an­i­mals left to the Ge­orge River cari­bou herd that was as re­sent as 20 years ago al­most 800,000 strong.

Is the Ge­orge River cari­bou well on their way to join­ing the ex­tinc­tion list with the New­found­land Beothuk In­dian, wolf and Awk. Not to men­tion our grossly mis­man­aged cod, caplin, and pine martin. Who in the world has been manag­ing our nat­u­ral re­sources since John Cabot? Has any­one in this 21st cen­tury learned even a lit­tle bit from New­found­land’s poor en­vi­ron­men­tal track record.

When I read then-en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Char­lene John­son’s in­ter­view on CBC news about the Ge­orge River Herd Cari­bou and the lat­est 2010 cen­sus, I had to com­ment on that con­ser­va­tion night­mare. With all the tech­nol­ogy of the 20th and 21st cen­tury I thought do we have an­other species on the brink of ex­tinc­tion.

The over­fish­ing of our cod and caplin stocks, along with the steady fall of our once-upon-a-time great cari­bou re­source is enough to make any­one with an en­vi­ron­men­tal bone in their body cringe. Are we go­ing to even­tu­ally have a mora­to­rium on the cari­bou like our north­ern cod? Can it get any worst?

The old count in 2010 of 71,131 cari­bou in the Ge­orge River Herd and the now 20,000-plus Ge­orge River cari­bou is barely enough to keep the abo­rig­i­nals of Labrador go­ing, let alone all the other preda­tors that are in­dige­nous to the North. It’s go­ing to take gen­er­a­tions for this iconic an­i­mal to bounce back to an early 90s level.

The tech­nol­ogy that’s seal­ing the fate of our land and aquatic crea­tures, should be used much more wisely in the fu­ture. To be per­fectly hon­est, no one seems to get it. One gen­er­a­tion af­ter the other this prov­ince is chip­ping away at the few wild crea­tures we have left and their ecosys­tems.

Even our so called elite in this prov­ince have a dis­torted and ev­er­grow­ing view of wilder­ness and what it’s all about. It’s sim­ply shock­ing in this mod­ern age that this an­i­mal has gone down the tube like our north­ern cod.

For the cari­bou to sur­vive this pop­u­la­tion drop all par­ties in­volved will have to prac­tice due dili­gence in the great­est sense of the word. I know peo­ple will have a thou­sand ex­cuses for the demise of our Ge­orge River cari­bou, how­ever, it’s the hu­man fac­tor here that I’m im­pli­cat­ing as pos­si­bly the great­est threat to a cari­bou come­back.

Like the buf­falo hunters of the 19th cen­tury who weren’t happy un­til the last buf­falo was shot, some of our 21st cen­tury cowboys won’t stop un­til ev­ery cari­bou, bird and moose is shot. This could pos­si­bly be the prob­lem here with the Ge­orge River herd right now. Sure there are other fac­tors that could have had im­pli­ca­tions in their demise. I just don’t be­lieve for one minute the wolves, bears and coy­otes ate that many cari­bou in less than 20 years.

Also why did the gov­ern­ment of New­found­land and Labrador wait un­til the last few Ge­orge River cari­bou were left to ini­ti­ate their so called three-pronged ap­proach and mil­lions of dol­lars in sci­en­tific re­search?

Un­less our con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cers are go­ing to mon­i­tor the herd con­tin­u­ally, in the field and in the air, and en­force pro­tec­tive gov­ern­ment leg­is­la­tion in 2012, the out­look for the re­main­ing Ge­orge River Cari­bou is grim.

Like I said a mil­lion times be­fore in pre­vi­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal let­ters, lim­ited ac­cess of hu­man traf­fic in our re­mote wilder­ness ar­eas is the key to pro­tect­ing these ecosys­tems and pro­tect­ing our pre­cious wildlife re­source. With the 2012 Ge­orge River cari­bou crash and the re­mote cabin de­vel­op­ment tak­ing place in Western Bay will we ever learn? Or will wildlife and wilder­ness ar­eas like Ge­orge River and Cliffty Pond be con­tin­u­ally de­stroyed one gen­er­a­tion af­ter an­other? Tony O’Leary writes from

Western Bay

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