Progress report shows provinces & territories failing to protect iconic species that graces our quarter
Toronto –On the fifth anniversary of the Boreal Caribou Recovery Strategy, Wildlands League is publishing the first ever progress report on whether critical habitat of the iconic boreal caribou is protected in Canada. Our report finds that after five years, boreal caribou critical habitat remains unprotected or largely unprotected in every province and territory where it occurs.
“The public has a right to know whether provincial and territorial laws are protecting critical habitat,” said Anna Baggio, Director, Conservation Planning and co-author of the report. “Now with our report Canadians can see for themselves”. Boreal caribou occur in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, Labrador, Yukon and Northwest Territories.
Wildlands League assembled a team comprised of a law student, two environmental lawyers, and a specialist in boreal caribou conservation. In a few short months, the team thoroughly analyzed relevant provincial, territorial and federal laws.
The results were troubling. Even in jurisdictions that have their own species at risk legislation, boreal caribou critical habitat remains largely unprotected. This is certainly the case in Ontario due to the province gutting its Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2013 with regulatory exemptions for industry. For example, Ontario’s blanket exemption for forestry, in place since 2013, stripped all boreal caribou critical habitat of legal protection.
“Our report has shown that provinces and territories have failed to protect boreal caribou critical habitat. Now Canada must begin to take steps towards ensuring critical habitat is protected, using its powers under SARA,” said environmental lawyer Lara Tessaro, a co-author of the report. “Canada’s powers include making critical habitat protection orders, or entering legally binding protection agreements,” Ms. Tessaro added.
The report also has recommendations tailored for each jurisdiction to ensure there is mandatory and enforceable protection of boreal caribou critical habitat across the country.
Boreal caribou was legally listed as threatened in 2003. After many years of delay, the federal government finally released its Boreal Caribou Recovery Strategy in October 2012. Consequently, under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), the Minister of Environment was then required to release the first progress report on boreal caribou critical habitat protection in April 2013. However, the Minister failed to do this – and, in the almost 4.5 years since then, the federal government has never released one single progress report for boreal caribou.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher. Scientists say boreal caribou are bellwethers of the health of boreal forests and wetlands. Boreal forests also cleanse our air and water, and store vast amounts of carbon within their soils, moderating climate change,” explained Ms. Baggio.
Protecting Canada’s remaining boreal caribou critical habitat is essential to maintaining fully functioning ecosystems within boreal forests and wetlands for generations to come. Protecting caribou habitat would also help Canada meet its international commitment to protect 17% of lands and inland waters by 2020.
For more information please contact: Anna Baggio, Director, Conservation Planning 416-453-3285 mobile or by email anna (insert at symbol) wildlandsleague.org.
The full Wildlands League progress report and background materials are available here.
Wildlands League is a not-for-profit conservation charity that has been working in the public interest to protect public lands and resources since 1968, beginning with a campaign to protect Algonquin Park from development. Join us in 2018 as we celebrate our 50th anniversary.