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There are 15 caribou herds remaining in Alberta. (Archive photo)

Radio-Canada

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Alberta has made little progress in protecting its 15 remaining caribou herds: despite promises to Ottawa to do so, it has failed to protect the animals' habitat from disturbance , particularly in the energy industry.

This is what emerges from a report (New window) (in English) from the Alberta government himself.

This document, published three years late on January 19, is the first report on the so-called C&P agreement. x27;article 11 concluded between the province and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The 2020 agreement was reached under the threat of federal intervention to protect critical habitat for the herds, which are in many cases disturbed by the exploitation of the resources of their habitat.

Issues highlighted in the report range from slow seismic line cleanup, to continued growth in the industrial footprint, to a lack of range planning that would allow for x27;species to survive in some of Canada's busiest landscapes.

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There's not much in the way The data is encouraging, says Phillip Meintzer of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. Human disturbance increased in 23 of 28 areas -caribou habitat areas between 2018 and 2021, according to the report.

The average area of ​​critical habitat that escapes disturbance from industry and wildfire in a caribou habitat subarea in the province is 19%. However, federal guidelines suggest that it should be 65% to offer more autonomy to the animal.

Of these 28 habitat sub-areas, 7 have more than 10% of their surface area more or less protected. Nine have no protection, while the rest have about 3% of their area protected.

Forestry, Energy exploitation, agriculture, recreation and housing are all activities that eat into caribou habitat.

One of the main objectives of the agreement with Ottawa is to develop range management plans outlining how activities can co-exist with caribou. /p>

Fifteen management plans were to be completed by the end of 2025. According to Meintzer, only two have been completed by this time. up to date, and they have not yet been implemented by legislation.

Existing guidelines for caribou habitat activities may be modified at the request of industry. Between October 2020 and December 2021, Alberta Environment processed 101 such requests.

One ​​of the main causes of disruption is the presence of seismic lines, which cut through forests and allow predators to access groves that would otherwise be difficult to access.

The report says Alberta has 250,000 kilometers of seismic lines within the caribou range. By the end of 2021, 138 km had been restored, while work had started on another 763 km.

Meanwhile, activity on caribou territory continues: in 2020 and 2021, new approvals for forestry, energy and other industrial activities covered more than 700 km2. /p>

Despite the pressure, recent government estimates indicate that caribou numbers appear to be stabilizing around 2,000 head.

Of Alberta's 15 herds, 8 of them are holding steady, according to the report. One of them would be decreasing. For others, things can go either way.

The report attributes this situation to the annual killing of wolves in the province, predators of caribou, carried out by helicopter and by strychnine poisoning. In 2020 and 2021, 824 wolves were killed.

Mark Boyce, an ecology professor at the University of Alberta, calls wolf poisoning a despicable practice, particularly because it kills so many non-human wildlife.

He adds that the report's data also shows that the practice has damaged the habitats of most caribou herds.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Mark Boyce also regrets seeing the considerable expansion of oil and gas activities and the continued logging of remaining habitat patches in the Little Smoky region.

Caribou preservation is considered one of the most difficult problems to solve, particularly due to the species' sensitivity to disturbance and its need for the same landscapes that humans depend on for resources, according to the report.

With information from The Canadian Press

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