Help Save Alberta’s Woodland Caribou

UPDATE: Thanks for howling with the wolves!

Dear Friend,

At Sierra Club Canada, we’ve been working to protect the woodland caribou for over a decade – but a recent decision by the Alberta government is a bad one for the endangered caribou. We were shocked to learn the Alberta government is being pressured by Big Oil and logging companies to NOT recognize its woodland caribou as endangered.

Alberta’s woodland caribou population is in rapid decline due to widespread habitat destruction in the Tar Sands region. Sadly, scientists estimate that in some herds there are less than 200 animals remaining and, in a new report, they recommend listing them as endangered.

One University of Alberta biologist who helped write the new report expressed dismay when learning about Big Oil’s claims that the science behind the population estimates was bad: “The methodology is extremely well-documented and accepted by scientists. I’m not quite sure what the issue was.” Another scientist involved in drafting the report wrote: “What should we do when ideology is being cloaked as questions about science?”

Endangered species protection is split between the federal and provincial/territorial governments and, unfortunately, this arrangement is often destined to fail. The drafters of the legislation to protect endangered species - politicians all - were aware that the legislation may require decisive action that might not always please big industry. So they came up with a plan that would not be decisive - they knew that just the threat of jurisdictional tantrums would generally lead to inaction on serious species protection.

Last Friday, Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent released the long-awaited federal ‘recovery plan’. It suggests controlling wolves will address the plight of the woodland caribou! There was no press release or media conference - no fanfare of any kind. Kent just posted it on the Environment Canada website. It took a court order to end the four-year delay in releasing the plan, so it’s no wonder he released it quietly on Friday afternoon in the summer, and not in a few weeks when Parliament is back and vacations over.

Meanwhile, Alberta's Minister for Sustainable Resources, Mel Knight, has not moved on the scientist’s recommendation to list the woodland caribou as endangered. He said he wanted “more input” (we assume from Big Oil) before he makes a decision. One Alberta MLA was quoted as saying he preferred a “voluntary plan” because the oil industry has a good track record for being “responsible”.

The reality is, the biggest threat to Alberta’s woodland caribou is not from wolves – it’s from habitat loss, plain and simple. There is no scientific disagreement on this fundamental point – except, of course, from oil industry ‘scientists’.

Below is a map showing a continuous band of habitat stretching from Québec all the way through to Alberta - where it breaks. The break is the Tar Sands - you know, the mega-project you can see from outer space.

Caribou obviously can’t forage in giant Tar Sands pits and tailing ponds and, of course, wolves will use the industrial roads to get better access to the herds. But habitat loss is the issue – blaming wolves is intellectually dishonest.

Please join Sierra Club Canada, First Nations and Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast and urge the federal and Alberta governments to do the right thing and protect Alberta’s remaining woodland caribou. Only then can a proper recovery plan be implemented which places the needs of the caribou above the needs of big business.

We are asking you to do two things:

1)  Please make a donation to Sierra Club Canada today. Your donation of $10, $20, $50 or $100 will help us keep a spotlight on the plight of Alberta’s woodland caribou and fight for their recovery and protection.

2)  Send an email to Alberta Sustainable Resources Minister Mel Knight and Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent with the simple message: work together and protect Alberta’s woodland caribou!

There is belief out there that laws protecting endangered species are arbitrary and draconian, and that they’re somehow stifling our economic growth. It’s simply not true. We can protect our natural heritage and have a robust economy.

Please act now before we lose Alberta’s woodland caribou forever.


John Bennett, Executive Director
Sierra Club Canada
(613) 291-6888

Follow John Bennett on Twitter



For more information visit:

Endangered caribou in more danger  (The Bennett Blog, Aug. 31, 2011)
Backgrounder: Alberta's Woodland Caribou  (Sierra Club Canada, Sept. 1, 2011)
Energy, forestry industries fighting endangered status for caribou  (Canadian Press, Aug. 24, 2011)
Alberta’s woodland caribou now endangered, scientists say  (Record-Gazette, Aug. 24, 2011)


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