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Reality Check

RC-14: Does Manitoba Have a Woodland Caribou
Recovery Strategy?

Date Posted: June 18, 2011

Manitoba is home to as many as 20 woodland caribou herds. Three varieties of caribou are found in Manitoba: coastal, barren ground and boreal woodland. The risks facing boreal woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) have been well known for decades. Manitoba estimates boreal woodland caribou populations have decreased by 50% since 1950. Under provincial and federal species legislation, Manitoba is required to identify caribou ranges and make plans for the survival and recovery of woodland caribou.

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessed boreal woodland caribou in Manitoba as being a 'vulnerable' species in 1984, and in 2003, the Canadian government listed all woodland caribou populations as 'threatened' under the federal Species At Risk Act (SARA). A recovery strategy for woodland caribou is required once the species is listed under SARA.

The Endangered Species Advisory Committee (ESAC) under the Manitoba Endangered Species Act (ESA) recommended Manitoba woodland caribou be an 'endangered' species in September 1994, and in 2002, the status was assessed as 'threatened', excluding coastal populations. Woodland caribou were finally listed as threatened under the MESA June 2006.

Manitoba adopted a Woodland Caribou Conservation Strategy for Manitoba in 2000, which has been removed from government webpages. In 2005 Manitoba released the current Conservation and Recovery Strategy for Boreal Woodland Caribou. The number of woodland caribou herds in Manitoba was reduced in the 2005 Strategy.

In 2007, Sierra Club of Canada, and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society commissioned Dr. James Shaeffer, Associate Biology Professor at Trent University, to review the Manitoba 2005 boreal woodland caribou recovery strategy. Dr Shaeffer identifies three deficiencies in the current strategy:

  1. Critical habitat not identified;
  2. No plan to aggressively protect habitat by establishing new parks and protected areas;
  3. Recovery action does not reflect the urgency of the situation faced by this species.

Manitoba needs to protected significant caribou range areas . Several Manitoba boreal woodland caribou herds remain at risk of collapse while development activities continue to impact sensitive caribou habitat. Calving and wintering grounds are at great risk.

Actions needed include: protecting critical caribou habitat, making public caribou data, and updating environment licensing standards for forestry, roads and transmission lines to avoid impacts on woodland caribou, and help restores herd ranges and habitat.

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