Caribou Range Planning and Industry

Alberta Environment presented its plan to preserve and increase caribou populations at a session in Cold Lake last week. Mayor of Cold Lake, Craig Copeland attended the sessions and says that there needs to be a balance between wildlife and oilfield industry.

“The big concern will be, to what extend to the future growth of the oilfield, oilsands, forestry and mining be affected by this caribou plan? It’s nice to have numbers to restore the land and protect it for the caribou, but the reality is that this province and this country survives on this resource sector.”

The mayor says he wants to ensure any plans will not negatively affect the economy.

“The more restrictions that we’re putting on this sector, in our case the oilsands operations in the M.D. of Bonnyville and north in the air weapons range, is going to really impact the City of Cold Lake and area, in terms of growth.”

Alberta’s Draft Provincial Woodland Caribou Range Plan will build on existing and previous work and develop action and strategies to meet provincial and federal caribou population and habitat objectives. To review the draft plan, see:

“I’m concerned that these policies are overreaching. There’s a balance between caribou and man. But at what price is industry going to pay for the protection of caribou,” Mayor Copeland says from the information it was difficult to gauge where the Province’s policies and plans will end up after the public consultation sessions.

The Alberta Government’s plan includes recovery of both habitat and caribou populations. Stating that the two are “both technically and biologically feasible”. Plans will include the use of conservation areas, restoration of human disturbance, mandatory Integrated Land Management (ILM), and other actions.

“The oil patch does a great job protecting the lands,” having a bird’s eye view of the area gives you a better perspective, says the mayor, “when you get up in a helicopter, you can see there’s a lot of land up there.”

There’s another issue Copeland thinks the Province should look into, “the predators (wolves) population has increased. Maybe there needs to be better predator control in the air weapons range and other areas to deal with the predator population.”

The Government stated that further engagement and discussions with Indigenous peoples, local governments, industry, environmental non-government organizations, other stakeholders and communities across Alberta is required to complete this work throughout the winter of 2017/18. Detailed range-specific maps and details for all of Alberta’s 15 local populations will be ready for spring 2018.

The woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) is listed as Threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act and Alberta’s Wildlife Act. Woodland caribou populations in the province have been declining due to loss of habitat, and the Government of Alberta is working towards recovery and management of the species.