CALGARY – The Alberta Wilderness Association, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN), David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice say a recent agreement between Canada and Alberta on boreal caribou will leave the iconic species in peril unless Alberta takes immediate protective actions.

On Oct. 23, the governments of Canada and Alberta announced a conservation agreement to protect boreal caribou in the province. Under the plan, the Alberta Government will be responsible for delivering range plans for caribou herds in northeastern Alberta within five years.

The First Nations and environmental groups say a lawsuit they filed in 2019 was a powerful motivator for the province and federal government to finalize this conservation agreement. Thanks in part to pressure from the litigation, the province agreed to meet federal recovery strategy targets for undisturbed habitat (at least 65 per cent) and agreed to greater transparency on caribou populations and habitat disturbance.

However, the First Nations and environmental groups say the timelines in the conservation agreement will not move fast enough to protect threatened herds and argue the federal government should have made an additional safety net protection order under s. 61 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to ensure habitat protection until the range plans and other actions are put in place.

In light of the grave threats to boreal caribou in northeastern Alberta and lack of immediate action in the new conservation agreement, the First Nations and environmental groups are urging Alberta to take immediate steps to advance the recovery of this iconic species, including:

  1. Complete the proposed 150,000 ha expansion of the Kitaskino Nuwenene Wildland Park, most of which is unprotected caribou habitat, that has broad support from Alberta’s energy, mineral and forestry sectors and Indigenous groups;
  2. Develop partnership agreements with Indigenous and environmental groups onthe development of range plans and other activities planned under the Canada-Alberta agreement;
  3. Support the completion of Indigenous agreements with Canada on boreal caribou; and
  4. Take bold and immediate actions to restore caribou habitat, address deficiencies in the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan and proactively respond to the many threats to boreal caribou.

The dire state of boreal caribou in Alberta led the First Nations and environmental groups to bring a lawsuit under the Species at Risk Act in 2019, calling on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to recommend a safety net protection order. The groups discontinued their lawsuit on Oct. 22, 2020, after receiving word that the minister had recommended a protection order. One day later, the federal government indicated it will not act on the Minister’s recommendation.

“Minister Wilkinson’s recent recommendation and this agreement reinforce the urgent need for Alberta and Canada to partner with us to protect caribou and their habitat in Alberta,” says Chief Peter Powder of the Mikisew Cree First Nation. “Until boreal caribou in our region are secure, we will continue to bring forward ways to address the threats caribou face – like the broadly supported initiative to expand the Kitaskino Nuwenene Wildland Park that is waiting for provincial approval – and to hold governments accountable.”

ACFN Chief Allan Adam also expressed his concern with how the agreement may impact ACFN’s Aboriginal and Treaty rights, how it will protect the caribou in a timely manner, and his disappointment in Canada’s apparent about-face in not granting the protection order.

“Our people live and work out on the lands. We need on-the-ground protection of the caribou and bison on our traditional lands. Our ancestors have lived as stewards of the caribou, and today we continue to act as stewards, but we can’t do this alone. We are disappointed that the federal government did not act on the recommendation for a protection order. While the conservation agreement between Canada and Alberta is a step in the right direction, we have serious concerns about how the agreement will respect and protect our Aboriginal and Treaty rights and the caribou in a timely manner,” said ACFN Chief Allan Adam.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Jay Telegdi, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation |, 780-881-7062
Melody Lepine, Mikisew Cree First Nation |, 780-792-8736
Carolyn Campbell, Alberta Wilderness Association |, 403-921-9519
Rachel Plotkin, David Suzuki Foundation |, 416 799-8435
Emily Chan, Ecojustice |, 1-800-926-7744 ext. 277


Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, located in northeastern Alberta, is a signatory to Treaty No. 8 and has constitutionally protected Treaty rights. ACFN has practiced land uses in the area that is now part of Northwest Territories, and northern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba for thousands of years.

Mikisew Cree First Nation, located in northeastern Alberta, is a signatory to Treaty No. 8 and has constitutionally protected Treaty rights. The largest band in the Athabasca region, Mikisew Cree First Nation have resided in northeastern Alberta since time immemorial.

Alberta Wilderness Association is the oldest wilderness conservation group in Alberta dedicated to the completion of a protected areas network and the conservation of wilderness throughout the province. AWA has a proven history of being an effective, credible and independent advocate for wildlife and wild places in Alberta.

The David Suzuki Foundation is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization, collaborating with all people in Canada, including government and business, to conserve the environment and find solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through evidence-based research, public engagement and policy work. The Foundation operates in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, innovative public interest lawsuits lead to legal precedents that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.