David Suzuki Foundation calls on provinces, federal government to make 2019 the year of caribou

TORONTO — As caribou herds dwindle, the David Suzuki Foundation is calling on the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change to use Species at Risk Act tools to protect the habitat caribou in Canada need to survive and recover. A report published by Environment Canada warns that not enough is being done to protect one of Canada’s most iconic and threatened species. Despite a federal directive for provinces and territories to develop caribou range plans that outline habitat measures for caribou recovery by 2017, no such plans have been put forward.

“The new year is often a time of reflection and hope,” said David Suzuki Foundation Ontario science campaigns manager Rachel Plotkin. “We’ve heard from the federal government that they expect 2019 to be a big year for caribou, and, indeed, it must be if caribou in Canada are to survive and recover. Given all we know and all the tools we have, it would be unforgivable to future generations not to finally put in place industrial activity limits so that the wildlife with which we share the land can survive.”

Despite much talk and planning, little progress is being made toward conservation, according to the Progress Report on Steps Taken to Protect Critical Habitat for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada. Meanwhile, provinces continue to issue permits for energy and forestry developments that do not comply with SARA, placing caribou at even greater risk.

Three-quarters of boreal caribou herds in Canada are not self-sustaining, meaning they will not survive without human intervention. SARA requires provinces to create plans to ensure at least 65 per cent of caribou habitat is protected and restored to help them survive.

Woodland caribou are also an indicator species, meaning their health is a key gauge of the health of the entire boreal forest, which makes up 55 per cent of Canada’s land mass and is home to hundreds of Indigenous communities and vast ecosystems.

“This is about protecting caribou but it’s also about much more,” Plotkin said. “It’s about the numerous Indigenous communities that rely on caribou and the forests that support them. It’s about ensuring the survival of hundreds of different species of birds, fish, mammals and trees. And it’s about being a country that stands up for its most vulnerable and stewards the best version of itself for generations to come.”

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

Stefanie Carmichael, David Suzuki Foundation: scarmichael@davidsuzuki.org, 437-997-2568


The David Suzuki Foundation (davidsuzuki.org) 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.