By: The Working Forest Staff
The Government of Canada has announced additional investments of $24 million to support the recovery of woodland caribou in Jasper National Park. Budget 2021 allocated over $2.3 billion dollars over five years to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Parks Canada, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The $24 million for caribou recovery was made available from the budget’s nature legacy program that focused on biodiversity conservation, according to an Aug. 10 news release.
Parks Canada wildlife specialists have been working on various strategies to help support the species recovery, one of these including a conservation breeding program to help rebuild caribou populations. The breeding program is a part of a broader action plan for Jasper National Park.
“The woodland caribou is an iconic species that is an important part of the natural and cultural history of Canada,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of Environment and Climate Change and minister responsible for Parks Canada, in the news release.
“Through this important initiative, the Government of Canada is moving forward with concrete action to assist the species in its recovery within the boundaries of Jasper National Park – a special protected place that provides the best scenario for a successful conservation effort. This funding will support Parks Canada to take further action to protect ecological integrity and contribute to the recovery of species at risk.”
Over the last few decades, caribou numbers have grown smaller with the Maligne herd disappearing and only a handful remaining in the Tonquin and Brazeau herds.
The Tonquin herd south of town currently has 45 animals. Now with additional government funding, Parks Canada said it will move forward on a detailed design for a breeding facility and will finalize consultation with Indigenous partners in the fall. If it’s approved after the impact assessments process, the facility would be built in a nearby caribou habitat south of the Jasper townsite stated Parks Canada. The enclosed breeding facility would occupy tens of hectares and feature pens to keep separate groups apart as required for breeding purposes. It would host about 40 females and five males.
A panel of nearly 50 conservation specialists supported the captive breeding proposal but warned several issues would need to first be considered, such as ensuring that post-release mortality is not above desired levels and managing the effects of climate change. The proposal has also received mixed feedback from multiple non-governmental conservation groups, which want human access to be limited to Jasper caribou ranges.
Parks Canada has stated that it was reviewing conservation measures and if they were adequate, noting there are already some access restrictions to occupied caribou ranges.