Recent blogs issued by U.S.-based Natural Resources Defence Council clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding of the complexity of the caribou issue and sustainable forest management in Canada – and in some cases unfortunately misrepresents what is actually happening on the ground.

To restate, FPAC and our partners – numerous Indigenous communities across the country, municipal leaders and labour groups support action that will realize positive results for Canada’s caribou populations. We have been sharing our best information with provincial governments as they prepare to submit caribou recovery plans to the federal government this week.

Our warming climate is changing our forests. We are seeing it in the worsening fires, pest infestations and changing behaviours throughout our forest ecosystems – with different realities playing out in different parts of the country. Turning a blind eye to these impacts is a disservice to our forest ecosystems.

When biologists and foresters plan and manage harvests, they are planning for many values in the boreal including working to support over 500 species of birds, fish and mammals, fire suppression, pest prevention, detection and management, preserving wetlands and protecting watershed health. This is very involved and complex work bringing real benefits to our environment and communities.

FPAC and our partners have three simple asks of the federal government as it considers caribou plans:

  1. Comprehensive science: We must ensure that final decisions are made under comprehensive scientific evaluation, considering the complex multiple factors facing caribou and all wildlife in Canada’s changing forests – it should not just be based on modelling from over 5 years ago that was solely based on disturbance factors (which was good work done by a number of respected scientists, but it was based on the best information they had available to them at the time).
  2. Local decisions with informed local input: Different factors are playing out in the forest in different parts of the country. No two regions are the same. Local decisions must be supported by informed local input from impacted Indigenous governments and communities, municipal governments, local businesses and community groups, outdoors and recreational groups, and labour. Unfortunately, meaningful consultation with all impacted groups has not been happening in every part of the country. As the federal government reviews plans in the weeks ahead, it will be important to assess the level of consultation that has occurred in each of the ranges across the country.
  3. Socio-economic analysis: Canada’s caribou recovery strategy must be complemented by socio-economic analysis to understand what impacts policies could have on the hundreds of communities and tens of thousands of workers who rely on sustainable natural resource development for their livelihoods.

FPAC members have invested over $100 million in caribou plan research in collaboration with Indigenous communities, federal and provincial governments, environmental groups, and academics and look forward to actively supporting the federal government’s soon-to-be launched Caribou Knowledge Consortium.

In closing, there are a couple of final points we would like to put on the record in follow up to NRDC’s blog of September 28, 2017:

  • NRDC mentioned the number of “American” football fields that are harvested each year in Canada.
    In clear and Canadian terms, Natural Resources Canada’s recently released The State of Canada’s Forests Annual Report 2017 highlighting that Canada enjoys 347,069,000 hectares of forest area and last year less than 0.5% of that was responsibly harvested – and regrowth was supported by the planting over 574 million seedlings. This means that the sustainability of our harvesting and replanting practices in Canada will ensure we can all enjoy the environmental, recreational and economic benefits of our forests forever. (https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/forests/report/16496)
  • NRDC also referenced the migratory George River caribou herd (a herd in the region where Quebec meets Newfoundland and Labrador). What NRDC did not mention, and as confirmed by a CBC news story just over a year ago, the caribou herd in this region has unfortunately declined by 99% since the early 1990s, falling from over 800,000 animals to just thousands – and this is an area where there is little to no industrial activity. This is a real life example proving that not all herd declines can be attributed to natural resources activity and speaks to the important regional factors that must be considered by governments – with informed local input – before making any final decisions on caribou recovery. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/george-river-caribou-herd-drastic-drop-1.3568316)