I had the great pleasure to join Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) signatories and their Science Committee members at the North American Caribou Workshop in Thunder Bay, Ontario last week. Signatories present included Wendy Crosina (Weyerhaeuser Canada), Margaret Donnelly (Alberta Pacific Forest Industries), Chris Black (Tembec), Jeff Wells (International Boreal Conservation Campaign) and Alison Ronson, Gord Vaadeland, Florence Daviet, Janet Sumner, Anna Baggio and Peter Wood (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS)). Ronnie Drever (The Nature Conservancy – Canada), Darren Sleep (National Council on Air and Stream Improvement), Chris Miller (CPAWS) and Kate Lindsay (Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC)) from the Science Committee also attended. The theme of the conference was “connections” and indeed, many connections were highlighted at the conference. These included both the technical and human connections required to advance caribou conservation.
The conference was kicked off by Paul Kennedy, host of CBC Radio’s Ideas program, moderating a lively plenary session on lessons learned, issues resolved and outstanding and projection of the future of caribou. Panel members included Stan Boutin, Anne Gunn, Martin-Hugues St-Laurent and Isabelle Schmelzer, with Stan providing the provocative perspective that a ‘triage’ approach should be taken to identify which herds should be the focus of recovery efforts.
Technical connections highlighted at the conference included a great deal of work done across the country on the connection between caribou and disturbance and the connections between caribou and climate. Descriptions of caribou habitat restoration in North East BC and Alberta shed light on tools and frameworks to prioritize efforts to maximize benefits given available resources. Environment and Climate Change Canada presented an overview of exciting new work that builds on the work done for the 2011 Scientific Assessment to Inform Identification of Critical Habitat for Woodland Caribou, Boreal Population In Canada to further investigate the relationship between disturbance and likelihood of caribou population persistence.
The human connections presented included the connections between Indigenous peoples, the land and caribou and the connections between industry, governments, Indigenous peoples and environmental groups required to advance caribou conservation. Gord Vaadeland (CPAWS) of the Saskatchewan Regional Working Group presented the collaborative approach between industry and ENGOS that the CBFA Saskatchewan Regional Working Group has taken to advance caribou conservation in close collaboration with Indigenous governments and the province. Margaret Donnelly (Alberta-Pacific) and Amit Saxena (Devon Energy Corporation) highlighted collaborative work including work of the CBFA Alberta Regional Working Group and their engagement with the energy sector and the wider forestry community to advance caribou conservation in North East Alberta. The CBFA Science Committee took the opportunity to strengthen their connection at the conference, meeting face to face to welcome new members Kate Lindsay (FPAC) and Chris Miller (CPAWS).
I look forward to the next conference, to be held in 2018, to strengthen the many important connections required to advance caribou conservation in a manner that advances reconciliation and ensures continued opportunities for Canada natural resource sector and the communities that rely on it.
Kris McCleary is the national co-ordinator for the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement’s Science Committee.