AWA News Release: Brisk Alberta Energy Lease Sales in Endangered Caribou Habitat Continue During Election: Who Will Sustainably Manage Alberta’s Forests and Wildlife?
April 28, 2015
On April 29, in the midst of an election, the Alberta government plans another major auction of new oil and gas leases on 35,600 hectares (356 km2) of endangered mountain and boreal woodland caribou habitat, without rules to reduce surface disturbance below current excessive levels. Since September 2014 the Prentice government has auctioned over 1600 km2 of Alberta caribou ranges for oil and gas leases. Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) asks all Alberta’s political party leaders to commit to defer energy lease sales in endangered caribou ranges until effective rules to protect the herds are in place.
“Energy lease sales must stop until today’s ineffective caribou guidelines are replaced with credible disturbance reduction rules,” says Carolyn Campbell, AWA conservation specialist. “Rather than showing environmental leadership, Alberta continues to violate its own caribou policy and the federal Species at Risk Act mandate to protect and restore caribou habitat. Caribou will soon disappear without strong habitat protection. Energy resources can be extracted with a greatly reduced footprint compatible with caribou.”
Scientists have stated that recovery of these caribou is technically and biologically possible. Excessive human disturbance within caribou range stimulates populations of deer, moose and the wolves that prey on them. Seismic lines, pipelines and roads that fragment older forests and wetlands provide predators with easy access to caribou, resulting in higher predation than caribou can tolerate.
On March 6, 2015, the Alberta government postponed a major auction of new oil and gas leases on 200 km2 of Redrock Prairie Creek mountain woodland caribou range, which AWA praised. But on April 29, more leasing (131 hectares) is planned in that same range. Auctions in large areas of several northeast Alberta caribou ranges are also planned on April 29.
Under today’s guidelines, new lease sales promote more new seismic lines, well sites and roads and make survival chances even worse for these caribou. Alberta’s focus on aerial gunning and poisoning of wolves to try to stabilize the Little Smoky caribou population, while allowing ongoing habitat loss from industrial activities, has recently attracted widespread criticism.
Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, Alberta must develop range plans outlining how habitat will be maintained and restored to at least a 65% undisturbed level. Completion of the first two range plans, for the Little Smoky and A La Peche ranges in west central Alberta, has been delayed several times.
For more information: Carolyn Campbell, Alberta Wilderness Association, (403) 283-2025