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Extensive New Gas Wells in Endangered Little Smoky Caribou Habitat Show Weakness of Alberta Caribou Plan

August 2, 2017

New wells and roads by Jupiter Resources are being permitted by the Alberta government to destroy significant new areas of Little Smoky endangered caribou habitat. Recent photographs by a local trapper document the continued destruction of caribou habitat in the foothills of west central Alberta.  Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) calls for a halt to new energy surface footprint in Alberta’s caribou ranges until strict access plans to reduce net disturbance are in place.

“Seeing so many new wells and roads where caribou used to be is horrible, it’s heartbreaking,” says Ken Cowles, whose trapline is in the heart of what until recently was relatively intact remaining habitat for the Little Smoky caribou population.

“The shortsighted sacrifice of the little remaining intact habitat in the Little Smoky is exactly what AWA foresaw when Alberta released its draft Little Smoky range plan in June 2016, which set no limits on energy footprint,” says Carolyn Campbell, AWA conservation specialist. “After so many years of evidence and pledges to do better, it’s a disgrace that strict total disturbance limits aren’t yet in sight, and cumulative impacts continue to worsen in endangered caribou habitat.”

Energy industry surface disturbance, such as roads, wells, seismic lines and pipeline corridors, enables predators to travel easily into formerly remote areas of caribou range. While some seismic line restoration is underway, it takes decades to restore old forest and peatlands, which highlights the urgency of maintaining current intact forest and wetland areas in caribou ranges. There is continued strong demand and high margins for producing the liquids-rich gas in west central Alberta; the liquids are processed into diluent, to transport oil sands bitumen by pipeline or rail. For years, AWA has called for strict total footprint limits and mandatory use of fewer access corridors, to encourage longer directional drilling, lease pooling and infrastructure sharing, so that energy footprint can be reduced rather than continue to expand.

Companies and provincial governments have known since 2012 of requirements under the federal Species at Risk Act to recover caribou ranges to a minimum of 65% undisturbed habitat.  Jupiter Resources Inc., a start-up owned by New York-based Apollo Global Management, purchased its energy leases from other companies in mid-2014.

For more information:

Carolyn Campbell, Alberta Wilderness Association, (403) 283-2025

Ken Cowles, (780) 974-7170

Pdf version with photographs of new disturbance, and map of Little Smoky caribou range

It is my belief that Non-profit organizations like the Alberta Wilderness Association provide a clear framework that creates opportunities for Albertans to actively participate in the protection of their provinces resources.
- Chelsea Caswell, Student, University of Lethbridge
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