By: Staff The Canadian Press Published on Sat Oct 01 2016
EDMONTON – The Alberta government says it’s moving ahead with the oil and
gas industry to restore habitat for dwindling caribou herds.
The province announced Saturday that work is beginning that will eventually
see trees planted along thousands of kilometres of land that were cleared
for seismic lines in the Little Smoky and A La Peche caribou rangelands.
The work starts with compiling a restoration guide, as well as setting up a
pilot project along 70 kilometres of seismic lines in the spring.
A $200,000 contract will be issued to source and grow the trees for the
pilot project, and $800,000 will be earmarked for an operational plan to
restore 3,900 kilometres of lines.
The federal government has given provinces until 2017 to come up with range
plans and recovery strategies for caribou herds, which are in danger across
The Alberta government released a draft plan for caribou protection in its
northern and central regions in June, where one particularly threatened herd
has declined to only a few dozen.
“We are pleased with the leadership role taken by the oil and gas industry
in working to ensure we have a made-in-Alberta plan that provides an
economic certainty for industry and workers who make their living in the
north and do what’s right to protect this iconic animal,” Alberta’s
environment minister, Shannon Phillips, said in a media release.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier noted the tree-planting
efforts will provide jobs and strengthen local economies.
The clean energy think tank the Pembina Institute says on its website that
oil companies that create the seismic lines to get information about
underground rock formations must remove trees and other obstacles in order
to make room for their vehicles and equipment.
The seismic lines and roads into forests and wetlands provide wolves with
easy access to caribou, which results in more predators than the herds can
In Alberta, decades of development have left herds clinging to a few scraps
of old-growth forest. Numbers have declined by about 60 per cent and some
ranges are more than 80 per cent disturbed.
Portions of the Alberta draft plan released in June called for energy
development to be “rescheduled” and logging old-growth forest on caribou
range to be blocked. It said wolves would continue to be shot to try to
manage the population, although bears also eat caribou calves.
The draft also suggested fencing off a 100-square-kilometre habitat for
female caribou during the calving season to protect them from predators.
The fence proposal drew fire from some environmental groups who argued the
major issue that needed to be addressed was the loss of natural habitat to
There were also suggestions that caribou coming out of a predator-free
enclosure would not know how to handle themselves in the wild.