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Federal environment minister gives Quebec May 1 deadline for caribou protection plan

Click to play video: 'Splatsin concerned after study finds accelerating woodland caribou habitat loss'
Splatsin concerned after study finds accelerating woodland caribou habitat loss
Related: The Splatsin First Nation, in B.C.'s Interior, is raising concerns about the plight of the woodland caribou, after government funded research found the animal was losing habitat in B.C. and Alberta at an accelerating rate. As Megan Turcato reports, the habitat loss was occurring despite efforts to protect the herds. – Jun 2, 2021

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has once again threatened to invoke federal powers to protect Quebec’s endangered woodland caribou.

Guilbeault said in a letter to his provincial counterpart dated Friday that Quebec has until May 1 to release its long-delayed caribou protection strategy and that if he concludes the animals are at risk of extinction, he is required to seek a federal decree to protect them.

The Quebec government had originally said it would release the strategy in June, before postponing the deadline to the end of the year. The province has still not released its plan.

“I am extremely concerned by the additional delays, taking into account the extremely precarious situation of this species and the need to quickly put in place concrete and ambitious conservation measures,” Guilbeault wrote.

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Quebec’s woodland caribou population has declined as a result of habitat destruction, industrial activity and increased predation, with a provincial commission estimating in 2022 that there were about 5,200 of the animals left in the province.

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The Species at Risk Act requires the environment minister to recommend that an emergency protection order be issued if he or she believes an animal listed under the law is faced with an imminent threat to its survival or recovery.

This is the third time in nearly two years that Guilbeault has written to Quebec Environment Minister Benoit Charette suggesting he may seek a caribou protection decree.

After the first letter, sent in April 2022, Quebec and Ottawa reached an agreement in principle about protecting the caribou, which called for Quebec to release its strategy by June 2023.

However, Charette pushed that deadline back to the end of 2023, citing the need to study how Quebec’s record forest fires had impacted the caribou, before delaying the release again.

In an interview earlier this month, Charette declined to say when his government would release its strategy.

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