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Alberta ‘moving forward on restoration efforts’ to address dwindling caribou population

A Woodland caribou bull is shown in an undated handout photo. If Canada is serious about reconciliation with First Nations, a new study suggests that giving them a greater voice in caribou conservation might be a good place to start.
A Woodland caribou bull is shown in an undated handout photo. If Canada is serious about reconciliation with First Nations, a new study suggests that giving them a greater voice in caribou conservation might be a good place to start. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, CPAWS - Mike Bedell

The Alberta government released more details Saturday about its plan to partner with the oil and gas industry to try and reverse the decline of the province’s caribou population.

The Notley government said it plans to work with industry partners over the next five years as it tries to restore 10,000 “linear kilometres of land” that was previously cleared for seismic lines within the Little Smoky and A La Peche caribou ranges.

The province has provided Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA) with a $500,000 grant. FRIAA has awarded Woodlands North of Whitecourt with a contract “to build a restoration guide for conducting and evaluating restoration treatments” and to come up with a restoration pilot of 70 kilometres of legacy seismic lines this spring.

An additional pair of contracts- worth a total of $1 million – will be handed out by the province in order to seed and grow trees for the pilot and to develop a plan for restoring 3,900 kilometres of legacy seismic lines in the Little Smoky and A La Peche caribou ranges. Tree planting is expected to begin next spring.

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While the government said it is paying for these grants in the short term, the energy sector will pay back the costs of restoration.

“We are moving forward on restoration efforts that encourage the recovery of Alberta’s caribou population, while also providing jobs and strengthening the local economy,” Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier said in a statement Saturday.

Under the federal Species At Risk Act, the Alberta government needs come up with range plans and recovery strategies for caribou herds by next October. The animals are considered to be in danger across the country.

In Alberta, decades of development have left herds holding on to just a few areas of old-growth forest. Numbers have declined by about 60 per cent and some ranges are more than 80 per cent disturbed.

In June, the province released a draft that included a recovery strategy and a range plan for one particularly-threatened herd which has declined to a few dozen.

READ MORE:¬†Alberta’s caribou recovery plan draws criticism from environmentalists

“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 economic certainty for industries and workers who make their living in the north and do what’s right to protect this iconic animal,” Shannon Phillips, environment and parks minister, said in a statement Saturday.

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-With files from The Canadian Press.

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