Northern Canadians want caribou calving grounds protected, WWF says

Caribou migrate in the Porcupine River tundra in the Yukon, northwestern Canada. (Rick Bowmer/The Associated Press)
Populations of barren-ground caribou in Canada’s Arctic are plummeting to the point they may never recover, says Brandon Laforest of World Wildlife Fund Canada.

And a poll conducted by Environics Research suggests that 87 per cent of residents of Northern Canada want their calving grounds to be declared fully protected areas that do not allow industrial development such as oil and gas or mining projects.

“The main reasons we heard were that we need to do something to protect our declining caribou,” he says. “Also, very importantly, it’s also a very important food security issue and cultural preservation issue for Inuit (Indigenous northerners), especially in the territory of Nunavut.”

Click to listen to the interview with Brandon Laforest:

Many say governments not doing enough

More than half of respondents said their territorial government is not doing enough to protect caribou. Only one-third of respondents said they are. The negative opinion was lowest in the territory of Yukon where calving grounds of the Porcupine herd are already protected.

Of the respondents, 86 per cent said the most effective way to protect the caribou was to protect their habitat.

A caribou in Nunavut, Arctic Canada, on March 25, 2009. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Laforest is urging governments to protect calving grounds of the caribou and notes that in Nunavut for example, that represents only six per cent of the territory. If all calving grounds there were protected he says it would only overlap 10 per cent of high mineral potential, so he does not believe that would be too drastic a limit to mineral exploration and development.

He is also calling on governments to provide for more research and monitoring to try to find out why the caribou herds are declining so precipitously.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Indigenous groups in Northern Canada celebrate Porcupine caribou agreement, CBC News

Finland: The Arctic railway: Building a future… or destroying a culture?, Eye on the Arctic special report

Russia: Authorities in northwest Russia move to protect wild reindeer, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Indigenous reindeer herders request emergency aid after drought, wildfires ravage Sweden, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Bill to protect ANWR passes early hurdle in Washington, CBC News

Lynn Desjardins, Radio Canada International

Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Lynn has dedicated her working life to journalism. After decades in the field, she still believes journalism to be a pillar of democracy and she remains committed to telling stories she believes are important or interesting. Lynn loves Canada and embraces all seasons: skiing, skating, and sledding in winter, hiking, swimming and playing tennis in summer and running all the time. She is a voracious consumer of Canadian literature, public radio programs and classical music. Family and friends are most important. Good and unusual foods are fun. She travels when possible and enjoys the wilderness.

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