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.
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:
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