Save the caribou, save the boreal forest: ecologists

Save the caribou, save the boreal forest: ecologists
A clear-cut area is seen in Canada's Broadback Valley, one of the last remaining virgin boreal forest of Quebec, on March 12, 2014. The Indian Cree community of Waswanipi, Canada, 600km north of Montreal is fighting to protect 13,000 square kilometers of forest north of their village in the Broadback Valley from the logging industry that keeps pushing its way further north.

Canada - Endangered woodland caribou face increasing encroachment on their Canadian habitat, and foot-dragging by the federal government to try to halt this advance could now doom the species.

The cervidae, with its large snout and narrow antlers, called reindeer in Eurasia, has seen colonists, and later forestry, mining and oil and gas exploration companies carve out larger and larger swaths of its vast habitat for human activities.

As a result, its numbers in Canada have fallen steadily over the past 150 years. In Quebec province, only pockets of caribou remain, largely in the north.

This population nosedive led the federal government in June 2003 to list the boreal woodland caribou as threatened, which requires the environment minister to prepare a recovery strategy.

But that did not happen.

Frustrated by multi-year delays in sorting out how to save the caribou and other species at risk, lawyers acting on behalf of five environmental groups - the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace Canada, Sierra Club BC, Wilderness Committee and Wildsight - sued the government.

Canada's diversified economy is still heavily supported by the exploitation of its abundant natural resources, and the plaintiffs accused Ottawa of delay tactics that benefited these industries.

The federal court agreed.

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