More talk than action on increasing caribou protection: federal report

An Environment Canada report says that despite much talk on preserving caribou habitat, little progress has been made to close gaps in the protection of the threatened species.

The agency says not much has changed since a coast-to-coast survey in April.

“Despite the progress being made, the gaps in protection, as described in the first progress report, remain,” says the report issued Friday.

“Additional efforts, including those noted in this report, are needed to reverse the loss of critical habitat and declines in boreal caribou populations.”

The department is required under the Species At Risk Act to assess provincial and territorial efforts to assist the recovery of caribou populations.

In April, Environment Canada found significant problems. In every province, agencies that issue permits for forestry or energy development aren’t required to conform to the federal Species At Risk Act.

That earlier report also noted that little conservation is taking place on the ground. Measures in almost every case are still being planned or drafted.

That situation continues. The new report lists dozens of ongoing negotiations, draft plans and provincial promises to restore caribou populations to sustainable levels, but there are few fully implemented protected areas.

‘A lot of time to talk’

Planning is good, said Florence Daviet of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. Action would be better.

“They were supposed to be doing this planning and talking since 2012,” she said. “They’ve had a lot of time to talk.”

Barry Robinson, a lawyer with the group Ecojustice, pointed out that Friday’s report was itself almost two months overdue. So are many of the protection measures that should be in place by now, he said.

“We still don’t have any range plans in Alberta, which were to have been done by October 2017.”

In late March, Alberta delayed its caribou range plans over economic concerns from the forestry and energy industries. (CBC)

Many governments, including Alberta, have announced ambitious plans for new protected areas. But almost all remain in draft form or remain unimplemented, he said.

“The big gaps are still there.”

Herds in decline

Caroline Theriault, an Environment Canada spokeswoman, said the report shows many steps have been taken across the country to support caribou recovery.

“Since the last report was published in April, provinces and territories have made some progress on protection plans and on the ground recovery efforts,” she said in an emailed statement. “We recognize that more needs to be done, and we are already taking action.”

The latest assessment of woodland caribou suggest that 81 per cent of Canada’s herds are in decline. Loss of another one-third of the population is expected “in the near term.”

The main threat to their numbers is alteration of habitat, which reduces a herd’s productivity and allows access by predators.

Conflict with forestry, energy

Caribou conservation is often seen to be in direct conflict with forestry and energy and the jobs they generate. In late March, Alberta delayed its own caribou range plans over economic concerns.

Robinson said that sooner or later, legislation will oblige federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to step in and override provincial regulations with an emergency protection order.

“The minister has not done the one thing she is legally required to do, which is to recommend a protection order when the province hasn’t protected the required habitat.”



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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.

History

Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
Geography

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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