Resource Extraction and Biodiversity

Wolves are a major predator of threatened caribou herds. Research shows, however, that industrial activity is the greatest threat to caribou survival, in part because it opens up new avenues for predators like wolves to hunt. Creative Commons Licensed Images. Photo credits: Wolves by Caninest; Caribou by Bauer, Erwin and Peggy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Oil Sands by National Wildlife Federation.

The Question
Canada’s iconic caribou species are under threat. What is the government doing to address evidence that shows that resource extraction from industries like the oil sands is the leading threat to caribou survival?
The Background
Caribou are now listed among Canada’s top species at risk. Many caribou herds have been decimated, and some are on the brink of extinction. Research shows that the major threat to caribou is loss of habitat to industrial development such as logging, oil and gas extraction, hydroelectric dams, oil sands operations, and mining. These operations not only destroy caribou habitat, they open up new avenues for caribou predators, like wolves, to access wider terrains. In effect, industrial development has created the conditions that make it easier for wolves to hunt caribou. The former federal and current provincial governments have initiated massive wolf culls in BC and Alberta in attempt to save the threatened caribou. To date, hundreds of wolves have been shot from helicopters and poisoned with strychnine, and more extensive culls are planned. Are there better ways to protect caribou?  See below for more information.
Your Letter to Federal Scientists and Ministers
Dear Scientists,

Your research on biodiversity in Canada’s boreal forest is shedding crucial light on the serious threats posed by expanding industrial development, including logging, oil and gas extraction, and mining on caribou and other species (Venier, et al., 2014). This research makes it clear that industrial development is the root cause of caribou decline.

According to your findings, what are the distinct impacts of different industries on caribou survival? What are the greatest threats to caribou populations? Would caribou rehabilitation be fostered by better regulation of particular industries? How would you integrate the results of your research into a caribou rehabilitation plan?

I am writing this email as part of Write2Know (http://write2know.ca) a letter-writing campaign that aims to mobilize public awareness and inquiry into federal research programs. We want to let you know that we value federal science and scientists, and that our questions arise out of genuine concerns about the health and well-being of Canadians.

We remain concerned about the legacy of constraints on access to federal scientists and the results of their research, the elimination of essential research programs, and the closure of libraries and archives. These constraints and closures have impacted what Canadians can and cannot know about the health of their bodies, communities, and environments. We are hopeful that a new government will address our concerns.

We are posing questions to federal scientists about their research and findings, and forwarding our letters to federal Ministers and Members of Parliament.

I look forward to your response.
Sincerely,

[Your name]

cc
Dr. Lisa Venier, Research Scientist, Natural Resources Canada
Dr. Ian Thompson, Research Scientist, Natural Resources Canada
Dr. James Brandt, Research Scientist, Natural Resources Canada
Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Hon. Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources
Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Hon. Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

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32Alfredo ConvesoCanora, SaskatchewanMar 15, 2015
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29Pamela SmithToronto, ONMar 15, 2015
28Christianne StephensHamilton, OntarioMar 14, 2015
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26Michael HooperDonkin, Nova ScotiaMar 14, 2015
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13Charles MaurerToronto, ONMar 12, 2015
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10Meghan Rose AllenSackville, New BrunswickMar 12, 2015
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7Michael BrewerToronto, ONMar 11, 2015
6Ayelen LiberonaTorontoMar 11, 2015
5Lauren SmithWhitby, OntarioMar 11, 2015
4Devon MollesonWhitby, OntarioMar 11, 2015
3Natasha MyersToronto, OntarioMar 11, 2015
2Samantha ReidOshawa, OntarioMar 11, 2015
1Gina MollesonSt. John's, Newfoundland and LabradorMar 11, 2015

More Information


A War on the Wolf: A CBC Documentary on the Wolf Cull in B.C.

Billion Dollar Caribou: CBC, Nature of Things

Chris Brown, “B.C. wolf cull will likely last 5 years, assistant deputy minister says, Critics say culls are ineffective and cruel” CBC News, February 11, 2015.

Carol Linnet, “Why is Canada Killing Wolves and Muzzling Scientists to Protect Tar Sands Interests?” DeSmogBlog, Feb. 14, 2012

Venier, et al (2014). “Effects of natural resource development on the terrestrial biodiversity of Canadian boreal forests.” Environmental Reviews 22:1-457-490

Environment Canada, “Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population, in Canada,” 2012.

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