The Wildrose Party is skeptical of just how much public input there will be in the NDP’s Caribou recovery plans and is asking for more transparency in the process.
The provincial government says it’s been mandated by the federal government to have a plan to manage critical habitat by this October, but the official opposition party has a different interpretation. They believe Ottawa is not requiring a completed plan by then, only that there be significant progress demonstrated.
The province is looking at plans for ranges in the northeast and northwest of the province, as well as Narraway and Redrock-Prairie Creek, and Nipisi and Slave Lake. While there are caribou populations in Jasper, they are largely on federal land.
Draft plans for the Little Smoky and A La Peche ranges were released a year ago and are already in the second phase of public engagement. They have been heavily criticized by environmental groups and wildlife experts.
An online survey has been launched on the Alberta Environment and Parks website and it will be up for 45 days. It asks residents whether they think it’s more important to think about protecting caribou populations and critical habitat first and the considering the economic effects, or if they are equally important.
“It’s an open question as to whether or not the minister will have discussions in good faith with all affected stakeholders,” says Wildrose Shadow Environment & Parks Minister Todd Loewen. “Federal and local governments and industry have been willing to work with the provincial government to develop a made in Alberta plan that conserves caribou while sustaining our rural communities.”
The Banff National Park caribou herd is gone and 70 per cent of the troubled A la Peche herd’s range is in a provincial or national park. Roughly 60 per cent of the Caribou mountain range is located within parks and over 75 per cent of the range is considered undisturbed but the herd is still considered unsustainable.
“Two contractors have already been laid off because of the timber harvest moratorium in the A la Peche and Little Smoky ranges,” Loewen said. “The moratorium has shown no evidence of helping caribou in the region. The minister needs to be transparent with Albertans regarding their plans and work with local governments and industry to develop an appropriate response.”