Caribou habitat restoration may be ineffective in the short term, says UBC study

first_imgVANCOUVER — A new study done in northeastern Alberta suggests habitat restoration may not be enough to save threatened woodland caribou, at least in the short term, and researchers at the University of British Columbia say their results make the case for a more rigorous analysis of conservation methods.Much of the caribou habitat in Western Canada has already been degraded by industrial activities, such as oil and gas exploration, so one of the key tools being used to protect caribou is habitat restoration, said Cole Burton, the senior author of the study and a forestry professor who leads the wildlife coexistence lab at the university. But wildlife responses to habitat restoration are often assumed rather than verified, the study says.- Advertisement -“We can’t just accept on faith that things are working,” Burton said in an interview on Wednesday.The researchers set out to monitor caribou and their predators, such as black bears and wolves, as well as other prey like moose and white-tailed deer in both restored and unrestored habitat areas between 2015 and 2018.In northeastern Alberta, they placed hidden cameras along seismic lines — narrow strips of land cleared for oil and gas exploration. They fragment caribou habitat and facilitate the movement of predators, disrupting a natural separation and increasing the predation of caribou, Burton said.Advertisement In October, the province announced it was allocating $6.5 million over three years for caribou habitat restoration projects, including planting trees, spreading woody debris and installing fences to disrupt the thoroughfares that advantage predators.But trees grow back slowly in the northern Boreal forest, which means caribou habitat restoration is a long-term process, Burton said.A spokesperson for the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said it is reviewing the study to determine if and how its findings could be applied to the province’s caribou recovery strategy. The ministry also said the recovery program is closely monitored to determine whether it’s meeting caribou recovery goals.More immediate measures, such as maternity penning where pregnant caribou are protected by a fence as well as predator culling, are also part of the B.C. government’s strategy to protect threatened caribou.Burton said it’s likely the province will have to pursue a predator cull, which is contentious, for a long time until caribou habitat recovers more fully.Advertisement The study, which was published last week in the journal Biological Conservation, showed that most predators and prey used the restored seismic lines about as much as they used the unrestored lines.Caribou preferred to use more isolated lines and those around low-lying wetland areas, regardless of whether the lines had been restored. Only white-tailed deer were observed using the restored lines less than the unrestored ones, the study found.The researchers monitored lines that had been restored three to six years before the study as part of an effort by members of the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, or COSIA, to reclaim 570 square kilometres of caribou habitat along the Athabasca River about 70 kilometres southwest of Fort McMurray, Alta.In addition to tree planting, restoration can also include the development of mounds of earth and piles of fallen logs and debris to try to break up the movement and sight lines of predators.Advertisement “If we’re going to keep caribou around, we really do need to think about what vision are we going to keep them in,” said Burton.“Are we going to put them in a little fenced area until we finish developing and restoring the landscape and just hope that they survive? Or are we going to have a vision where we have more substantial protection of their habitat?”Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press Deterring predators with so-called movement blockers requires substantial effort and modification of the landscape, said Burton, who noted it’s possible that intensifying these efforts could help break up seismic lines more effectively.The lines Burton and his team studied in Alberta were developed around the 1980s.“Since that time, industry has tried to change their methods to what they would call low-impact seismic lines, so much narrower (and) maybe not as straight, so they break up the line of sight of the predators, like wolves,” said Burton. COSIA could not immediately be reached for comment.The same issues are happening in northeastern B.C., where woodland caribou also roam alongside seismic lines established for oil and gas exploration, Burton said.Advertisementlast_img read more

Two Conservative riding associations return event proceeds to donors

first_imgOTTAWA — A pair of Conservative campaigns that were forced to refund the proceeds from two separate fundraising events earlier this year say Canada’s new political financing law should not be applied retroactively.Two Ontario riding associations returned proceeds from the January events — one attended by Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt in Mississauga—Streetsville, the other featuring foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole in his Durham riding.Because of loose ends arising from their bids for the Conservative leadership in 2017, Raitt and O’Toole were still considered leadership candidates at the time of the fundraisers, under Elections Canada’s interpretation of Bill C-50, which took effect in December.That law, introduced last summer by Electoral Reform Minister Karina Gould, requires events that feature a prominent attendee — a leadership contestant, a party leader, an interim leader, or a cabinet minister — to be reported to Elections Canada, which the riding associations did not do.O’Toole, who was forced to return about $30,000 from what was his largest riding association event of the year, said he disagrees with Elections Canada’s interpretation, which he didn’t learn about until several weeks after his fundraiser.The forgone proceeds, combined with how long it took to find out Elections Canada was applying the law retroactively, was “quite frustrating” and “not great form,” O’Toole said in an email.There’s nothing in the bill to suggest it would apply to candidates from races that were completed before the bill came into force last year, he added.“From a legal perspective, all legislation is prospective — going forward in time only — unless there is express government intention to apply the new rules to past events,” O’Toole said.“There was no such intention when Minister Gould introduced the bill.”But O’Toole said he ultimately decided he did not want to engage in a dispute with Elections Canada and was as transparent as possible throughout the process. He said he proactively told Elections Canada about his event when he learned how they were applying the law.David Bishop, president of the Mississauga-Streetsville electoral district association, echoed O’Toole’s frustration.“No EDA would want to put themselves in a position that costs them time and money ahead of an election,” Bishop said, “but we have strived to be completely transparent and to work with Elections Canada as soon as we learned of their view.”Bishop did not disclose how much the event raised.A spokesperson for Elections Canada said the chief electoral officer, Stephane Perrault, “recognizes the challenge posed by the application of the C-50 rules once leadership contests are over.”Natasha Gauthier said Perrault was going to make a recommendation in a report after the election “to address this situation,” and it would be up to Parliament to change the rules around reporting.The event featuring O’Toole was held Jan. 17 at the Albany Club in Toronto, while the Mississauga-Streetsville event Raitt attended took place Jan. 21.The event attended by Raitt was attended by 18 people and required at least one person to pay $250 to attend, according to Elections Canada documents. O’Toole’s event was attended by 46 people, and required at least one person to pay $500 to attend. It’s not clear whether all attendees for the events paid the amount listed in the documents.Christian Paas-Lang, The Canadian Presslast_img read more