Measuring The True Cost of Recovering Woodland Caribou in Saskatchewan

  • Published on Feb 21 2012 |
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Measuring The True Cost of Recovering Woodland Caribou in Saskatchewan

So, what is the value of a threatened or endangered species these days?

Well, according to the Government of Canada, the appropriate and justifiable cost to take on a pair of giant pandas from China on loan for 10 years is $10,000,000.

If this is the value of a couple pandas, I wonder what the value of the estimated 4380 remaining Woodland caribou in northern Saskatchewan might be. According to recent information circulated to the constituents of the Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River Constituency, where 95% of Saskatchewan’s current Woodland caribou habitat exists, the proposed Federal Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy will cost northern Saskatchewan about $550 million. That’s about $125,500 per caribou....when compared with the price of those pandas, that’s a pretty good deal, isn’t it?

Of course, this wasn’t the intent of these recent communications. Rather, they were meant to alarm constituents into submitting comments asking for significant changes to be made to the proposed recovery strategy - changes that could potentially drive Woodland caribou closer to extinction than they already are.

It is important for the constituents of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River and all Canadians to have the opportunity to share their opinions on how they feel about Woodland caribou protection. In fact, on February 15th, CPAWS was very excited to present over 32,000 signatures to the Federal Environment Minister asking that the Government of Canada meet its legal obligations under the Species at Risk Act to protect the habitat of the Woodland caribou.

I would encourage all citizens of Saskatchewan to share your thoughts during the public comment period for the recovery strategy, which ends February 22nd. I would also encourage you to make sure that before you do, you have the correct information. For instance, one piece of information that was circulated suggested that less than 5% of northern Saskatchewan’s Woodland caribou habitat had been disturbed by human activity. While this is true for the far north of the province, this statement was somewhat misleading, as the more southern part of the Constituency has actually been disturbed to a level of 19% to 33%. It is also well documented that caribou are very stressed in these areas.

Another communication asked readers if they supported the recovery strategy or thought it should be “reworked to save jobs”. This is very misleading, as the Federal Strategy under the Species At Risk Act (SARA) is prohibited from considering such things; its mandate is to focus exclusively on what is required to ensure the survival of the species. The Action Planning Stage, which is led by the Provinces after the Federal Strategy has been adopted, is when socio-economic factors (like jobs) and other important considerations are incorporated into the implementation of the recovery strategy.

A short summary of how the proposed Federal Strategy affects northern Saskatchewan and the facts around the status of Woodland caribou in Saskatchewan can be found here. You can read the full strategy and submit your comments here . And please let your Member of Parliament and the Government of Canada know how you feel about protecting Woodland caribou and all species at risk.

Written by Gord Vaadeland, CPAWS-SK Executive Director and Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River Constituent