Caribou recovery plan to address ‘unprecedented’ threat level

(Photo retrieved from NWT Species at Risk)

About 3 million barren-ground caribou roamed the NWT 25 years ago. Since then, the number has dropped 500,000—with some herds seeing an even sharper decrease over that time.

Now the Conference of Management Authorities (CMA) is developing a recovery plan for the species and it wants to hear from residents.

In documents describing the plan, the caribou “face multiple threats from climate change, predation, industrial development, and forest fires.”

While caribou populations are known to fluctuate considerably, “the cumulative effects from these threats are considered unprecedented.”

Now if you were looking for any specific measures geared towards recovery, those aren’t actually in the plan. Rather, those are addressed in herd-specific management plans. Jody Pellissey is the executive director of the Wek’èezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) and chair of the CMA. She explained that the recovery plan is the view from “100,000 feet,” while the management plans are targeted based on herd and even region.

Two of the most well-known barren-ground herds in decline are the Bluenose-East and Bathurst. The WRRB has previously issued its decision on the Bluenose-East herd, which includes decreasing the total allowable harvest from 750 to 193 bulls.

The decision on the Bathurst herd had been delayed due to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, as well as the Tłı̨chǫ Government not submitting the results of last year’s calving ground survey.

The board says it has since received the information and Pellissey says it will be issuing its decision by September 30.

Prevention versus mitigation

The CMA is also looking for feedback on a draft recovery plan for bats in the territory.

White-nose syndrome is the main threat to bats. While the disease has yet to make its way to the NWT, biologists expect it to arrive within a decade. The disease has the potential to wipe out entire populations.

With that being the case, Pellissey said CMA members are focused on prevention more than mitigation once it gets here.

You can find both draft recovery plans here, as well as a survey to provide feedback on the plans. You can also send your comments in to the local renewable resources board in your region.

The final draft of the agreement will be taken back to the CMA in February of next year, which then has two months to submit it to the ENR Minister for approval and publication.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.