WINNIPEG - Two environmental groups say logging could destroy a newly-discovered caribou habitat up north and they want the province to stop it.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/9/2009 (4410 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WINNIPEG - Two environmental groups say logging could destroy a newly-discovered caribou habitat up north and they want the province to stop it.

The Wilderness Committee recently got a copy of a new provincial map detailing where caribou herds roam. Overlaid on the map is the location of past and future logging areas. Surveillance data show new caribou activity between Thompson and The Pas, northeast of Grass River Provincial Park, an area where Tolko has permission to log, thanks to a 2006 amendment to the company’s logging rights.

It's not clear whether Manitoba’s caribou population is growing or shrinking.

CANWEST NEWS SERVICE

It's not clear whether Manitoba’s caribou population is growing or shrinking.

"If the province is authorizing logging in a caribou habitat, it’s illegal, in our interpretation, under the federal and provincial acts," said Eric Reder of the Wilderness Committee.

Caribou are listed as an at-risk species under federal and provincial legislation, which mandates that their habitats be protected.

The Wilderness Committee and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society want a halt to all industrial logging in caribou habitats, which would cover huge swaths of northern Manitoba. And, to protect the new caribou area, they want the province to bar any logging in the area until more data can be collected on the herd to ensure it is protected.

But Vince Crichton, Manitoba Conservation’s manager of game, fur and problem wildlife, says before that would be considered, the province needs to do more studies. It’s been only a year since the herd was discovered and it could have made a one-time-only stop in the area.

Provincial staff are heading out again this winter to collect more data in the region, including counting the number of bulls and calves.

Crichton said any proposed logging is subject to an environmental review, and the province works with logging companies to ensure habitats are protected.

Tolko says it has not started logging in the area and won’t do so for several years. No roads have been built through the area yet, though a controversial road through the nearby Grass River provincial park might eventually be extended.

The company and the province work together to determine where critical caribou habitats lie and ensure any logging leaves a big enough corridor for the caribou to roam, said Tolko’s Doug Hunt.

It’s also not clear whether Manitoba’s caribou population is growing or shrinking.

Ron Thiessen of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said half of Canada’s caribou range has disappeared due to logging, mining and oil and gas exploration in the last 50 years.

"They are in trouble across the length and breadth of the Canadian range and Manitoba is no exception," he said.

But the province says the herds have been stable over the last four years at between 1,800 and 3,200 animals.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca