Groups ask Federal Court to force Environment Minister’s hand on caribouSix months have passed since minister told to reconsider emergency protection of caribou in oilsands region

Jan. 25, 2012

EDMONTON, ALTA — Environment Minister Peter Kent’s failure to reconsider emergency protection for woodland caribou in northeastern Alberta has prompted environmental groups to ask for the Federal Court’s help.

Six months ago, the Court ruled that Minister Kent’s “out of the blue” decision not to recommend emergency protection for woodland caribou ignored scientific evidence and must be set aside. The Minister was instructed to reconsider the government’s position, but has yet to show any signs of activity on the file.

Ecojustice, on behalf of the Pembina Institute and Alberta Wilderness Association, has asked the Court to amend its ruling to include a deadline to force a response from the Minister.

Protections for caribou in northeastern Alberta need to be implemented soon. Some herds have declined by more than 70 per cent during the past 15 years.

“We’ve been waiting six months to see the Minster’s decision, but he has not followed the Court’s order,” said Melissa Gorrie, Ecojustice staff lawyer.

“The caribou herds in northeastern Alberta are in serious decline, and if their numbers are going to recover, the habitat they need to survive needs immediate protection from further oilsands development,” said Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute.

Abundant scientific evidence indicates that oilsands operations contribute to caribou population declines, yet as of July 2010, there were 34 current or approved oilsands projects and 12 additional proposed projects within the herds’ ranges.

A 2010 Alberta government study found that if the current industrial development trend continued, caribou in northeastern Alberta are likely to become extinct in less than 40 years.

“Minster Kent has a second opportunity to give this iconic Canadian animal a chance for survival,” Gorrie said. “Given the evidence, and the court’s decision, the only reasonable conclusion Minister Kent can come to is that he must immediately recommend emergency protection for the caribou.”



Melissa Gorrie
Staff lawyer, Ecojustice
Phone: 780.428.0033

Simon Dyer
Policy director, Pembina Institute
Cell: 403.322.3937

Carolyn Campbell
Conservation specialist, Alberta Wilderness Association
Phone: 403.283.2025
Cell: 403.921.9519


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