ELC Calls on Governments to Provide Latest Caribou Evidence to the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel
November 9, 2012
The ELC appeared before the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel (JRP) in Prince George this week to question Northern Gateway about potential impacts to woodland caribou along the pipeline route. Getting the most recent scientific data into the hearing record wasn’t easy, even when the data is current and has just been published by the provincial and federal governments. On behalf of clients BC Nature and Nature Canada, ELC’s former Executive Director Chris Tollefson did get the Panel to accept into evidence one of two new government reports about caribou. Tollefson succeeded in getting into evidence the newly released national Boreal Caribou Recovery Strategy, but only because the Panel extended the deadline for Environment Canada to file its report. However, an October 2012 BC government-sponsored report on the population status of woodland caribou in the area to be impacted by the pipeline proposal did not end up in evidence. “Unfortunately, the BC government is not participating in this phase of the hearings and so has not put this new data forward in evidence or attended the hearing to ask any questions about caribou,” says Tollefson. The BC report was prepared by caribou researchers Dr. Dale Seip and Elena Jones. Seip is a senior caribou biologist with the BC Ministry of Environment. Jones works for Resources North, an independent research thinktank funded by government and industry. Seip and Jones co-author an annual population census of central mountain caribou. On November 5, 2012, Tollefson cross examined Northern Gateway with respect to the Seip and Jones report and a map depicting the pipeline route against the backdrop of this new caribou habitat data. “We were successful in getting some answers from Northern Gateway about this important new data that shows the pipeline will travel directly through summer and winter habitat of a highly endangered caribou herd known as the Bearhole/Redwillow,” says Tollefson. “The herd is in rapid decline and potentially could be extirpated within the next five years.” On the heels of the cross examination, the BC government announced yesterday a plan to protect some of the very caribou habitat that the map depicts. “While the announcement is welcome news, it does nothing to protect critical lower level elevation habitat of the Bearhole/Redwillow herd,” says Tollefson. The reports:
- Environment Canada. (2012). Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population, in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series.
- Seip, D. R. & Jones, E. S. (2012). Population Status of Caribou Herds in the Central Mountain Designatable Unit within British Columbia, 2012. Recovery Initiatives for Caribou of British Columbia.
- BC Government Nov 9.12 news release
Media Coverage: Nov19.12 – Caribou, wolves or development? (Globe & Mail) Nov11.12 – Enbridge’s ‘errata’ on caribou could prove a costly error (Globe & Mail) Nov7.12 – Northern Gateway pipeline threatens caribou, group warns (Globe & Mail) Nov6.12 – Animals at issue before panel (Prince George Citizen) Nov4.12 – Law student lands ‘big one’ with pipeline hearings