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First Nations launch legal challenge to force government to protect woodland caribou

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First Nations launch legal challenge to force government to protect woodland caribou; judicial review demands halt to new tar sands developments

Sept. 8, 2010, Edmonton, Alberta – Some First Nations in north-eastern Alberta have initiated court proceedings to force the federal government to uphold its legal duty to protect the habitat of the woodland caribou, which are now a threatened species. This legal fight to protect Alberta’s remaining caribou populations from regional extinction is the latest response to the expanding tar sands developments.

The judicial review application filed today in the Edmonton Federal Court offices by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Beaver Lake Cree Nation and Enoch Cree Nation is asking the court to force Canada’s environment minister to prepare a recovery strategy for woodland caribou and to recommend that Cabinet make an emergency order to protect woodland caribou in north-eastern Alberta under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Jack Woodward, legal counsel for the applicants, said: “The idea is to protect remaining caribou habitat and introduce a moratorium, to be in effect immediately, on all new developments within those areas when the caribou herds are known to be threatened. Under SARA, the government was required to put a recovery plan in place to protect the animals by 2007 and has failed in its obligation to do that.”

The judicial review is using data from a study completed by Dr. Stan Boutin of the University of Alberta. Dr. Boutin’s report looked specifically at the two caribou herds within the Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s traditional territories and found the herd populations have plummeted by more than 70 per cent in just 12 years. Dr. Boutin concluded that the herds face extirpation by 2025 without immediate habitat protection.

Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake Cree Nation said: “It is difficult for me to express the anger I feel at the loss of this noble animal in our territory. Our traditional land is dwindling. We need habitat for our animals like the caribou to ensure there is a healthy surplus. These animals sustain us and as they die our future becomes uncertain. We must act now to take care of Mother Earth.”

Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan said: “We launched this legal action because we are demanding the government call an immediate halt to the destruction of our lands, the land that sustains the caribou. We want a moratorium on all new development within the ranges of the remaining woodland caribou in north east Alberta.”

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Contact:
Ron Lameman, Beaver Lake Cree Nation
780.520.1876

Chief Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
(780) 697-3730

Sean Nixon or Jack Woodward
Woodward and Company
250.383.2356

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