EDMONTON — Three Alberta First Nations are taking the federal government to court to prevent the Alberta’s caribou from going “the way of the buffalo.”
Using the federal Species At Risk Act, the First Nations hope to force Ottawa to step into what’s normally provincial jurisdiction and limit industry access to caribou habitat.
“Without the forests, these animals have very little hope, in fact no hope, of surviving,” said Beaver Lake Cree Chief Al Lameman after lawyers filed with the federal court Wednesday.
“We’re not going to let it go. Myself, I’m not going to let it go. I don’t want to see this noble animal go the way of the buffalo.”
Two caribou herds live in the area the Beaver Lake Cree claim as their traditional territory, an area the size of Switzerland bordering Saskatchewan in the centre of the province.
Lawyers expect to call University of Alberta biologist Stan Boutin as an expert witness. In a study published July 5, he found the size of each herd has fallen dramatically in the past 14 years and now just 175 to 275 animals remain.
If trends continue, he said, the number of caribou per herd will fall below 50 by 2030 and below 10 by 2046, which is too small to survive long. His report blames industrial activity for the decline because new roads, pipelines and seismic lines make the area less hospitable to caribou and encourage the free movement of predators, such as wolves.
Two environmental groups, the Pembina Institute and the Alberta Wilderness Association, also filed a parallel lawsuit in support of the First Nations on Wednesday. Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Enoch Cree from just outside Edmonton co-signed the First Nations application with the Beaver Lake Cree. It’s funded by the Manchester-based investment group Co-operative Financial Services.
Read more: Alberta First Nations threaten legal action
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