Boreal caribou have been declining for decades, but public awareness and government action doesn’t seem to change, according to Rachel Plotkin, a caribou expert with the David Suzuki Foundation. Now, the foundation has created an interactive map that visualizes the impact of human activity on caribou habitat. They spent three months building the map using data from the federal and provincial governments, as well as non-profits like the Canadian Wildlife Federation and Global Forest Watch Canada.
The David Suzuki Foundation’s GIS expert Willem Van Riet said the decline in caribou population is largely due to seismic lines, which are clear-cut corridors made for oil and gas exploration. “Seismic lines allow predators,” he said. These seismic lines, they really are everywhere. That shocked me,” said Van Riet. Logging, mining and dams have also caused damage to the boreal forest.
The interactive map includes an image of Blueberry River First Nations. As of 2016, active oil and gas tenures cover 70 per cent of their traditional territory. Between 2013 and 2016, 9,400 kilometres of seismic lines and 290 cutblocks destroyed forest in their territory.
“We’re not looking for industry to stop. We’re looking for industry to apply limits,” she said. She said protecting the caribou and boreal forest is important so the ecosystem can continue to work as it’s meant to, storing carbon, reducing flooding, and purifying air, which are all factors in mitigating climate change.