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Caribou Range Planning

The woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) is listed as Threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act and Alberta’s Wildlife Act. Woodland caribou populations in the province are declining because of habitat disturbance primarily due to human activities, which results in an imbalance among caribou, predators, and other prey. The Government of Alberta is working towards recovery and management of the species.

Draft Provincial Woodland Caribou Range Plan

Alberta’s Draft Provincial Woodland Caribou Range Plan will build on existing and previous work and develop action and strategies to meet provincial and federal caribou population and habitat objectives. To review the draft plan, see:

Alberta’s Approach to Achieve Woodland Caribou Recovery

  • The Government of Alberta’s Draft Provincial Woodland Caribou Range Plan includes caribou recovery actions and strategies that will demonstrate commitment to caribou recovery, and advancement of range planning.
  • The draft provincial range plan is predominantly provincial in scope, but contains specific strategies and actions that need to be applied at the range level. This work is well underway and the range-specific details have yet to be fully modelled across all ranges and into the long-term.
  • Recovery of both habitat and caribou populations is required. This is both technically and biologically feasible. It will include the use of conservation areas, restoration of human disturbance, mandatory Integrated Land Management (ILM), and other actions.
  • Application of the strategies and actions in the draft provincial range plan requires feedback from those most closely involved in caribou range planning, and from all Albertans. Continued involvement is needed to undertake social and economic assessments, and to determine how actions can be applied at the individual range level.
  • Woodland caribou are culturally important to the Indigenous peoples of Alberta. The Government of Alberta requires further engagement and involvement of Indigenous peoples to ensure that knowledge, wisdom and values are appropriately incorporated into the range planning process.
  • Further engagement and discussions with Indigenous peoples, local governments, industry, environmental non-government organizations, other stakeholders and communities across Alberta is required to ensure we have the information we need to complete this work.

Share Your Thoughts on Caribou Range Planning in Alberta

We want to hear your thoughts on the Draft Provincial Woodland Caribou Range Plan. To learn more about the draft plan and provide your feedback, visit the Talk AEP website at:

Highlights of the Draft Provincial Woodland Caribou Range Plan

Alberta’s Draft Provincial Woodland Caribou Range Plan is a made-in-Alberta plan that will help stabilize, recover and ultimately achieve self-sustaining caribou populations while protecting jobs and the economy. The plan proposes a variety of tools, including Integrated Land Management, conservation areas and legacy footprint restoration to support caribou recovery.

While we have commitments to meet with the Government of Canada, we are taking the time to develop the right solutions. Continued engagement with Indigenous peoples, stakeholders and the public will be essential as we finalize the plan and develop range-specific details.

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1. Restoration of Legacy Footprint

A key issue of concern is the amount of human disturbance in all caribou ranges. Alberta has committed to, and has already initiated, restoration of legacy seismic lines in the Little Smoky and A La Peche caribou ranges.

Since that announcement in the fall of 2016, the department has developed a restoration framework to guide planning and implementation, engaged with local stakeholders to develop a restoration plan for a pilot area, and is currently undertaking restoration work.

Our goal is to restore all legacy footprint in all caribou ranges over the next 40 years. This will result in a recovery of caribou habitat over time. Government is working towards setting up a partnership approach with industry and the federal government to restore habitat in caribou ranges.

2. Conservation Areas

Alberta is committed to using conservation areas where appropriate to support caribou recovery and biodiversity objectives. Areas within caribou ranges have been identified for consideration as conservation areas that would not impact existing forestry or energy tenure.

We are looking to avoid affecting any forest tenure in conservation area planning. Existing conventional oil and gas activity will continue to be honoured in conservation areas in accordance with existing policy, but new sales would not be permitted.

There are several conservation areas that were identified and committed to through the Lower Athabasca Regional Planning process. Some of these areas overlap caribou ranges and critical habitat. These conservation areas will also advance when range-specific details are released.

Establishing conservation areas in portions of some caribou ranges better supports continued industry access on the remainder of the range. This strategy uses Integrated Land Management practices and recognizes that to meet caribou recovery and economic outcomes, we need to apply varying intensities of human development over time and space, taking advantage of opportunities to anchor long-term habitat conservation where appropriate.

While conservation area planning is being advanced in support of caribou recovery, it will also support broader biodiversity goals. Woodland caribou are considered an "umbrella species." By managing for caribou habitat we are also managing for the ecosystems and other wildlife species around them.

3. Rearing Facilities

Fencing projects will be initiated to provide caribou with safe habitat for population growth. Rearing facilities will be focused in the Little Smoky range and possibly Cold Lake or East Side Athabasca River.

These projects may provide job opportunities for Indigenous communities, and partnerships between industry, Indigenous communities, academic institutions and the Government of Canada.

4. Integrated Land Management

Alberta is committed to a working landscape, in which carefully managed industrial activity can co-exist with caribou recovery. This can be achieved by continuing with a number of existing practices, as well as continuing to advance improved industrial practices to reduce footprint and enact temporary habitat conservation measures.

These practices will include mandatory Integrated Land Management, a strategic, planned approach to restore, manage and reduce human footprint on the landscape. This approach aims to balance values, benefits, risks and trade-offs when planning and managing resource extraction, land use activities, and environmental conservation and management.

5. Social and Economic Assessments

The Government of Alberta is committed to maintaining jobs, local economies and strong communities. Caribou range plans will be built on a foundation of science, and social and economic studies will help us understand how range plans fit within local and regional economies and communities.

We have received significant baseline information and will continue to work with people who understand the potential impacts best, including Indigenous peoples, local industries, municipalities and other stakeholders. Both costs and benefits will be assessed as detailed range plans are developed. This will ensure the plans provide the right direction and best support local communities.

6. Engaging Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples have long understood the cumulative effects of multiple land users and industries operating on a shared landscape. Woodland caribou have been an important part of the traditional ways of life of Indigenous peoples living in Alberta. This unique position will inform land-use planning initiatives, and ongoing discussions and sharing of information will ensure caribou range plans appropriately reflect Indigenous values and input.

We are looking to build upon work that has already started. The government will continue to engage with Indigenous peoples and has committed to supporting in gathering traditional land-use information from land-users and elders to ensure caribou recovery strategies recognize Indigenous use and access to land.

We will work on other opportunities for Indigenous involvement and employment relating to:

  • cooperative management of conservation areas
  • rearing facilities
  • restoration activities
  • wildlife management

7. Engaging Albertans

Caribou recovery is a shared government, public and private sector responsibility. Caribou recovery requires the collective effort of all key players continue to work together for it to be successful. We will continue engagement on caribou range plans to hear from those who may be interested in range planning.

You can provide feedback on the draft plan online at:

Related information

Federal Recovery Strategies and Guiding Documents


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Updated: Sep 6, 2018