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Caribou threats tarnish Canada’s environmental reputation

By Jennifer Skene      

Caribou protection means so much more than just the protection of a single iconic species. It means staving off earth-altering carbon emissions. It means the protection of Indigenous ways of life and the recognition of Indigenous rights to their homelands. It means progress toward achieving international goals around protected areas and safeguarding some of Canada’s most precious ecosystems. With limited time left for action, Canada has to decide now whether it will live up to its obligations to the world and future generations.

Caribou are an 'indicator species,' meaning the health of their populations is considered a barometer for the health of the boreal forest more broadly. As such, their decline signals even more widespread concerns, writes Jennifer Skene. Photograph courtesy of the U.S. National Parks Service

For decades, Canada has enjoyed an international reputation as an environmental leader. But as Canada fails to take action to stop the widespread degradation of critical caribou habitat in the boreal forest, that reputation is becoming harder to maintain. Canada’s entrenchment in the industry-dominated status quo has implications that extend far beyond caribou, threatening to undermine its touted international commitments to climate change mitigation, Indigenous rights, and protected areas.

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