Notes from the MLA: Caribou plan suspension good for Lesser Slave Lake

Danielle Larivee,
MLA for Lesser Slave Lake

Protecting Alberta’s wildlife is important to our government, but supporting jobs for Alberta’s working people and families is our priority. These good-paying jobs play a major role in driving our rural economy, especially here in Lesser Slave Lake.

I have heard concerns from many of you about how federally-required caribou range-planning will impact your jobs, and the future of our communities. Our government takes these concerns seriously. We know that Albertans deserve a plan that protects their jobs and the economy.

That’s why, last week, our government wrote the federal government to inform them that Alberta will suspend conservation considerations pending a comprehensive economic-impact analysis and further support from the federal government. We will not allow northern communities to be left behind because of federal rules around caribou protection.

To meet the federal targets and achieve our shared goal of putting woodland caribou populations and habitat on the path to recovery, we believe the federal government needs to play a greater role in supporting Alberta in understanding the true impact of this process in Alberta communities. That’s why we are calling on the federal government to partner with us on socio-economic studies to make sure a strategy is in place to protect the jobs and livelihoods of northern communities.

We are also calling on the federal government to provide funding to support caribou habitat restoration, which is expected to cost $1 billion over the next 40 years, including the roughly $75 million we will need for rearing facilities.

Lastly we’re calling on the federal government to meet with local leaders and work with provincial officials on a plan to analyze all the costs associated with caribou recovery.

I’m thankful that the forestry, oil and gas industries have been good partners in this process.

Together we can find the right balance. Deferring range plans does not mean that progress won’t be made on caribou protection. We will continue to work with industry to identify ways to protects jobs and caribou herds, and to ensure that good, stable employment in the forest industry continues on into the future of Northern Alberta.

I’ve also heard from Indigenous leaders about what impact our caribou conservation measures might have on their traditional relationship with the land and the wildlife who share it. This is about finding the right balance, so that Indigenous peoples maintain their traditional rights, and are also ensured economic opportunities in their communities. I want to assure you that we will work with and listen to First Nations and Métis communities’ concerns and ideas for caribou restoration.

Alberta’s approach to protecting caribou populations and fulfilling the requirements under federal law cannot – and will not – come at the expense of the livelihoods of my constituents in Lesser Slave Lake.

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