Presented by: Kirby Smith
Mountain caribou (Rangifer tarandus) are classified as threatened in Canada. In May of 2018, the Government of Canada released an “Imminent Threat Assessment for the Redrock/Prairie Creek and Narraway herds of mountain caribou in west central Alberta, the two most northerly mountain herds in Alberta. The Assessment stated that “the effects of the threats facing the species will make achieving the recovery objectives of the species highly unlikely or impossible without immediate intervention including population and habitat management measures”. These caribou winter ranges are considered 84% (Narraway) and 71% (Redrock/Prairie Creek) disturbed, well above the maximum of 35% recommended in the Recovery Strategy for Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain populations (Environment Canada 2014). Based on results of a 19-year study that examined the effects of partial timber harvest on ground based flora (Vitt et al. 2019), an alternative to clear-cut logging is proposed to reduce the impact of this industrial activity on mountain caribou range. Partial cutting has the potential to maintain the forest in a perpetual “caribou-friendly” condition by preserving lichen cover while not enhancing browse, thereby significantly reducing “apparent competition” between mountain caribou and alternate prey species. Moreover, this approach could still provide logging opportunities with additional jobs while reducing impacts on other species of concern (i.e. grizzly bears, bull trout). Additional work is proposed to examine the socio-economic benefits/drawbacks of partial cutting.