Guardians group plans summit aimed at caribou conservation

Caribou Guardians Coalition supports local, regional caribou guardian programs in the North

Youth from northern Manitoba learn how to cut up caribou from an elder during a culture camp hosted by the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Management Board. (Photo courtesy of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Management Board)

By Meral Jamal

A plan to bolster the dwindling Bathurst caribou herd will be the focus of a summit to be held this spring, the Caribou Guardians Coalition has announced.

The coalition, whose membership includes a wide range of groups from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories with an interest in conservation, also hopes to establish a secretariat as part of its effort to help the herd, it said in a news release earlier this month.

It has held six workshops focused on planning and establishing the secretariat since 2020, according to Earl Evans, a representative for the coalition from the Northwest Territories Métis Nation who also chairs the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board.

He said the coalition’s goal is to “direct all our guardian programs that are out on the range to have a central place to bring all our findings to try to help revitalize the Bathurst herd.”

“There’s a lot of different communities, and a guardianship program from every jurisdiction where they gather information relevant to their area that’s having detrimental effects on the herd,” he said.

“In some areas, forest fires will be a big issue, in others there’s longer summers, more bugs, and permafrost thawing.”

“[By establishing the secretariat] every organization will bring to the table the negative effects that they look at and monitor in their own area. We’ll be able to capture that and put a concrete plan together where we can combat some of the negative effects.”

Indigenous guardians report that the Bathurst herd needs urgent attention and support to regain its strength, according to the coalition’s release.

Recent population estimates show only 6,200 Bathurst caribou remain, it notes.

That’s significantly lower than in 2015 when the Bathurst caribou population was estimated at 19,769, according to the 2021 Bathurst Caribou Management Plan.

Evans said along with protecting the Bathurst caribou, the coalition hopes to “send out the message to our local people that we have other [food] sources.”

“You have to conserve this herd and to stop hunting this herd — we can find other permanent sources,” he said.

“A healthy range or healthy habitat means healthy caribou. Healthy caribou means healthy people.”

The coalition was formed in 2020 by Indigenous governments and partners to establish a network of regional caribou guardianship programs.

Groups involved specifically in creating the Bathurst Caribou Management Plan include the Northwest Territories Métis Nation, the Kitikmeot Regional Wildlife Board and hunters and trappers organizations from Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk.

The coalition is funded by Polar Knowledge Canada, the Environment and Natural Resources Department of the Northwest Territories, and the federal Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Caribou saler on

    How can I attend this meeting or is it only for the members?

  2. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    I remember when the Bathurst herd was health and numerous in the seventies and eighties before ice roads and mines came in the area in the nineties. The herd came suddenly more accessible to hunt via these roads, mineral exploration, mines also have had negative impacts on the herd, forest fires on their winter range, more insects in summer…
    The Qamanirjuaq herd will be next . There is uncontrolled hunting of animals for cash, both for the meat plant, Baffin and Qitirmiut customers willing to pay a lot of money. A lot of mineral exploration going on on the calving and post calving ground; the mines are expanding and along with that more roads making it easyer for hunters to have easy access and disturbing the caribou during migration. of course climate change putting additional pressures on the herd too. It saddens me that human greed and shortsightedness will drive this herd almost to oblivion too like most of our other North American other herds which once roamed the tundra and taiga in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. Humans do not seem to learn or care from past mistakes. Youth be more vocal, it is your future generations that will be most affected.

    • Posted by Observer on

      Rally? That’s interesting. Healthy and numerous in the 1970s and 1980s you say?

      The Lupin mine opened in 1982. The Tibbit-Contwoyto Winter Road was built in 1979 to haul the supplies to build the mine, and then opened to full operations in 1983 after the realized they couldn’t supply the mine with aircraft alone. The road was an extension of the winter road that went from Yellowknife to the Tundra Mine and Salmita Mine beginning in 1960.

  3. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    how can they protect the herd from the hunters who are selling caribou from $350 to $500 per plastic bin of meat? from Taloyoak to Rankin Inlet, you see on Facebook hunters who openly ask people if they want to prepay for meat and don’t worry it’s so easy for them to go out and hunt that they will send the bin out on the next flight?

    it would be interesting to ask Canadian North and Calm Air exactly how much country food in Kilograms has been sent in the last one, two and three years. I would imagine it has grown exponentially.

  4. Posted by Taxpayer on

    So, we got the Government of Canada that is responsible for endangered species.

    We then got the GNWT and GN that is responsible for wildlife management.

    Then we got on both sides of the border, co-management Boards including the Wek’èezhìi and Nunavut wildlife boards that are responsible for telling the governments how to manage and save wildlife.

    Plus, you got Regional Wildlife Board and HTOs and Dene self government that can, if they want and are able to, regulate the hunting of their own members.

    Additionally, we have private and university researchers on top of the government researchers whose job it is to study the caribou so they can write reports to get more funding for more research.

    Oh, then there are the environmental groups that need more donations so they can go to the meetings too so they can say they need more money to save the caribou.

    So there, we got to the point where there was the Bathurst Caribou Advisory Committee that focused on this one herd that involved all of the above.

    They came up with the Bathurst Range Plan that is in place and involves all the land managers including indigenous governments.

    Then came after a few more meetings the actual Bathurst Caribou Management Plan that is now in place and has been for some time.

    We got wildlife officers and land use inspectors out there enforcing this stuff. No hunting maps online, public posting etc. etc.

    So, I guess all of above mentioned was simply not enough. Now apparently, we need Guardians.

    I think I see the problem here.

    Nobody delivered the memo to the caribou telling them to breed more every time there is a meeting about them.

  5. Posted by Northerner on

    Awesome. Congrats and thanks to everyone involved. Let’s go caribou!

  6. Posted by Caribou monitor on

    The Bathurst herd is in jeopardy yet the goose lake mine and Bathurst port is on the main calving grounds of the caribou herd big mine being built and now talks of putting a wind farm with 23 giant turbines right on the migration route and calving grounds of the Bathurst caribou herd . Hunting has nothing to do with the decline get your facts straight people and look to the environment itself .

    • Posted by Reminiscent on

      Just look back 1990, diamond exploration was unheard of , 1992 came the announcement that diamonds were found , remember that started the world’s biggest staking rush in all of the arctic , look back 1995 the Bathurst caribou herd started to disperse before totally separating into many satellite herds 1997 was when government of the nwt did some research to find that the herd was in decline , now the other caribou herds to the east grew exponentially because of the separation due to the hundreds of exploration camps situated right parallel with the caribou herds migration routes . Now the wolves are to blame for the small satellite herds .

    • Posted by Good advice on

      Indeed, people should get their facts straight.

      The Goose Lake operation is not in a calving area. The Bathurst herd has been calving west of Bathurst Inlet for decades now, hundreds of kilometers from the mine, the Ahiak hundreds of kilometers north on the coast, and the Beverly herd hundreds of kilometers to the east. And Sabina wants to put in 13 turbines, not 23.

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