The International Boreal Conservation Panel yesterday released a letter endorsing a plan to protect the calving grounds of what once was the world’s largest caribou herd—the George River herd of Labrador and Quebec. The herd migrates from its calving grounds in northern Labrador and Quebec to the south and west, moving hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles in a single year.
Credit: Valerie Courtois, Canadian Boreal Initiative
Sadly the George River herd has gone from being the largest in the world—775,000 in 1993– down to 50,000 estimated in 2011, a 90% decline over less than 20 years. Very little of the calving grounds of any North American Migratory Tundra Caribou herd is within areas designated for conservation protection. That’s what makes the proposed land use plan for northern Labrador, developed jointly by the governments of Nunatsiavut and Newfoundland and Labrador, so groundbreaking. After three years of work with local Inuit communities and knowledge-holders, the plan that has been proposed would establish an incredible 3.5 million acre (14,000 km2) Special Policy Area where all large scale development would be prohibited.
Although caribou calving grounds can shift from year to year, the George River herd’s calving grounds for the last decade or more will be encompassed by the proposed conservation region, giving the George River Caribou Herd more opportunity for rebound without added stressors. This would make this one of the first large scale habitat conservation measures in North America, focused on protecting the calving grounds for a migratory tundra caribou herd! That’s why the International Boreal Conservation Science Panel has urged the formal adoption of the plan and why we think the world should know about this amazing conservation first!