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Caribou conundrum
Resource management committee seeks community ideas to address diminished herds

Stewart Burnett
Northern News Services
Thursday, November 24, 2016

Three days of meetings next week will help determine the priorities going forward for managing integral caribou herds to the region.

NNSL photo/graphic

Amy Amos, executive director of the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board, encourages the public to come out and provide input on local caribou herds' statuses. - Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

Those herds include the Bluenose-East, Bluenose-West and Cape Bathurst.

Each day will be dedicated to one of the herds, with public presentations in the morning followed by a closed-door meeting of Advisory Committee for the Cooperation of Wildlife Management (ACCWM) representatives, which is made up of chairs from different co-management boards within the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Last year, the committee met to set herd status for the first time, following the development of a management plan in 2014 that outlined the need for annual updates.

From last year's meeting, both the Bluenose-East and Bluenose-West herds were given orange status, while Cape Bathurst was in the red.

Orange is defined as "the population level is intermediate and decreasing" and red is "the population level is low," according to the ACCWM's Bluenose Caribou Management Plan.

Red status for the Cape Bathurst herd means it is in the range of 4,000 population. Orange status for the Bluenose-West herd puts it around 56,000, while orange status for the Bluenose-East herd puts it around 60,000. Both of those numbers are half of each herd's historic highs, while the Cape Bathurst number is less than a quarter of its historic high.

Red status

In the management plan document, red status brings with it the recommendation to increase enforcement of regulations, to work directly with proponents and regulators of resource exploration and development projects and to advise on mitigation protocols.

From Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 next week, community members will have the chance to give their input on the status of the three herds, which will shape the committee's actions.

Local knowledge

"I think it's always nice to have people, especially community people who harvest these herds, to be present at the meetings," said Amy Amos, executive director of the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board.

"We are interested in knowing what they are observing on the land and (if there are) any community or local knowledge observations they're seeing that could even result in actions. Maybe there's some priority of an action that comes out of what they observe and they want us to do something to help fix that. It's a way of sharing the information with people who are managing these herds."

Any proposed changes to caribou management would still need to go through public hearings, consultation and recommendations to the minister.

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