Caribou conservation and impact mitigation
Canada’s boreal forest is home to many things, including both Suncor’s oil sands operations in northeast Alberta and a diverse range of wildlife including woodland caribou, a federally listed species at risk.
Woodland caribou are well adapted to the life in the boreal forest. They are a non-migratory subspecies with an anti-predator strategy of spatial separation (i.e., to live where others don’t) that requires large expanses of habitat with low densities of predators. Unlike the large migratory herds of barren-ground caribou that travel through the northern tundra, woodland caribou are usually found in small numbers.
The boreal population of woodland caribou is listed as threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) due to declining population trends likely to be caused primarily by increased predation due to habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. Natural (e.g. fire) and anthropogenic factors within the boreal forest have altered and contributed to a fragmented landscape. This often leads to increased populations of deer, moose, elk and their predators. Given the low numbers of woodland caribou in the boreal forest any increased predation pressure can have devastating effects.
While caribou conservation is a shared government, public and private sector responsibility, it is led by government. As such, the Government of Alberta is developing caribou range and action plans that are due in 2017. Implementing these plans to stabilize, recover and sustain woodland caribou populations will require a broad range of tools applied at both the local and landscape levels. As an operator in the boreal forest, Suncor has a role to play in demonstrating progress towards caribou recovery goals and recognizes the importance of both local and landscape scales when considering taking any action for caribou recovery.
To address the risk of operating in areas inhabited by woodland caribou, Suncor has developed a caribou strategy. The goals of the strategy are aimed at mitigating our impact on woodland caribou.
Suncor regularly considers caribou-focused objectives at both the local and landscape scales. As examples, Suncor incorporates under-pipe crossings along above-ground pipelines at in situ projects and reclaims disturbed areas to accelerate recovery of caribou habitat. While at the landscape scale, Suncor, in collaboration with Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA,) completed a multi-year caribou habitat restoration program, to repair fragmented habitat, within the Algar region of northeast Alberta.
Learn more about accelerating habitat recovery
As a member of COSIA Land Environmental Performance Area and Caribou Working Group, Suncor continues to support development of landscape and population tools designed to demonstrate progress towards caribou habitat recovery objectives and self-sustaining caribou populations in the boreal forest.