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Gaspésie Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan (2002-2012)

Addendum

ADOPTION BY THE MINISTER OF THE ENVIRONMENT OF

CANADA OF THE RECOVERY PLAN FOR THE

GASPÉSIE WOODLAND CARIBOU

UNDER SECTION 44 OF THE SPECIES AT RISK ACT

 

This addendum is appended to the original Recovery Plan to assist in meeting the Species at Risk Act requirements 

 

DECLARATION

This recovery strategy has been prepared in cooperation with the jurisdictions responsible for the Gaspésie Woodland Caribou. Environment Canada has reviewed and accepts this document as its recovery strategy for the Gaspésie Woodland Caribou, as required under the Species at Risk Act. This recovery strategy also constitutes advice to other jurisdictions and organizations that may be involved in recovering the species.

The goals, objectives and recovery approaches identified in the strategy are based on the best existing knowledge and are subject to modifications resulting from new findings and revised objectives.

This recovery strategy will be the basis for one or more action plans that will provide details on specific recovery measures to be taken to support conservation and recovery of the species. The Minister of the Environment will report on progress within five years.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Environment Canada or any other jurisdiction alone. In the spirit of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Minister of the Environment invites all responsible jurisdictions and Canadians to join Environment Canada in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the Gaspésie Woodland Caribou and Canadian society as a whole.

 

STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts on non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the strategy itself, but are also summarized below.

Recovery efforts include predator monitoring activities. These activities are aimed at coyote and black bear populations in specific areas, including caribou calving grounds. If we take into account the size of these two species’ populations and the limited span of monitoring activities, the impact of these efforts will not be significant. The trapping of predators is done according to standards and under the Province’s supervision.

This recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the Gaspésie Woodland Caribou. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered. The SEA concluded that this strategy will clearly benefit the environment and will not entail any significant adverse effects. The reader should refer to the following sections of the document in particular: biology, habitat, known or possible limiting factors, strategies proposed by team.

 

RESIDENCE

SARA defines residence as: a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating[Subsection 2(1)].

Residence descriptions, or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted on the SARA public registry: https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/sar/assessment/status_e.cfm.

 

PREFACE

This recovery strategy for the Gaspésie Woodland Caribou has been adopted from the Province of Québec by Environment Canada, as authorized under the article 44 of the Species at Risk Act. This document will probably be updated, but is sufficiently complete to guide the species recovery.

 

1.   IDENTIFICATION OF THE GASPÉSIE CARIBOU CRITICAL HABITAT 

1.1 Habitat Used by the Gaspésie Caribou

Previously occurring in the Maritime Provinces and some New England States, the Woodland Caribou population, south of the St. Lawrence River, today is represented by a single population, the Gaspésie population (Banfield 1961; Boileau 1996; Courtois et al. 2001). Courtois et al. (2001) present an analysis of the factors that caused the historical population decline.

Recent studies of habitat use by the Gaspésie caribou have allowed better documentation of the main sectors used annually by this species (Mosnier et al. 2002; C. Turcotte, pers. comm.), and identification of critical habitat to meet the needs of the Gaspésie caribou. Telemetry has shown that, in winter, the Gaspésie caribou use lower elevation montane habitats consisting of mature or overmature (= 70 years) fir and black spruce stands, while in spring, when snow cover is reduced, they use the summits, characterized by alpine tundra (Rivard 1978; Ouellet et al. 1996; Mosnier et al. 2002). This close relationship with overmature forests and summits is typical of the mountain caribou populations of North America (Apps et al. 2001; Poole et al. 2000).

The Gaspésie caribou uses the alpine tundra environments and the softwood forests of Gaspésie provincial park, which was created in 1937, among other reasons, to protect this genetically distinct population. It also uses the surrounding lands, which are potentially harvestable by the region’s forest industry (Mosnier 2002).

Moreover, the telemetric monitoring studies show that the caribou’s annual range is not limited to the park. About 17% of telemetry locations recorded from 1998 to 2002 were outside the park’s 802 km2 (Fournier and Turcotte 2002; Mosnier 2002), particularly during the calving period (Comité de rétablissement du caribou de la Gaspésie, 2004; C. Turcotte, pers. comm.).  Calving areas have been identified in two sectors outside the park: west of Mont Logan and south of Mont Vallières-de-Saint-Réal (Figure 1). These observations confirm that females use various coniferous environments at the park’s boundaries for calving, mostly located at 700 m altitude or more (unpublished data). Interannual variations of snow melt could influence the choice of these calving sites (Comité de rétablissement du caribou de la Gaspésie, 2004).

According to available historic documents, the caribou were much less restricted during the 1950’s than today. Many sites are probably not occupied anymore because of the disturbances that affected them (forest fires, road construction, etc.). It is also possible that use of some of these potential sites is now prevented by physical obstacles, for example Mont Nicol-Albert (C. Turcotte, pers. comm.)

1.2 Critical Habitat Identification

The Species at Risk Act (SARA) defines critical habitat as “the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species and that is identified as the species’ critical habitat in the recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species” (Government of Canada 2002).

Following the objectives of this recovery strategy to attain 150 caribous in 2007 and 175 caribous in 2012, critical habitat for the Gaspésie Caribou population consists of (see figure 1):

  • The habitat already legally protected by the Quebec Government [A [1]]
  • A conservation zone west of the legal habitat (west of Mont Logan) [B]
  • An area encompassing the telemetry locations south west of the legal habitat and east of the conservation zone at Mont Logan [C]

1.3 Activities Likely to Result in the Destruction of Critical Habitat

Road construction, logging industry and mining exploration and operations (Rettie and Messier 1998, Dyer et al. 2001, Kinley and Apps 2001): reduce, to varying degrees, the area of usable mature forests; increase fragmentation (Hanson et al. 1990, Caughley 1994); and allow easier access to predators (Stuart-Smith et al. 1997, Rettie and Messier 1998). Habitat alteration through road construction and logging promotes younger-growth forest areas where moose and white-tailed deer are found. Increasing these alternative prey species would also promote an increase in predator density in these areas of forest regeneration (Bergerud and Ballard 1988, Poole et al. 2000, J.P. Ouellet, pers. comm.).

1.4 Special Habitat Protection Measures Implemented

A Gaspésie caribou area management plan (Plan d’aménagement de l’aire du caribou de la Gaspésie) specific to the outlying forest zones was developed jointly by Natural Resources Canadaand the Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec for the purpose of reconciling caribou protection with the economic contributions related to timber management (Champagne et al. 1999; Comité de rétablissement du caribou de la Gaspésie, 2004).This plan applies to an area of 290 km2 near the park. The primary objectives of this plan were to ensure:

Objective 1:     the sustained productivity of forest biomass;

Objective 2:     protection of summits exhibiting a tundra facies;

Objective 3:     protection of caribou migration corridors;

Objective 4:     introduction of special forestry standards;

Objective 5:     maintenance of forest activities in certain management zones.

Other objectives will be added to the second version of the management plan, which is currently under revision (C. Turcotte, pers. comm.). These objectives aim essentially at ensuring that forestry projects are implemented in accordance with the natural dynamics of the Parc national de la Gaspésie fir stands (Comité de rétablissement du caribou de la Gaspésie, 2004). At the same time, monitoring studies on forest intervention were conducted to evaluate the actions that promote maximum conservation of the environments used by caribou (Comité de rétablissement du caribou de la Gaspésie, 2004).

This management plan includes “conservation zones” which are fully protected and other areas called “management zones” where forestry operations are adapted to the needs of the Gaspésie caribou.  Within the conservation zones about 100 km2 is found within the Petit Mont Sainte-Anne and Vallières-de-Saint-Réal sectors. These two sectors are part of the legal habitat, which also covers almost all of Gaspésie provincial park (see Figure 1). Within the legal habitat, some interventions are subject to the provincial Regulation respecting wildlife habitats (C-61.1, r.0.1.5; Gazette officielle du Québec 2001).

It should also be mentioned that a project to expand the limits of the legal habitat is currently in progress. The project aims to include a portion of the Vallières-de-Saint-Réal territory and the entire Mont Logan conservation sector identified in the management plan.

1.5 Schedule of Studies

Maintain and protect critical habitat

Dynamics of harvested forests

The Gaspésie Caribou Recovery Plan (Plan de rétablissement du caribou de la Gaspésie) and the Gaspésie caribou area management plan (Plan d’aménagement de l’aire du caribou de la Gaspésie) propose conditions necessary to maintain the caribou critical habitat. In the medium term, the studies to monitor forest interventions stipulated in the management plan should answer the question as to whether these interventions are adequately in line with the natural dynamics of Gaspésie provincial park fir stands. Based on these outcomes, it may be necessary to adapt management practices to better mimic natural dynamics.

Some studies are already completed and one is underway, therefore it can be expected that the geomatic analysis and validation can be completed within 2 years (end of 2008).

Impact of land-use planning on predator populations

Since an important part of achieving the recovery plan objectives depends on the recruitment and survival of fawns, controlling coyote and black bear populations is a key factor. Preliminary results show that black bears seem to make more use of young forest areas that are regenerating after logging, but unfortunately a lot of data have yet to be analyzed (J.-P. Ouellet, pers. comm.). A master's degree on the use of the habitat by coyotes has been completed, and a doctorate on the bears habitat use will soon be completed. In the light of the outcomes, there could be grounds to consider:

  • a site review of logged areas within and around critical habitat;
  • a follow-up on sample cutting areas where berries are found;
  • effective predator control methods. 

These reviews should be conducted annually until 2011.

To support these monitoring activities, the technical committee and the enlarged committee on the management plan of the Gaspésie caribou range, composed of provincial government officials (Faune Québec and Forêt Québec) and university officials (Université Laval and Université du Québec à Rimouski), have mentioned (during a conference call April 25, 2006) that a monitoring program should be set up to measure the caribou habitat components and the predators. In addition, Louis Bélanger (Université Laval) suggested doing verifications in the permanent sample areas within the territory covered by the management plan for the Gaspésie caribou (C. Turcotte, pers. comm.).

Carrying capacity study

A study on the carrying capacity of the critical habitat is recommended with regards to population objectives. If carrying capacity is insufficient, this would suggest the need to intensify efforts for identifying and conserving new habitats.

Possible expansion of the Gaspésie caribou range

Analysis of potential colonization sites

The current Gaspésie caribou range is probably related to the intact character of the habitats in the Parc national de la Gaspésie. However, historical documents demonstrate that, in addition to the park, the Gaspésie caribou occupied a few other sectors. Today, this population uses mainly Gaspésie provincial park and the sector identified in the management plan for the Gaspésie caribou range. It is still possible that other sectors near those already protected also have a potential value. An exhaustive assessment of the sites of interest and of the degree of protection required would be useful to ensure that conditions are as favourable as possible for the recovery of this troubled herd.

The analysis of potential colonization sites requires a multi-step theoretical approach. First, the analysis of aerial photographs, ecoforest maps and other decision-making tools will allow the creation of potential site profiles. Next, a land validation could confirm whether these sites are suitable for the caribou or not. Based on the number and size of potential sites, the results could be known within one to two years (ending in 2007 or 2008).

 

STATEMENT ON ACTION PLANS

An action plan relating to this recovery strategy will be completed by 2012.

 

 




[1] The letters correspond to the ones used to locate critical habitat on the figure 1