Climate change is expected to increasingly impact populations of woodland caribou and much focus has been placed on how a warming climate has facilitated the northward expansion of apparent competitors (e.g., white-tailed deer) and novel predators (e.g., coyotes). Climate change, however, may also exert effects on caribou populations that are not mediated by predation. Here, we used data from 21 populations in western Canada to assess the demographic response of woodland caribou to annual variation in a suite of meteorological and phenological metrics. Caribou populations in Canada and globally are declining as a result of several factors. In western Canada, boreal caribou declines are ultimately driven primarily by industrial land uses within and adjacent to caribou range. These areas also overlap traditional lands of Indigenous communities, who have stewarded their territories and all the values contained within them for generations. Despite this long-held role, ecological and conservation perspectives generally focus on the science of caribou recovery, without considering the complexities and nuances of First Nations’ perspectives of land and species conservation, or the economic opportunities and ramification of land use, policy, and conservation decisions.
In this talk we discuss ongoing caribou conservation and restoration projects undertaken by us, the Fort Nelson First Nation. Specifically, we will focus on three main themes in this talk. First, from a policy and governance perspective, we will discuss how several projects came to be within the context of Federal and provincial caribou policy, and how and why conservation decisions were made from the FNFN perspective. Second, from a nuts and bolts perspective, we will discuss practical delivery of habitat restoration treatments in remote locations in winter and summer seasons, economic opportunities generated from a restoration economy, and local partnerships created to generate new business opportunities. Third, we will discuss results and outcomes of vegetation and wildlife response to restoration activities, including variation in vegetation response to summer and winter restoration deliveries and treatments. We will conclude with our broader vision and next steps in ongoing restoration.