The Conservation of Caribou: Matters of Space, Time, and Scale

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James Schaefer
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This is a chapter from the book, In Our Backyard. It explores the essentials of caribou ecology and conservation. Using Keeyask as a platform, the author focuses on the challenges and opportunities of conserving caribou in Canada’s North. To keep caribou on the landscape—a long-lived animal of nearly unparalleled mobility—is to grapple with vast spatial and temporal scales. As a starting point, projects like Keeyask need to be assessed on scales that are on par with the biology of this animal.

The book, In Our Backyard tells the story of the Keeyask dam and accompanying development on the Nelson River from the perspective of Indigenous peoples, academics, scientists, and regulators. It builds on the rich environmental and economic evaluations documented in the Clean Environment Commission’s public hearings on Keeyask in 2012. It amplifies Indigenous voices that environmental assessment and regulatory processes have often failed to incorporate and provides a basis for ongoing decision-making and scholarship relating to Keeyask and resource development more generally. It considers cumulative, regional, and strategic impact assessments; Indigenous worldviews and laws within the regulatory and decision-making process; the economics of development; models for monitoring and management; consideration of affected species; and cultural and social impacts.