Webinar - Testing the Efficacy of Linear Restoration for Caribou Recovery in the Birch Mountains, Alberta Partnering for Restoration Success

Eric Neilson
Ryan Grandjambe
Ryan Abel
Lorne Gould
Dani Degenhardt
Cynthia Chand
Resource Date:

Effective restoration and monitoring of biodiversity on working landscapes requires sustained efforts from multiple sectors, stakeholders and rights holders. Importantly, such efforts are not legal, justified or effective without the inclusion of Indigenous partners and leadership. In addition to adhering to legal obligations and benefiting local communities and Indigenous Nations, Indigenous leadership can increase the effectiveness of restoration and monitoring efforts. Firstly, monitoring restoration effectiveness requires knowledge of both the landscape and human disturbance. Indigenous Knowledge provides insight into variation in land cover, expertise on a range of land use and biological factors and experience from multiple spatio-temporal scales. Secondly, Indigenous Nation members that spend time on the land provide increased capacity for monitoring and data collection. For instance, use of traditional territory by members of Indigenous Environmental Guardian programs, which aim to monitor and protect biodiversity and cultural practices, provides access to potential experimental control sites, increased sample sizes, and facilitates increased sampling over longer durations and seasons. Woodland caribou (caribou) are listed as Threatened in Canada and many local populations are decreasing in abundance. Linear disturbances such as seismic lines reduce caribou habitat quality because predator use of lines increases caribou-predator encounters and caribou mortality. Site-level restoration techniques such as mounding, line blocking and tree-planting reduce access of linear features by caribou predators and facilitate long term linear restoration. However, the effort needed to reduce caribou-predator encounters across spatial scales remains uncertain. In 2022, Alberta Environment and Parks will restore linear features in the Red Earth Caribou Range (RECR), including the Birch Mountains, which intersects Fort McKay First Nation (FMFN) reserve land and traditional territory. FMFN is collaborating with Golder Associates Ltd. and Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. to assess restoration effectiveness in the RECR. The Canadian Forest Service is collaborating with FMFN’s Environmental Guardian program to provide additional estimates of restoration effectiveness and the effort required to scale up restoration to protect caribou across their range. We will measure the presence of large and medium sized mammals and vegetation cover on linear features before and after restoration using wildlife cameras and field sampling. The FMFN Environmental Guardian program has deployed an array of cameras across the study area, providing important insight into the broader mammal community in the area, additional spatial sampling coverage, and potential control sites for the project’s experimental design. We will present details of combining information from the Environmental Guardian program and the landscape experiment and discuss the value of conservation and restoration project partnerships with Indigenous Nations.