Progress reports released on work to help NWT species at risk


A group of wildlife regulatory boards and governments reported on progress towards implementing plans to keep polar bears, amphibians and boreal caribou in the NWT from disappearing.  

The updates, released on Wednesday, are the first progress reports for these species. Under the Species at Risk Act, the group of wildlife boards and governments – known as the Conference of Management Authorities (CMA) – is legally required to report on progress every five years or sooner.

The documents detail hundreds of actions taken by the CMA to implement management plans for polars bears and amphibians, as well as a recovery strategy for boreal caribou. The reports amphibians and boreal caribou outline work done between 2017 and 2021. The one on polar bears outlines progress made between 2018 and 2021.

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Polar bears, boreal caribou and two of the NWT’s amphibians are all on the territory’s list of species at risk. Polar bears are listed as a species of special concern, whereas western toads, northern leopard frogs and boreal caribou are listed as threatened.

In 2017, wildlife management partners in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region laid out a management plan to maintain healthy polar bear populations and traditional Inuvialuit use. That same year, the CMA developed a management plan to maintain healthy populations of amphibian species and a strategy to help boreal caribou populations recover.

Progress highlights listed in the report on polar bears include ongoing population surveys, enhanced communication with communities, as well as research on diet, parasites and disease.

The amphibian report emphasizes the completion of an survey near Fort Liard, where new western toad breeding sites were found, and the placement of acoustic recording units in various locations across the territory to help understand where the species are located.

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Finally, the report on caribou highlights work done to expand monitoring programs, review best practices for reducing the impact of development on caribou, and public listening sessions in the Sahtu region on the most effective ways to conserve caribou.

Despite progress, the reports also identify areas where more work is needed. For example, more money is needed to support some critical work outlined in the polar bear management plan, such as a project to bring Inuvialuit knowledge into polar bear population modelling. And more research and monitoring is needed for boreal caribou, especially when it comes to their numbers and the pressures they face, according to the report.

This article is produced under a Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0 licence through the Wilfrid Laurier University Climate Change Journalism Fellowship.