First Nation wants to help caribou recover from forest fires

Forest fire regrowth in the South Slave. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Forest fire regrowth in the South Slave. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

The Deninu K’ue First Nation (DKFN), in partnership with environmental research consultants LGL Limited, is launching a three-year study of how boreal caribou habitat recovers after a forest fire.

The territorial government announced funding for the study earlier this month through its Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources says the program focuses “on understanding environmental trends and the cumulative environmental impacts of human and natural changes in the NWT.” Twelve projects researching fish, water, and caribou will split $760,000 in funding.

Rosy Bjornson, who works for the First Nation and is from Fort Resolution, is helping to lead the caribou habitat study.



“The goal of this project is to address knowledge gaps that limit our ability to ensure sustainability for boreal caribou in our traditional hunting areas,” she said.

‘Should be a priority’

The study uses a mix of traditional knowledge and western science to monitor caribou habitat.

Researchers have already surveyed local Elders about caribou personalities, diet, habitat, and range. Elders described the animal’s many uses and how many caribou they had seen in their lifetimes.

The first round of data collection will begin in August at three former forest fire sites in various stages of regrowth. LGL ecologists and biologists, alongside two DKFN technicians, will measure and map the vegetation caribou eat, such as lichen, to determine growth after a forest fire.

“We work with water monitoring and air monitoring,” said Bjornson. “Wildlife monitoring should be another priority of each First Nation within their traditional territory.

“It’s better for us as a First Nation to understand because that way we’re able to make better decisions when it comes to sustainable development.”