The Canadian province of Alberta on Wednesday began selling land critical to the survival of mountain caribou to the energy industry.
The auction of leases, which continues until June 25, comes the same month the iconic mammals were characterized as endangered — facing imminent extirpation or extinction— by the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
That assessment also noted that the mountain caribou's population has declined by 60% over the past decade, that "even in protected areas they aren’t doing well," and that industrial development was a factor in their plummeting numbers.
Over 1,700 hectares are part of the current auction, with the biggest chunk — 1,237 hecatres — coming from the area home to the Narraway herd and that has had over 25, 000 hectares auctioned off since 2012, according to the the Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA).
"New lease holders expecting to create new surface disturbance to prove energy leases only worsen the problems for Alberta’s endangered caribou," stated Carolyn Campbell, conservation specialist at AWA.
"For these vanishing populations, such harmful practices should be long gone, especially considering there are technological and financial tools that offer viable alternatives to the status quo."
The group is urging the "government to stop undermining caribou survival chances and to halt new leasing and surface disturbance within caribou ranges."