Species at Risk - Woodland Caribou

Caribou (© Valerie Courtois)© Valerie CourtoisThe impact of forest management practices on Species at Risk (SAR), specifically woodland caribou, has emerged as an issue of significant debate in Canada. Populations of woodland caribou are at varying degrees of risk and are particularly sensitive to habitat disturbance. As a result, FSC Canada has drafted an indicator dedicated entirely to boreal caribou (an ecotype of woodland caribou) in its draft national forest management standard.

Mountain caribou, a separate ecotype from boreal caribou, are also very susceptible to landscape disturbance. Although the proposed caribou indicator in the new National Standard applies only to boreal caribou, several of the standard’s indicators that related to landscape management also address issues of concern to mountain caribou.


Boreal caribou exist at sparse densities across broad areas of the northern boreal forest. The areas that they occupy have been identified by ranges and the key relationship between extent of forest disturbance and caribou productivity is calibrated at that broad spatial scale.

Most caribou ranges are larger than forest management units, and the boundaries are different. A significant challenge in developing the woodland caribou indicator is reconciling the scale at which the key relationship is assessed (i.e. caribou ranges) and the scale at which forests are managed (i.e. forest management units).

FSC Canada recognizes that the state of a caribou population is a key consideration in influencing how its environment should be managed. For circumstances in which a Species at Risk-compliant range plan does not exist, the boreal caribou indicator provides increasingly stringent requirements if the caribou population is decreasing or unknown.

Solutions & our current proposed approach

FSC Canada is developing requirements based on the Caribou Science Panel Report (2010), the new FSC Principles and Criteria (v5), relevant science, traditional Aboriginal Peoples knowledge and the Canada Federal Recovery Strategy (2012).

Development of a Species at Risk Act compliant range plan is an on-going process led by government resource management agencies. Implementation of such range plans will follow the approach of the Federal Recovery Strategy and is the preferred route to meet the National Forest Management Standard’s caribou requirements. However, in recognition that range plans may not be in place during the period in which the requirements of the National Forest Management Standard will need to be addressed, the National Forest Management Standard identifies three options for achieving conformance.

  • A. Implementation of a Species at Risk Act-compliant range plan, where one exists. Where a Species at Risk Act-compliant range plan does not exist, Approach B or C below may be implemented.
  • B. Management of caribou habitat consistent with alternate elements provided in the indicator that identify detailed requirements related to disturbance thresholds based on the science presented in the Federal Recover Strategy; or
  • C. Management of caribou habitat using alternative methods provided they are supported by independent expert input and are comparable to, or better than, the methods that form the basis of option B.

More details on these approaches can be found in the Managing for Woodland Caribou Fact Sheet

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is FSC focused on woodland caribou? +/-

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