In addition to addressing caribou recovery, these sub-regional plans consider a broad range of land uses that support environmental and conservation outcomes, Indigenous traditional use, recreation and economic development.

“Sub-regional plans make good on our commitment to take action on caribou recovery while maintaining local industry and jobs and building strong communities. It’s critical that these plans are made in Alberta and incorporate feedback from Albertans, Indigenous communities, industry and other stakeholders to ensure they best reflect the needs of Albertans and wildlife in each region, rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach imposed on us from Ottawa.”

Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks

“Our forestry industry is dedicated to protecting species and protecting a working landscape. The approach of Alberta’s government is to partner with the forestry industry to ensure that our wildlife, landscapes and economy can flourish simultaneously.”

Dan Williams, chair, Bistcho Lake caribou sub-regional task force, and MLA for Peace River

“The caribou task forces balance very diverse groups, representing the priorities of industry, the environment, recreation, municipalities and Indigenous Peoples that have brought together practical solutions and recovery outcomes that will help the threatened caribou populations recover.”

David Hanson, chair, Cold Lake caribou sub-regional task force, and MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul

“Tolko supports Alberta’s efforts to grow the economy and protect the environment. Sub-regional plans support both and address emerging concerns about cumulative effects.”

Brad Thorlakson, president and CEO, Tolko Industries Ltd.

“Cenovus recognizes the importance of sub-regional planning and the critical role these plans play in caribou recovery. The Cold Lake sub-regional plan is the result of a lengthy multisectoral engagement conducted by the Government of Alberta, and we believe that Cenovus made meaningful contributions to the plan during this process. Over the next 100 years, the plan provides for resource development as well as a suite of valued ecological benefits, including sustainment of the Cold Lake caribou herd.”

Tony Jackson, director, Environment and Regulatory Services, Cenovus Energy Inc.

“The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute is committed to providing strong ecological science in support of provincial land-use planning. We are pleased to have provided transparent and scientifically sound information throughout the development of the Bistcho Lake and Cold Lake sub-regional plans. We look forward to supporting the ongoing implementation and evaluation of these plans moving forward. The release of these plans is a major milestone in land management.”

Jim Herbers, executive director, Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute

“Alberta Wilderness Association appreciates that the Alberta government convened sub-regional task forces of stakeholders and rights holders, and has now finalized these important caribou plans. We thank all the participants in this process and look forward to digging into the details of the plans and assisting with implementation, especially with processes to support Indigenous land-use priorities.”

Carolyn Campbell, conservation director, Alberta Wilderness Association

A sub-regional plan supports traditional, social, economic and environmental outcomes within a specific area by identifying when and where land uses can occur.

Key aspects of the Cold Lake and Bistcho Lake sub-regional plans include defining where certain land-use activities can be placed or occur and for how long, including roads, oil and gas development, timber harvest, geophysical exploration, surface material extraction and recreation. The plans also provide detailed restoration and environmental monitoring requirements and socio-economic indicators to enable evaluation of the effectiveness of each sub-regional plan.

The Cold Lake and Bistcho Lake sub-regional plans are the first two of 11 sub-regional plans covering 15 caribou ranges in Alberta. In addition to supporting the recovery of caribou herds, developing made-in-Alberta sub-regional plans mitigates the risk and associated economic and social impacts of federal intervention.

Work on sub-regional planning and caribou recovery efforts will continue. Work on a sub-regional plan for Upper Smoky continues and the work of the caribou sub-regional task forces for the Wandering River and Berland areas is underway. The task force for the Chinchaga area is also expected to start its work later this year.

Habitat restoration

The caribou habitat restoration program is a key component of Alberta’s caribou recovery effort and complements the government’s sub-regional planning work. Through a partnership approach with industry and other levels of government, Alberta has invested more than $33 million in the caribou habitat restoration program since 2018, which includes $30.2 million in provincial funding and $700,000 from industry. Budget 2022 includes a commitment of $10 million per year for caribou habitat recovery, starting in 2023-24. Alberta still awaits a meaningful federal contribution to support the province’s caribou habitat restoration program.

Quick facts

  • Public and Indigenous engagement on draft sub-regional plans for the Cold Lake and Bistcho Lake areas was held last spring.
  • The Bistcho Lake sub-region is located in the northwest part of the Lower Peace Region. This sub-region covers 20,093 square kilometres and overlaps the geographic area of Treaty 8.
  • The Cold Lake sub-region is in the southeast part of the Lower Athabasca Region. This sub-region covers 16,659 square kilometres and overlaps the geographic area of Treaties 6, 8 and 10.
  • Increased restoration and revegetation activities in the Cold Lake and Bistcho Lake sub-regions could support about 340 jobs annually over a 10-year period.
  • In August 2019, three caribou sub-regional task forces were created to provide recommendations across all 15 caribou ranges, divided by geographical area:
    • The northeast task force provided recommendations addressing the Cold Lake, East Side Athabasca, West Side Athabasca, Richardson and Red Earth ranges.
    • The northwest task force provided recommendations addressing the Bistcho, Yates, Caribou Mountains, Chinchaga and Nipisi and Slave Lake ranges.
    • The west-central task force will provide recommendations addressing the Narraway, Redrock-Prairie Creek, Little Smoky and A La Peche ranges.
  • Caribou sub-regional task forces include representatives from municipalities, Indigenous groups, the energy and forestry sectors, trappers, recreational users, environmental non-governmental organizations and other local stakeholders and knowledge holders.