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David Suzuki Foundation and Assembly of First Nations challenge traditional socio-economic accounting of Canada's caribou habitat

OTTAWA (ON) — Broadcaster and scientist David Suzuki joined the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today in calling for the federal government to reassess the way it determines the economic value of the habitat of iconic species in Canada like the boreal woodland caribou.

"Decision-makers in Canada too often look at nature as a resource to exploit and rarely calculate the broad range of socio-economic values for nearby residents and communities," Suzuki said. "It is time for Canada to begin calculating the true value of nature — especially the immense cultural, spiritual and ecological values."

The call for an expanded scope for socio-economic assessments is outlined in a report released today, The Cultural and Ecological Value of Boreal Woodland Caribou and Habitat. The report was commissioned by the David Suzuki Foundation and the Assembly of First Nations, with assistance from the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Research.

"Almost 300 First Nations are in territories that encompass caribou habitat," said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. "It is important that these communities are consulted on the development and implementation of any recovery strategies to ensure that the socio-economic impacts are taken into account because these communities will be directly affected by those strategies. First Nations place great emphasis on the integration of traditional values and community knowledge in all recovery stages under the Species at Risk Act."

Traditionally, socio-economic assessments of species and natural resources in Canada have focused on potential economic costs or benefits for industry. This narrow scope reduces the natural world to its value as a resource, and overlooks the ecological, cultural and spiritual benefits that healthy, functioning ecosystems provide.

Under Canada's Species at Risk Act, the federal government is required to develop action plans for woodland caribou that take into account socio-economic values. These plans are now being developed across the country, led by provinces and territories.

As the report outlines, maintaining or destroying boreal woodland caribou habitat has dramatic impacts outside of those traditionally tallied by industry. For example, the value of caribou as sustenance to First Nations communities and its habitat provides a multitude of ecological services such as cleaning water and sequestering carbon that have been valued at millions of dollars per year.

Download a copy of the report here. For more information, please contact:

Rachel Plotkin, Biodiversity Policy Analyst, 416 348-9885, x 1582 rplotkin@davidsuzuki.org
Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer, (613) 241-6789 ext.382 agaron@afn.ca
Jeff Beaudry, AFN Junior Policy Analyst, (613) 241-6789 ext.205 or jbeaudry@afn.ca

July 22, 2013

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