01/29/2012 02:39 EST | Updated 03/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Alberta First Nation outraged at lack of caribou protection

A First Nation in northern Alberta is outraged because federal Environment Minister Peter Kent recently said he will not issue an emergency protection order for woodland caribou.

In some parts of Canada, including Alberta, the mammal is listed as threatened.

"The Dene and the caribou always lived together side by side," said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Adam said those days could be gone forever unless something is done.

Kent still won't issue an order to protect woodland caribou, despite threats to the herds near Alberta's oilsands.

"I think that the minister at this point in time has lost all senses, and in my view I don't think he's credible enough to sit in that position," Adam said .

In July, the Federal Court concluded that the herds in northern Alberta face local extinction. It ordered Kent to revisit the decision to not issue the protection order.

Kent did revisit the decision, but he did not change his mind.

'Tough battle' ahead

Adam said the decision favours oilsands development.

"We're going to have a tough battle … we're not going to move our position," he said. "We're going to dig in and we're going to stand up and start intervening in all of these projects moving forward, if that's the case."

Other groups are pinning their hopes on a woodland caribou recovery strategy. The draft is currently going through a round of public consultations.

Éric Hébert-Daly, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society in Ottawa, said even that draft strategy needs to be toughened up. The strategy calls a 60 per cent caribou survival rate adequate, but Hébert-Daly said he wants that number bumped up to 80 per cent.

"When we look specifically at what's necessary to recover caribou, we know that habitat protection is the single most important thing you can do," he said.

Other critics say that plan, if implemented as proposed, relies too much on shooting wolves rather than on preserving habitat.

Kent was not available for an interview, but his office said his position remains the same on woodland caribou — that nationally, the herds do not face an imminent threat to survival in the rest of their range across Canada.