04/16/2015 12:23 EDT | Updated 06/16/2015 01:12 EDT

Drilling continues on critical caribou habitat despite recovery deadline

EDMONTON - Thousands of oil and gas wells continue to be drilled on critical caribou habitat despite an approaching deadline for Alberta to come up with a plan to restore those ranges.A University of Montana scientist says an industry database shows drilling continues even on ranges that are almost completely disrupted and where new exploration is banned.Mark Hebblewhite says industrial disturbance in almost all of those areas is already much higher than suggested under federal targets. He says the added activity will make it harder for Alberta to develop range recovery plans that are required by federal law by 2017.Alberta Environment says industry operates under strict rules that are designed to minimize impacts on the herds, several of which are considered in imminent danger of disappearing.