The federal Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population in Canada, identifies coordinated actions to reclaim woodland caribou habitat as a key step to meeting current and future caribou population objectives. Actions include restoring industrial landscape features such as roads, seismic lines, pipelines, cut-lines, and cleared areas in an effort to reduce landscape fragmentation and the changes in caribou population dynamics associated with changing predator-prey dynamics in highly fragmented landscapes. Reliance on habitat restoration as a recovery action within the federal Recovery Strategy is high, identifying 65% undisturbed habitat in a caribou range as the threshold to providing a 60% chance that a local population will be self-sustaining. In alignment with the federal Recovery Strategy, Alberta’s Provincial Woodland Caribou Policy identifies habitat restoration as a critical component of long-term caribou habitat management.
Habitat restoration initiatives of Alberta’s historical industrial footprint within caribou ranges began in 2001 and have largely focused on linear corridors, including pipelines. Initiatives include revegetation treatments, access control programs and studies, and restricting the growth of plant species that are favourable to moose and deer, the primary prey for wolves. Habitat restoration for pipelines also includes pre-construction planning to reduce disturbance and create line-of-sight breaks, and construction techniques that promote natural vegetation recovery. Lessons learned from habitat restoration programs implemented on pipeline projects in northeastern Alberta will be shared as an opportunity to improve common understanding of restoration techniques, the barriers to implementation, and potential outcomes.