August 2020 - When we work with other companies to voluntarily restore caribou habitat in northeastern Alberta, we want to share what we learn with our peers to maximize our effectiveness. A recent study we led through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) did exactly that.
The study, informally called Restoration 3.0, builds on previous, similar research and examined disturbed habitat in five caribou ranges near COSIA members’ oil sands operations. Old seismic lines, access roads and other linear features have fragmented caribou habitat and have left the animals more vulnerable to being hunted by wolves and other predators.
Restoration 3.0 finds the best areas for restoration by considering criteria such as future potential resource development, the cost of the restoration work and areas within caribou ranges that provide the best quality habitat for the animals. Bottom line: To maximize the benefit to caribou, areas with the largest number of caribou and greatest opportunity for intact habitat should be given priority for restoration over other disturbed areas with few caribou.
With this knowledge, we can focus our restoration efforts on these stretches of land to help stabilize and recover caribou populations. That way companies can help make the biggest difference for caribou habitat in the most cost-effective way while maintaining resource development on a shared landscape.
The findings of Restoration 3.0 will help COSIA members with active restoration programs finetune their work, in Cenovus’s case our Caribou Habitat Restoration Project, through which we’re aiming to restore more land within caribou ranges than is disturbed by our activities.