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OTTAWA, O.N. — Resource companies could face tougher rules from the federal government unless provincial governments act to protect endangered caribou populations.

According to The Globe and Mail, companies in the oil and gas, mining and forestry industries are hearing calls from scientists and environmental groups that boreal caribou herds face extinction unless action is taken to protect and restore habitat. Just last week, the Fort Nelson First Nation announced an action plan to address declining caribou populations in the northeast corner of the province.

Industry officials, for their part, warn that regulatory uncertainty and the potential for restrictive regulations is jeopardizing investment and threatening the significant job losses in Northern and rural communities.

Five years ago, the provinces and the feds signed an agreement under the federal Species at Risk Act that they would report to Ottawa on their efforts to ensure caribou are protected. The deadline for reporting those efforts was last week, but most provinces missed the deadline for full recovery plans.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has until April to determine whether those provincial actions are adequate. If federal scientists determine some herds still face serious declines, the federal government would offer the species emergency protection and draft up its own plans.

Efforts to protect caribou are complicated by various resource sectors facing regulators from different levels of government: provinces for forestry and oil and gas exploration; the National Energy Board for oil and gas pipelines, and the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency for new mining projects. In Northeast B.C. environmental approval for HD Mining’s proposed Murray River coal mine is on hold pending completion of a caribou protection plan, while the National Energy Board approved Enbridge’s Wyndwood natural gas pipeline.

With files from The Globe and Mail:

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