Parks Canada had refused any development by Marmot Basin into the wilderness area of its lease in the Whistlers Creek Valley since 1981 because of possible adverse effects on woodland caribou and mountain goats. However, in 2008 it decided to consider development expansion into the valley depending on the results of an independent two-year caribou study. The study was completed in March 2014 and the JEA understood it would be available to the public last fall but all requests to obtain it since then were refused.
The Report on the Tonquin Caribou Risk Assessment was finally released this week – but not by Parks Canada. It was released by Dr. Fiona Schmiegelow, the report’s lead author, citing the abrupt firing last month of Dr. John Wilmshurst, Jasper’s Resource Conservation Manager, as the catalyst for her decision to make the report public.
The 62-page report and its 97-page appendix show only too clearly the importance of Whistlers Creek Valley to the caribou, the dire straits the Tonquin caribou herd is in and steps that should be taken to avoid disturbance of this endangered population that has dropped from approximately 111 in 2006 to 54 in 2011.