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Polar bears, caribou herds not endangered

Daniel T'seleie
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (July 25/05) - Polar bears, Peary caribou and Dolphin-Union caribou aren't species at risk, and that has Nunavummiut happy.

Last Wednesday, Environment Canada decided not to include those animals under the Species at Risk Act.

"NTI was relieved that (Environment) Minister (Stephane) Dion made this decision," said Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) president Paul Kaludjak - about the Peary herd - in a press release.

The Peary and Dolphin-Union herds were left off the list so Environment Canada could consult more with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB), according to an Environment Canada press release.

In May - after Dion recommended the Peary herd be considered at risk - NTI expressed concern the minister had "disregarded the process for making such designations as set out in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement," Kaludjak said.

The federal government is required to consult with the board before making such designations. Despite some consultation, "NWMB felt that the process was not being followed," said the board's chief executive officer Joe Tigullaraq.

Both NTI and the board had contacted Environment Canada with their concerns.

"(Dion) and his officials were listening and we truly appreciate this," Kaludjak said.

The health of polar bear populations will undergo further review by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada which decides whether a species is added to the act.

In a letter dated July 12, 2005, NWMB informed Dion of decisions on whether the board agrees or disagrees with the proposed listings of Peary Caribou as endangered, Dolphin-Union Caribou as a species of special concern, and the moss known as Porsild's Bryum as threatened, Tigullaraq said.

"The decisions are confidential," he said.

The minister has 60 days to respond to the board's letter.

Once the minster does respond, there will be further consultation between the federal government, NWMB and the affected communities, Tigullaraq said.