Protecting Wildlife


A number of wildlife species are vulnerable to oil sands development activities and have been affected by disturbances to their habitats.

Oil sands development can affect plants and wildlife in several ways. Impacts occur when operations disrupt the habitat of a species – for example, by clearing land for well sites or mining. Linear developments such as roads, cutlines and pipeline rights-of-way can affect wildlife by creating travel corridors for predators such as wolves.


Oil sands producers avoid sensitive habitats, optimize the area needed for well sites, and work with other users to reduce the disturbance footprint by sharing roads and pipelines. They also maintain site hygiene to deter animals, and use deterrence tools and programs to keep wildlife from harm.

The first priority is to identify the species and habitats needing protection. Industry associations and companies work with scientists, government officials, landowners and interest groups to accomplish this.

The industry funds and supports research on species such as woodland caribou and grizzly bears to determine how they are affected by operations.

CAPP – and industry – is an active participant in regional land use planning. The Alberta government Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) represents a milestone step forward in the implementation of balanced land use planning and cumulative effects management in Alberta. Since September 1, 2012, the LARP provides clarity and predictability regarding Alberta’s vision for development in this region of the province having significant oil sands resource potential.

Meet a man who helps keep "feathers and fuzzies" free from harm

Caribou Habitat Restoration

Through COSIA, oil sands companies are now collaborating to restore caribou habitat in northeastern Alberta. During oil and gas exploration activities over the past 40 years, fragmentation occurred in the boreal forest as corridors were cut to accommodate seismic exploration and access routes for exploration drilling. In recent years, there have been ongoing improvements in exploration and restoration techniques that have allowed oil and gas producers to minimize disturbance and achieve faster recovery of the forest. However, for many older linear corridors and well sites created when regulatory standards were less stringent, the recovery effort is more challenging. Long open stretches within the boreal forest create ideal habitat for deer and moose and make it easier for wolves to hunt their prey, including caribou. This reduces the area’s ability to sustain caribou.

Two major COSIA initiatives are underway to address legacy linear disturbances and return the boreal forest to high quality caribou habitat. The Algar Historic Restoration Project (Algar) and the Linear Deactivation Project (LiDea) are both aimed at addressing rehabilitating seismic lines. The two projects involve different approaches and methodologies, with the intent of sharing learnings across the COSIA companies as the projects progress.

Learn more about these projects

Guiding Principles for
Oil Sands Development: Land

  • We will mitigate our impact on the land while maintaining regional ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • We will progressively reclaim all lands affected by oil sands operations, returning them to
    self-sustaining landscapes.

View the full list of Guiding Principles for Oil Sands Development

Industry in Action

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

Oil sands developers identify and map all potential fish habitat that will be removed by a project and replace it by creating equivalent fish habitat to fully compensate for the loss.

For example, Canadian Natural Resources Limited’s Horizon oil sands mine was required by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to create a fisheries compensation lake to provide twice as much fish habitat as will be lost in the Tar and Calumet rivers due to the project. The lake design was based on four years of stakeholder consultation and a scientific workshop. The lake covers approximately 80 hectares (197 acres) and was designed to provide a variety of habitat types and spawning areas to support at least eight fish species important to the local community. The lake was filled in May 2008 and performance is
exceeding expectations.