Sometimes we all need a little help from our friends. That’s why we’ve teamed up with our U.S.-based counterpart, Earthjustice, to submit a petition to the U.S. government, asking it to denounce Canada’s irresponsible tar sands development, which is driving woodland caribou to extinction in Alberta.

Nine U.S. groups and three Canadian groups have signed on to the petition, which was delivered today.

When it comes to protecting caribou, the Canadian government refuses to act on an issue where time is not a luxury. Unchecked tar sands development has destroyed wide swaths of Canada’s boreal forests where the caribou live. A recent Alberta government study found that local caribou could be extinct in less than 40 years if industrial development continues at its current pace.

The federal environment recently released a proposed strategy for making sure the number of caribou in Canada returns to — and stays at — a healthy number. We denounced that strategy as completely inadequate and a violation of Canada’s Species at Risk Act because it writes off the herds in serious decline and ignores scientific evidence on what caribou need to survive and recover.

One of the biggest problems is that federal government’s proposed recovery strategy makes no mention of protecting and restoring caribou habitat that is being destroyed by tar sands development.

Caribou live in the lichen-filled boreal forest, which they depend on for food and protection all year round. But in the case of Alberta’s northeastern herds, the strategy actually allows for more habitat to be destroyed so long as there is a plan to “stabilize” the populations through other means such as wolf culls or penning.

Loss of habitat is the single greatest threat to Alberta’s caribou. Herds that once numbered in the thousands now have fewer than 100 members, and some may disappear entirely without immediate action. Yet as of July 2010, there were 34 current or approved oilsands projects and 12 additional proposed projects within the herds’ ranges.