Williams Lake area residents pack into a meeting to hear about the B.C. government’s plan to further restrict caribou habitat, April 8, 2019. (Angie Mindus/Williams Lake Tribune)

Forestry, recreation squeezed by B.C. caribou recovery strategy

Herds fade away, even in parks protected from development

Years of effort to protect B.C.’s dwindling caribou populations have been a losing battle in most parts of the province, and the federal government is forcing further restriction of woodland habitat.

Last year Ottawa declared an “imminent threat” to caribou under its Species at Risk Act, which triggers consideration of an emergency federal order to stop logging, road building, snowmobiling and other habitat disturbances. Some herds have already disappeared.

B.C. and the federal government have reached a draft agreement on further restrictions to a huge swath of the B.C. Interior, and public input meetings have drawn capacity crowds and protests that Ottawa is going through the motions before imposing its preferred solution.

Protests about the expanded restrictions reached the B.C. legislature Wednesday, as Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier presented a 30,000-name petition calling for a suspension of backcountry closure until “proper consultations” can take place.

READ MORE: Residents pack Williams Lake caribou meeting

VIDEO: Soon-to-be-extinct caribou moved north to Revelstoke

B.C. protected 80 per cent of high-elevation habitat in 2012, with that increased to 100 per cent with low-elevation restrictions in 2014 on orders from Ottawa.

The forest industry has taken its own steps to reduce impact. In its submission to the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Council of Forest Industries argues that habitat protection alone has not worked anywhere in the country.

“Caribou recovery is predicated on much more than habitat preservation, as evidenced by declining caribou populations in Wells Grey Provincial Park and Jasper National Park,” a COFI submission states. “Furthermore, caribou herds have been completely extirpated from Banff National Park, which has been protected as a national park since 1885 and has never had any industrial activity.”

The B.C. government’s caribou recovery strategy recognizes that gas exploration in the northeast, logging across the Interior have changed the predator-prey dynamic by creating access for wolves. A warming climate that has contributed to increased forest fires and expanded moose, deer and elk further north, bringing predators with them.

That combination of factors has seen caribou numbers across B.C. decline from 40,000 in the 1980s to about 15,500 today, with some local groups already extirpated in the North and Kootenays.

The province’s strategy in recent years has included setting up maternal protection pens for caribou, and shooting and trapping wolves in an effort to protect vulnerable calves.

Consultation meetings on further restrictions began April 1 in Chetwynd and Fort St. John, where a West Fraser representative said he was told by the province to expect job losses of 500 people in the Chetwynd-Tumbler Ridge area where Canfor also operates logging and sawmilling.

Consultation sessions are scheduled to continue on the following schedule:

• Quesnel, April 11, 5:30 p.m. at Quesnel and District Seniors’ Centre

• Revelstoke, April 15, 5:30 p.m. at Revelstoke Community Centre

• Nelson, April 16, 5:30 p.m. at Prestige Lakeside Resort

• Nakusp, April 17, 5:30 p.m. at Nakusp and District Sports Complex

• McBride, April 23, 5:30 p.m. at Robson Valley Community Centre

• Vanderhoof, April 24, 5:30 p.m. at Nechako Valley Secondary School

• Clearwater, April 29, 5:30 p.m., Clearwater Secondary School

• Cranbrook, April 30, 5:30 p.m., Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Coastal GasLink receives first delivery of pipe sections

Company expects to begin welding and pipe laying in 2020

Skeena Voices | The wild path

Courtenay Crucil is a nature-based therapist and herbalist who helps people with the earth in mind

Northwest B.C. physician receives Medal of Good Citizenship Award

Dr. Peter Newbery was one of 18 people in B.C. to get provincial recognition

Terrace RCMP search for wanted man

The public is not believed to be at risk

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

Fashion Fridays: Ethical and sustainable gifts for the season

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

B.C. boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Residents in B.C. city could face 133% tax hike in ‘worst case’ lawsuit outcome: report

An average home could see a tax increase of $2,164 in one year

B.C. Transit finds 28 used fareboxes online, saves $300,000

‘Someone joked maybe we can buy used fareboxes on eBay,’ CEO says

Many of Canada’s working poor can’t afford lawyers, don’t qualify for legal aid

One lawyer says many people earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to really live on

Economy lost 71,200 jobs in November, unemployment rate climbs to 5.9%

Jobless rate is at its highest since August 2018, when it hit 6%

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Vancouver Island college for checkup

Royal BC Museum, Camosun College and Coachwerks Restorations come together to care for car

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Most Read