Premier John Horgan meets with former MLA Blair Lekstrom (left) and Forests Minister Doug Donaldson about new land use restrictions to preserve caribou, Dawson Creek, April 19, 2019. (B.C. government)

Local governments not sidelined in Indigenous talks, B.C. minister says

Doug Donaldson addresses fallout from caribou habitat plan

A sweeping plan to expand caribou habitat at the expense of struggling local economies turned into the top issue for B.C. local governments gathered for their convention this week, and Forests Minister Doug Donaldson has taken steps to reassure them.

After Premier John Horgan put new forest and mining restrictions in northeast B.C. on hold for further consultations this spring, Donaldson told Black Press last week that additional protected areas in the Cariboo and Kootenay regions won’t be necessary to protect dwindling caribou herds.

And going into the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver this week, Donaldson said the province’s plan to proceed with new legislation to formalize Indigenous rights on land use doesn’t mean the needs of local governments are downgraded.

“I come from a local government background, so I’m well aware of how local governments often have a lot of on-the-ground knowledge with local first nations,” Donaldson said in an interview.

“When we as a government directly engage with first nations on a government-to-government basis, by treaties or other agreements, we will and do engage with individual local governments on their interests. If you don’t, you’re losing out on valuable relationships and experience that many local governments have created with local first nations.”

A resolution calling on the province to maintain “principles of mutual respect, consultation and cooperation” with local governments passed with little discussion Wednesday, after being endorsed by the UBCM executive as their top selection for the 2019 convention.

Horgan called on Dawson Creek councillor and former MLA Blair Lekstrom to make recommendations this spring, after Peace region residents protested being shut out of talks between the province and the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations on the extent of protection.

The province accepted Lekstrom’s recommendation to put a moratorium on “new high-impact forestry and mining activities” in the Peace region for two years, while consultation continues on restrictions that could shut down some forest operations.

Protection strategies have been expanded in recent years, including snowmobile restrictions and extensive forest protection zones. Despite those measures, mountain caribou herds in the Kootenays have dwindled, in some cases to extinction.

RELATED: Forestry, recreation squeezed by B.C. caribou plan

RELATED: Soon-to-be-extinct caribou moved north of Revelstoke

“Our analysts are looking around at the other herds that need to be protected in the province, and they feel that we have enough habitat protection measures in place related to those other herds,” Donaldson said Sept. 18. Killing wolves and protecting caribou calves in maternity pens are among strategies that have had some success.

The federal government was preparing an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act to impose new restrictions, citing climate change and habitat disturbance as key factors in the population decline. Over the past century, B.C. caribou populations have fallen from an estimated 40,000 animals to about 15,000.

A report by the Council of Forest Industries earlier this year pointed out that caribou populations have also declined in Wells Gray Provincial Park and Jasper National Park. Caribou have disappeared from Banff National Park, which has been protected from industrial activity since 1885.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Skeena Voices | An act to remember

Sandra Norman has dressed up as Mrs. Claus for 37 years to bring cheer into patients’ lives

City of Terrace’s public consultation budget meeting sees one-person turnout

75 per cent of tax increase earmarked for new city staff

Expect delays on Nisga’a Highway 113

Avalanche control work is planned between Laxgalts’ap and Gingolx

WHO says China virus not global health emergency

The decision came after Chinese authorities moved to lock down three cities on Thursday

VIDEO: ‘Porn’ answer was a wrong one for Surrey family on ‘Feud’ game show

Surrey’s Rams competed on the TV show Wednesday night

Abandoned boats left to freeze on Okanagan Lake cause chaos

Over the last week weather conditions have caused three separate incidents

B.C. teacher witnesses coronavirus terror in Shanghai: ‘Everyone is on edge’

Face masks and hand sanitizer ‘sell out’ as 9 SARS-like illness cases confirmed in the city

B.C.-based firefighting plane crashes in Australia, killing three

Three people are confirmed dead in the crash in New South Wales

Living near major roads linked to higher risk of dementia, Parkinson’s: UBC study

Green space could mitigate some of the risks, researchers found

B.C. privacy commissioner suggests media civility for Prince Harry and Meghan

Lawyers for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex reportedly sent a letter to British press threatening legal action

Victoria’s plastic-bag ban ended by Supreme Court of Canada

City’s leave to appeal lower court’s decision denied

Most Read