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.

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

Just Posted

Try reading to your baby to develop language

The Books for Babies program has been giving new book bags to new parents in the Cariboo since 2001

Youth Discover the Trades coming up in February for SD27 students

Around 80 Grade 7 students will be getting hands-on trade experience at TRU

Brock Hoyer settles for fifth place in Snow BikeCross at X Games

The lakecity athlete rode hard but was fouled up by loose snow in the third lap

World Religion Day an inclusive, well-attended offering

“It was fabulous,” he said. “Last year’s turnout was decent. But this year was quite wonderful.”

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Kobe Bryant killed in California helicopter crash: reports

NBA star was reportedly in his private helicopter at the time of the crash

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Risk of coronavirus low in B.C. as first case emerges in Toronto: officials

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in B.C.

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Most Read