A northern B.C. caribou recovery partnership agreement inked by four governments Friday will help shape similar frameworks across B.C., forests minister Doug Donaldson said.
“The partnership agreement we signed with the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations today outlines 600,000 hectares in the Peace Region and the bilateral Section 11 agreement federal minister Wilkinson and myself signed outlines how we will proceed on the other 21 herds in the province,” Donaldson told the Tribune Friday.
Donaldson confirmed government staff has told him there could be boundary adjustments in order to accommodate habitat protection in other areas of the province.
“That could be extended boundaries and boundaries that could be adjusted inwards. That’s all work that’s occurring at the herd planning level.”
Under Section 11 agreements being developed around the province, Donaldson said depending on the herd, Indigenous communities and local government are at the table and the province has been consulting with industry and interest groups, such as snowmobile advisory committees.
The BC Liberals, however, were swift to condemn the agreement Friday, calling the consultation a ‘sham.’
“This is yet another slap in the face to rural British Columbia with John Horgan once again ignoring the concerns of local residents and stakeholders,” noted Mike Bernier, MLA for Peace River South in a press release.
“John Horgan and the NDP never had any intention to adopt the 14 recommendations presented to government last June. Moving ahead without any meaningful input from the general public shows John Horgan’s disregard for this entire region of B.C.” Bernier noted.
Reacting, Donaldson said when the NDP became government 30 months ago they were facing the threat of a Section 80 order that the federal government could have unilaterally imposed strictly on habitat considerations.
“We had to pick the ball up because the ball had been dropped by the Liberals previously,” Donaldson said. “We’ve ensured that community workers and tenure-holder interests will be acknowledged at the partnership table with funding from the federal government. The word ‘sham’ is far from what the First Nations consider the process to be.”
Chief Roland Wilson in a medial release from the West Moberly First Nation thanked everyone from the Peace region that was engaged in the 12-month process that led to developing the agreement.
“Now, the real work begins,” Wilson stated.” Several doors have been opened for you to participate in implementation. We look forward to this collaboration, and to joint efforts dispelling myths, combating racism, and promoting a region rich in wildlife, culture, and sustainable economic activity.”
Donaldson said the partnership agreement signed Friday is an example of what happens when people come to the table with respectful dialogue and the right attitude and a ‘true’ desire to work together.
“I anticipate that will be reflected in the other herd agreements we’ve embarked upon around the province, including areas to the west of Williams Lake.”
Meetings about caribou herd planning have occurred with First Nations in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region, with industry and the Cariboo Regional District, Donaldson said, adding he didn’t have any specific dates for future meetings.
“All are welcome to the meetings,” he said. “Local people have the knowledge that needs to be incorporated into the planning process.”