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.

BC legislature

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

Just Posted

North Cariboo MLA wishes provincial budget offered more support to forestry workers and small businesses

Coralee Oakes was happy to see more funding for Foundry programs, high school mental health supports

Voice for North Cariboo Seniors Feb. 20 guest speaker will speak about seniors’ care at hospital

The Quesnel-based group is also looking for volunteers to help move food products once a week

Quesnel athletes headed to B.C. Winter Games

Sixteen local athletes will compete in six different sports during the Games in Fort St. John

Rotary Club of Quesnel’s first Walk for Water coming up Feb. 21

Money raised will support the Baker Creek Enhancement Society and Roll-A-Hippo Foundation

Plans in full swing for the Richmond 2020 55+ BC Games

Participant registration will open March 1

Pipeline dispute: Tories put no-confidence motion on House of Commons agenda

Conservatives say they have no confidence in the Trudeau government to end the rail blockades

Galchenyuk nets shootout winner as Wild edge Canucks 4-3

Vancouver tied with Calgary for second spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

B.C.’s soda drink tax will help kids lose weight, improve health, says doctor

Dr. Tom Warshawski says studies show sugary drinks contribute to obesity

A&W employees in Ladysmith get all-inclusive vacation for 10 years of service

Kelly Frenchy, Katherine Aleck, and Muriel Jack are headed on all-expenses-paid vacations

B.C. mom’s complaint about ‘R word’ in children’s ministry email sparks review

In 2020, the ‘R’ word shouldn’t be used, Sue Robins says

B.C., federal ministers plead for meeting Wet’suwet’en dissidents

Scott Fraser, Carolyn Bennett says they can be in Smithers Thursday

Province shows no interest in proposed highway between Alberta and B.C.

Province says it will instead focus on expanding the Kicking Horse Canyon to four lanes

First case of COVID-19 in B.C. has fully recovered, health officer says

Three other cases are symptom-free and expected to test negative soon

Budget 2020: Weaver ‘delighted,’ minority B.C. NDP stable

Project spending soars along with B.C.’s capital debt

Most Read