According to provincial figures, caribou herds have declined significantly. Protection efforts across the province are underway. (File photo)

According to provincial figures, caribou herds have declined significantly. Protection efforts across the province are underway. (File photo)

Land west of Quesnel secured for caribou habitat, restoration in deal with gold mine

More than 11,000 hectares have been set aside for the endangered animals

A caribou collaboration with government, gold mine and First Nations has turned into a big parcel of land for habitat.

It was announced on April 20 that more than 11,000 hectares have been set aside for the endangered animals, all of it in the the area just west of Quesnel. Under the title Caribou Mitigation and Monitoring Plan, the parties involved are calling the move an innovative group effort.

See a video discussing the project BY CLICKING HERE.

The agreement was created between the federal government, provincial government, Artemis Gold operating the Blackwater Gold Mine under construction in the habitat vicinity, plus the Indigenous nations of Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation and the Ulkatcho First Nation. Together in a join statement they called it “a groundbreaking plan” that will see the huge parcel of land “secured for 50 years in central B.C. for caribou habitat” plus a financial contribution of $2.7-million made by Artemis for “caribou habitat restoration initiatives.”

Artemis owns the Blackwater Mine project, a gold and silver mine under construction that is located on the eastern edge of the Tweedsmuir caribou range. The population of Tweedsmuir caribou has dwindled over the past few decades due to several factors.

“The land securement is located in and around Capoose Mountain, adjoining Tweedsmuir Park, in a provincially designated high elevation ungulate winter range for caribou habitat with known recent and regular caribou use,” the parties said in their joint statement. “The securement commits the company to not explore or develop its mineral tenures in the securement area. The ungulate winter range designation also precludes logging, effectively eliminating the potential for industrial activity in the area.”

The money will be spent on habitat-boosting initiatives that are suggested by the Lhoosk’uz Dené and Ulkatcho people, in collaboration with the province and federation. A caribou monitoring program will also be established.

“It is a privilege to partner and work with the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation, the Ulkatcho First Nation, and the provincial and federal governments on a plan that will help accommodate the growth and rehabilitation of the Tweedsmuir herd,” said Steven Dean, Chairman and CEO of Artemis Gold Inc. “We support the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation and the Ulkatcho First Nation in their plans to lead this important work, and view the provincial and federal government support for this initiative as a meaningful step towards reconciliation.”

The development of the Caribou Mitigation and Monitoring plan is the first time a company, the provincial government and First Nations have collaborated to secure mineral tenures for a period of time in connection with caribou offsetting. It is also the first time an order under the Environment and Land Use Act has been used to ensure the preservation and maintenance of caribou habitat by securing mineral tenures.

“Our connection to the land, the water, the mountains and the Caribou are all very sacred. We truly believe the Caribou Mitigation and Monitoring plan we developed with Artemis Gold Inc, Ulkatcho First Nation and the federal and provincial governments is precedent setting, and we look forward to implementing the plans and seeing the Caribou flourish again,” Council, Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation.

“Working with Artemis Gold, Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation, and the provincial and federal governments to address the decline in Caribou has been an important collaboration,” said Chief Lynda Price of the Ulkatcho First Nation. “There has always been a cultural connection between Caribou and the Ulkatcho First Nation, and we see success as protecting the Tweedsmuir and Itcha Ilgachuz herds and increasing our local herd populations.”

“Respectful relationships between industry and First Nations are foundational to reconciliation efforts and economic prosperity for all British Columbians,” said Josie Osborne, minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. “This initiative combines Indigenous traditional knowledge with industry resources to secure and steward 11,000 hectares of land together with funding for caribou habitat and restoration programs. It is a meaningful example of the potential that can be realized when responsible resource projects proceed in our province.”

“The recovery of endangered caribou herds is incredibly important, and the complex nature of this work requires deep partnership between the province, First Nations and industry,” said Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship. “Artemis Gold’s decision to defer development in 11,000 hectares of critical habitat is a good example of what can be achieved when these partners work together in a respectful way that benefits both ecosystem health, caribou recovery and economic activity.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: 13 caribou in maternity pen released into the B.C. wild

READ MORE: Caribou recovery plan sees 156 wolves culled in West Chilcotin mountains in last 3 years

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