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

VIDEO: Langley-based Spartans volleyball team sweeps series against Winnipeg

Next up, Spartans semifinal against Thompson Rivers

VIDEO: Giants winning streak now stands at 11

Team erased a 5-2 deficit by scoring every five minutes

New Alberta forward joins Vancouver Giants’ ranks

new left-handed 18-year-old is a familiar face to Giants head coach Michael Dyck

Langley Advance Times Arts Calendar: Feb. 21, 2020 edition

The arts calendar is published Fridays and the community calendar is in the Wednesday print edition

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

Fiery collision involving truck closes Highway 1 at Three Valley Gap

Drivers should expect major delays and congestion; estimated time of re-opening is 2 p.m.

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Most Read