Caribou calf in a maternity pen near Revelstoke, to protect it from wolves until it is old enough to survive, 2014. (Black Press Media)

B.C. Interior caribou protection area big enough, minister says

Proposals sparked protest in Kootenays, Williams Lake region

Additional caribou protection areas are needed in the Peace region, but not in the majority of B.C. that lies west of the Rocky Mountains, Forests Minister Doug Donaldson says.

Residents of the Kootenays and Cariboo regions packed public meetings this spring to demand details of a proposed caribou protection strategy. They were concerned about federal demands to expand industrial and recreational no-go zones in an effort to protect dwindling herds.

Since then, biologists have surveyed the state of 54 B.C. herds, the effect of wolf kills, maternity pens and other protection strategies, and gathered public feedback.

“We’re visiting the communities and we’ve already targeted at least 20 herds for management plans,” Donaldson said in an interview. “We’ll be developing those over the next couple of years in consultation with communities and their interests. But we think we have enough tools at our disposal not to require additional habitat protection areas for those herds.”

The exception is east of the Rockies in the Peace region, home of B.C.’s largest caribou herds and also extensive oil and gas, forestry and mining development. There the province has developed a plan to protect an additional 700,000 hectares of prime caribou habitat.

Premier John Horgan called on Dawson Creek councillor and former MLA Blair Lekstrom to make recommendations this spring, after Peace region residents protested being shut out of talks between the province and the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations on the extent of protection.

The province accepted Lekstrom’s recommendation to put a moratorium on “new high-impact forestry and mining activities” in the Peace region for two years, while consultation continues on restrictions that could shut down some forest operations.

RELATED: Forestry, recreation squeezed by caribou restrictions

RELATED: B.C. temporarily halts northeast mine, forest development

Protection strategies have been expanded in recent years, including snowmobile restrictions and extensive forest protection zones. Despite those measures, mountain caribou herds in the Kootenays have dwindled, in some cases to extinction.

“Our analysts are looking around at the other herds that need to be protected in the province, and they feel that we have enough habitat protection measures in place related to those other herds,” Donaldson said.

The federal government was preparing an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act to impose new restrictions, citing climate change and habitat disturbance as key factors in the population decline. Over the past century, B.C. caribou populations have fallen from an estimated 40,000 animals to about 15,000.

A 2018 report by the Council of Forest Industries pointed out that caribou populations have also declined in Wells Gray Provincial Park and Jasper National Park. Caribou have disappeared from Banff National Park, which has been protected from industrial activity since 1885.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Gate House Theatre presents: A Suessified Christmas Carol

The play was an entertaining, amusing and engaging blend of the rhyme based story telling.

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: San Josef Bay

“I have always had an overwhelming desire to get to the sea stacks as soon as possible”

Port Hardy Rotary Club donates $8,077 to the Gazette Christmas Hamper Fund

The hamper fund raises food and donations for many communities in the North Island.

Oscar Hickes: The longest running hockey tournament on Vancouver Island has been cancelled

Patrick Murray, one of the organizers for the tournament, broke the sad news on social media.

Port McNeill council wants to see a plan on how to protect and invest tax dollars

“if we can make $40,000 or $50,000 in interest, why not, as it could reduce taxes”

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Second warning on romaine lettuce from California region as another E. coli case reported

Two cases of E. coli have been reported in relation to the illness in the U.S.

Residents in B.C. city could face 133% tax hike in ‘worst case’ lawsuit outcome: report

An average home could see a tax increase of $2,164 in one year

B.C. Transit finds 28 used fareboxes online, saves $300,000

‘Someone joked maybe we can buy used fareboxes on eBay,’ CEO says

Many of Canada’s working poor can’t afford lawyers, don’t qualify for legal aid

One lawyer says many people earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to really live on

Economy lost 71,200 jobs in November, unemployment rate climbs to 5.9%

Jobless rate is at its highest since August 2018, when it hit 6%

Most Read