Premier John Horgan meets with former MLA Blair Lekstrom (left) and Forests Minister Doug Donaldson about new land use restrictions to preserve caribou, Dawson Creek, April 19, 2019. (B.C. government)

Local governments not sidelined in Indigenous talks, B.C. minister says

Doug Donaldson addresses fallout from caribou habitat plan

A sweeping plan to expand caribou habitat at the expense of struggling local economies turned into the top issue for B.C. local governments gathered for their convention this week, and Forests Minister Doug Donaldson has taken steps to reassure them.

After Premier John Horgan put new forest and mining restrictions in northeast B.C. on hold for further consultations this spring, Donaldson told Black Press last week that additional protected areas in the Cariboo and Kootenay regions won’t be necessary to protect dwindling caribou herds.

And going into the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver this week, Donaldson said the province’s plan to proceed with new legislation to formalize Indigenous rights on land use doesn’t mean the needs of local governments are downgraded.

“I come from a local government background, so I’m well aware of how local governments often have a lot of on-the-ground knowledge with local first nations,” Donaldson said in an interview.

“When we as a government directly engage with first nations on a government-to-government basis, by treaties or other agreements, we will and do engage with individual local governments on their interests. If you don’t, you’re losing out on valuable relationships and experience that many local governments have created with local first nations.”

A resolution calling on the province to maintain “principles of mutual respect, consultation and cooperation” with local governments passed with little discussion Wednesday, after being endorsed by the UBCM executive as their top selection for the 2019 convention.

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.

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.

RELATED: Forestry, recreation squeezed by B.C. caribou plan

RELATED: Soon-to-be-extinct caribou moved north of Revelstoke

“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 Sept. 18. Killing wolves and protecting caribou calves in maternity pens are among strategies that have had some success.

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 report by the Council of Forest Industries earlier this year 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.

BC legislature

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

Just Posted

Bird contacting wires causes massive Port Hardy power outage

The power outage started at 1:18 p.m. and lasted until 3:00 p.m.

Port Hardy Salvation Army serving lunch daily during pandemic

Centre is closed to the public, but overnight shelter, daily lunch and one-on-one services available

Port Hardy arena waiting for almost three million in grant funds needed for maintenance

The funds will be going towards upgrades to the arena and the lobby entrance.

Seniors housing in Port Hardy moves ahead with rezoning application

North Island seniors able to “age in place” in new facility, currently getting funding and permits

Port McNeill curling club will be getting a brand new paint job, thanks to residents

‘The generosity of this community never ceases to amaze me!’

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

Gold River ready to welcome visitors and restart local businesses

In contrast to single-industry remote communities, Gold River’s diversified economy might help it better survive after reopening

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

Search and rescue crews help locate 62-year-old Nanoose Bay mountain biker

RCMP: Man got lost on trail and did right thing by calling for assistance

B.C. ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Most Read