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.

BC legislatureCaribou

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

Just Posted

Mary Lowther column: Contemplating the compost heap

David made me a three-bin compost system

Sarah Simpson Column: Mistakes will happen but kindness prevails

You know those jerks who always follow the trail directions wrong? I… Continue reading

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

New ACT team will help Cowichan residents struggling with mental health issues

The Cowichan Valley ACT team will be one of six new teams being created across the province.

Duncan man at large after massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Most Read