Mountain Caribou: Minister McKenna must stand up for habitat

We are losing our mountain caribou. Across the Kootenays and Columbia, caribou populations are dwindling, with only eight herds left. North of Revelstoke, more than 100 caribou remain, but further south, herd sizes range from roughly thirty to a single, solitary caribou.

For mountain caribou, habitat is critical. The factors in their decline are complex and efforts to save our small southern herds must tackle tough decisions. But when we trace these complex factors back to their roots, habitat is always at the core. Caribou need old growth forests to live in and feed on tree-growing lichens. Caribou need mountains and deep snow to escape predators. Above all, caribou need space to roam, far from humans and everything they bring with them.

With logging, mining, human development and recreation, we’ve seen far too much caribou habitat altered and destroyed. And despite the caribou herds we’ve already lost and the herds on the edge of disappearance, we continue to push further into caribou habitat.

Our mountain caribou are listed as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act, giving the federal government broad powers to protect critical habitat. While the province has taken some steps towards caribou recovery, far more must be done – before it’s too late.

That’s why we’ve written a letter, with our partners, to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna calling on her to act now to stop the destruction of critical caribou habitat. This is a power that the Species at Risk Act gives her and it is a power she must use if we have any hope of keeping our caribou.

In 2014, along with our partners, we won a case in federal court, forcing the federal government to develop a recovery plan for the mountain caribou after years of foot dragging. But a plan is not enough. Now, with a new federal government in place, long overdue action is required.

Caribou habitat needs time to recover. Forests take time to regrow. We must stop the destruction of caribou habitat now – and start the long road to recovery.

Read the letter to Minister McKenna from Wildsight, Yellowstone to Yukon, Greenpeace, Sierra Club and Conservation Northwest.