Give mountain caribou a fighting chance

Photo: David Moskowitz

The first time I encountered an endangered mountain caribou was on the edge of a meadow above the Seymour River. There, hours north of Salmon Arm, the Seymour snakes through wild and remote valleys that are filled with some of the last remaining pockets of old growth in British Columbia’s Inland Temperate Rainforest. 

A fuzzy photo of Eddie’s first mountain caribou sighting.

It was a powerful moment: a young caribou, part of the Columbia North herd, grazing in the same river valley that its ancestors have roamed for thousands of years. Yet that memory has stayed with me for another reason — since then, two more herds south of the Seymour have been declared extinct and another teeters on the brink.

Two decades ago, there were nine mountain caribou populations between the Seymour River and the U.S. border. Now, that young caribou’s herd is the only one left in this region with a shot at a long-term future — but its survival is far from guaranteed if we continue to cut down the ancient forests it depends upon.

Thousands of hectares of B.C.’s Inland Temperate Rainforest are currently slated for logging, including over 600 hectares in the Seymour River watershed considered to be core habitat for the Columbia North herd. Will you give today to help defend these forests from the chainsaw and safeguard the future of B.C.’s mountain caribou?

Give to protect mountain caribou

It’s no coincidence that mountain caribou herds are going extinct just as heavy machines slash huge swathes through the last remaining patches of old-growth Inland Temperate Rainforest. The unique, deep-snow dwelling caribou found in this region have evolved in tandem with these forests. Their survival — and that of this globally threatened ecosystem — are inextricably linked. 

In the Inland Temperate Rainforest, horsehair and witch’s hair lichens cling to ancient trees that are watered by year-round rain and the constant trickling of melting snow. Those lichens provide just enough sustenance for mountain caribou to survive the cold days of deep winter; their stomachs even carry special bacteria to digest them. 

Mountain caribou also need continuous, old-growth expanses of Inland Temperate Rainforest so they can avoid predators, reduce their exposure to diseases carried by other ungulates and find food while they migrate seasonally between their high- and low-elevation habitats. 

Yet our Inland Temperate Rainforest is being cut down as quickly as the Amazon. Today, only 12% of this ecosystem’s moist cedar-hemlock forest is still old growth, while more than one quarter is cutblocks. 

Intact forests in the Seymour River watershed.

Friend, if we don’t protect those last remaining old stands, our southernmost caribou will be lost forever. But in this there is hope — with your support, we know protection is possible.

Time and again the Wildsight community has demonstrated the power of people working together to defend the landscapes they love, and the wild animals that call them home. Last year, over 400 of you sent letters to decision makers demanding the (successful) deferral of more proposed clearcuts in the Columbia North herd’s range. This community’s advocacy has led to the protection of the Incomappleux Conservancy, the Cummins River Protected Area, stands of old growth Inland Temperate Rainforest at Bigmouth Creek, and many other landscapes. Now, we’re at it again, fighting Pacific Woodtech and Stella Jones’s latest proposed clearcuts in the Seymour River watershed.

What often goes unreported in these campaigns are the countless hours of researching and groundtruthing that happen before public action begins. These are hours spent combing through the latest provincial cutblock proposals and overlaying them with caribou habitat and old growth maps to understand what’s at risk. They’re hours spent liaising with politicians and decision makers to determine the best path to protection, and coordinating our approach with First Nations. And they’re hours spent in the air and on the land, flying over remote valleys and walking cutblock boundaries to verify tree ages and forest types. Only then, once armed with the facts, can we mount an effective fight to protect caribou habitat from the chainsaw.

Your gift today will fight for caribou habitat in the Seymour River watershed and many more wild and precious parts of the Inland Temperate Rainforest. As a community, we can protect these forests. As a community, we can give B.C.’s last mountain caribou a fighting chance. Will you join us?

For the wild,

Eddie Petryshen

Eddie Petryshen, Conservation Specialist, Wildsight