Caribou across the province continue to be displaced from their critical habitat as our human footprint grows unabated.
Almost 30 of B.C.’s 52 surviving mountain caribou herds are at risk of disappearing, and a dozen of those herds now have fewer than 25 animals. This past winter in the Kootenays we have suffered the loss of both the South Selkirk and South Purcell herds.
If caribou are to survive in B.C., well researched action plans—like those proposed in the Draft Partnership Agreement between B.C., Canada, West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations—must be implemented.
Consultations are now underway on that plan, as well as the Draft Section 11 Agreement between B.C. and Canada that sets the stage for future actions for the recovery of Southern Mountain Caribou. Unfortunately, this draft caribou recovery plan for herds in central B.C. has resulted in misinformed—and often racist—backlash. It is clear that most of the people fighting against caribou protection have little idea of what is in the plans.
The opposition rhetoric has claimed massive job losses and that everyone will be shut out of the backcountry— neither claim is true. Caribou are being scapegoated by some in the forest industry now that cut levels will have to be reduced after the large increases that took place to address the mountain pine beetle salvage. Clearly, actions for caribou will lead to minor reductions in timber supply and some recreational use will need to be relocated. However, these actions will not close mills nor the backcountry. Updates to land use plans are necessary in locations across the province if we are to recover wildlife populations into the future. The West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations have put out a press release that outlines the issues well.
Habitat loss has been taking place very rapidly, and wildlife, not just caribou, are in steep decline. No habitat, no wildlife. Management that sustains both our communities and wildlife has been derailed for far too long by policies that favour large industry and uncontrolled recreational use. The plan put forward by the Saulteau and West Moberley First Nations is a first step to getting us back on track.
The future of caribou in British Columbia is in your hands—share your voice.
The government is asking for comments on the draft plan, and has extended the deadline to May 31 in hopes that our communities will get informed and provide meaningful input. For more information on the plans, refer to our partner group’s analysis, West Coast Environmental Law.
Additionally, there is a public meeting on April 30 2019 at the Prestige Inn in Cranbrook at 5:30 PM, followed by an open house until 9:30 PM. The meeting provides a great opportunity to learn more and provide your input. Your attendance goes a long way to letting the province know people care and expect meaningful action to recover caribou.
Photo Credit: David Moskowitz