Provincial Government Seeks Public Comment On New Caribou Recovery Plan

 Photo: Jim Lawrence/Kootenay Reflections Photography

Photo: Jim Lawrence/Kootenay Reflections Photography

Caribou have been in decline across British Columbia for decades, primarily due to habitat destruction and fragmentation as a result of industrial development. Meanwhile, the provincial and federal governments have dragged their feet on taking meaningful action to recover this endangered species. Instead, they've allowed development to continue and have done little to protect and restore caribou habitat, instead relying heavily on a wolf cull program. 

The BC NDP has announced a new plan aimed at recovering dwindling caribou herds and they are looking for public feedback. Please share your comments on the Draft Caribou Recovery Program before the June 15th deadline! 

There are two ways you can submit your comments - On the government's consultation website (see instructions on the site) or by emailing your thoughts to caribou.recovery@gov.bc.ca .

See our submission letter below for key messages - Please be sure to customize your own personal message. Do not copy and paste our letter below, as duplicate submissions will not be accepted by the government.


"Dear Ministers Heyman and Donaldson, 

I am writing in response to the discussion paper for the Provincial Caribou Recovery Program. I ask that you take meaningful, science-based and ethically-informed action to protect mountain caribou in British Columbia and end the culling of wolves. The evidence is clear that the decline in caribou populations throughout BC is primarily driven by habitat destruction and fragmentation.

For decades, industrial development, including logging, mining, oil and gas and the building of roads and other infrastructure has decimated critical caribou habitat. In recent years, the recreational industry (heli-skiing, snowmobiling) has added further disturbance to this sensitive species. 

The 2007 Mountain Caribou Recovery Plan failed to protect adequate habitat and restrict access by the recreational industry, which resulted in wasted tax-payer dollars  and continued decline of endangered caribou herds. 

It’s been over a decade since the first caribou recovery plan, but herds have continued to decline in the face of government inaction. We cannot afford to continue talking about how to save caribou, we need concrete action and we need it now. 

Culling wolves to save caribou is a scientifically flawed approach and, simply put, is an irresponsible biological experiment. Recent data from the South Selkirk suggests in the four years since culling began, the mountain caribou herd in the area declined from 18 animals to just three, despite approximately 30 wolves being killed. Alberta’s wolf cull program serves as proof that culling one species to save another is ineffective. Since 2005, more than 1,200 wolves have been killed under the guise of protecting Alberta’s Little Smokey Caribou herd, with no evidence of herd recovery. 

Aerial gunning of wolves fails to comply with ethical guidelines set by the Canadian Council on Animal Care, as it is not considered an acceptable form of euthanasia. Research shows that many wolves killed by aerial gunning and neck snaring die a slow and excruciatingly painful death.

I am asking you to end the wolf cull immediately and focus on recovery efforts that address the root cause of caribou decline - habitat destruction and fragmentation. Such efforts must include:

  • Complete habitat protection (all seasonal ranges).
  • Moratorium on any further degradation of caribou habitat, including industrial activity (logging, mining, oil and gas), road-building, and recreational tenures.
  • Deactivate and restore forest service roads, trails, seismic lines, etc. that are no longer in use in caribou habitat.
  • Restoration of disturbed habitat.
  • Monitor/enforce closures and protections in caribou habitat

Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback on the provincial caribou recovery program."

Census reveals South Selkirk Mountain Caribou herd on brink of extinction

 Photo: Jim Lawrence / Kootenay Reflections Photography 

Photo: Jim Lawrence / Kootenay Reflections Photography 

Conservationists are devastated by news that a recent census of the endangered South Selkirk mountain caribou herd found that only three females remain. This is down from 11 animals last year. 

While this news is tragic, it isn't a surprise. For decades the logging industry has knowingly decimated critical caribou habitat. Their activities removed an important food source (lichen) and made access (via forest service roads) much easier, especially for predators. In 2014, the BC Liberals announced a wolf cull program, which they claimed would help protect caribou. We knew then and we know now that the cull was simply a way of scapegoating predators while industry continued, business as usual. In fact, it was the forestry industry that suggested the wolf cull in the first place, in hopes that it would avoid a federal caribou recovery plan that would set aside more habitat for protection. To date, approximately 30 wolves have been slaughtered in the South Selkirks alone.

Despite warnings from independent scientists, First Nations and concerned citizens, the provincial government continues to prioritize profit over the protection of endangered species. In recent years, snowmobiling further disturbed mountain caribou in the South Selkirks. During the winter of 2016, snowmobile tracks were observed within a kilometre of the endangered herd. Noise pollution interrupts important winter feeding and sled tracks create easy access for predators. 

We're on track to lose the remaining southern mountain caribou herds, whose total population numbers dropped from 4,500 last year to 3,800 this year. Join us in calling on both the provincial and federal government to take immediate action to stop the logging of old-growth forests, to restore and reconnect habitat and to take concrete, effective steps in preventing disturbance from recreational activity, including snowmobiling and heli-skiing in critical caribou habitat. 

EMAIL DECISION-MAKERS:

Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Hon. Doug Donaldson - doug.donaldson.MLA@leg.bc.ca

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Hon. George Heyman - george.heyman.MLA@leg.bc.ca

Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Catherine McKenna - Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca