For decades, industrial activity, including logging, mining, oil & gas have decimated caribou habitat throughout British Columbia. These industries went unchecked while mountain caribou populations dwindled. In the past two years, two herds in southeastern British Columbia were extirpated. Meanwhile, high-impact recreational activity (snowmobiling, ATVing and heli-skiing) has added additional pressure to mountain caribou populations.
While the provincial government focuses on killing wolves in a misguided attempt to save caribou, logging companies are cutting down what’s left of critical habitat. British Columbians have an opportunity to call for genuine habitat protection.
Through the Provincial Caribou Recovery Engagement website, the provincial government is asking for feedback on their Draft Section 11 Agreement Between Canada and B.C. & Draft Partnership Agreement Between Canada, B.C., West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations. We’re encouraging our supporters to participate in the consultation process before the May 31st deadline.
See our submission below to the questions posed by the provincial government. Please make sure to personalize your response and avoid copying and pasting.
Caribou: Draft Section 11 Agreement
Are there any actions in Annex 2 that you strongly disagree with? Please describe them and explain why you do not support them.
The Section 11 Agreement lacks a strong and immediate commitment to protect mountain caribou habitat. Logging has decimated mountain caribou habitat for decades. An immediate moratorium should be placed on logging in caribou habitat. High-impact recreational activity, including heli-skiing, ATVing and snowmobiling is extremely disturbing to mountain caribou. A moratorium should be placed on these activities within the habitat of mountain caribou.
The heavy focus on predator culling via aerial gunning and trapping is unacceptable. In addition, the lack of professional oversight is another major concern. Wolves and other predators have been scapegoated for the decline in caribou while industry continues to destroy caribou habitat. The culling of wolves has failed to protect mountain caribou, as evidenced by programs in the South Selkirk and across Alberta where caribou have failed to recover. Table 4 in Annex 2 suggests other predators, including cougars, wolverines and bears may also be culled. Predator culling in general fails to address the underlying cause of caribou decline (habitat destruction).The negative ecological repercussions of removing apex predators must also be considered.
Are there any actions in Annex 2 that you strongly support? Please describe them and explain why you support them.
Linear feature deactivation/rehabilitation is an important action, but it should extend to all herds across the province. A recent study recommends making it more challenging for wolves to access caribou habitat via cutlines and forestry roads by dropping tree debris. The study found this approach reduced predator use of such roads and cutlines by 70 percent. This practice is a more effective and ethical approach than culling wolves.
It is also crucial that the provincial and federal governments work with and in support of indigenous communities.
The creation of a scientific committee is another important action, but it must be comprised of independent caribou biologists.
Are there any actions that you think are missing from the draft Section 11 Agreement? Please describe them and explain why you feel they should be added.
The draft Section 11 Agreement lacks a concrete commitment to habitat protection and restoration. The best available science states that habitat conservation should be a top priority in the recovery of mountain caribou. A moratorium on industrial activity within caribou habitat should be implemented immediately and additional closures to high-impact recreational activities, including heli-skiing, ATVing and snowmobiling should be implemented and effectively enforced immediately.
Overall, do you support the Parties entering into the Section 11 Agreement? Why or why not?
Currently, the Section 11 Agreement would allow for another two years of the status quo while planning continues. This means two more years of continued habitat loss and degradation, which will only continue to threaten caribou.
A Section 11 agreement must include the following priorities:
An immediate moratorium on habitat destruction in caribou habitat
An immediate moratorium on high-impact recreation (heli-skiing, snowmobiling and ATVing) in caribou habitat
An end to the culling of predators via aerial gunning and trapping
Draft Partnership Agreement
For the 1 to 4 rating questions:
"Strongly support" for all, except “habitat mitigation and offsetting” and “predator control” which are “strongly do not support”. Offsetting allows industry to continue destroying caribou habitat and predator control allows government to scapegoat predators while leaving industry unchecked.
Are there any actions identified in the draft Partnership Agreement that you strongly disagree with? Please describe them and explain why you do not support them.
The Partnership Agreement lacks adequate protection for low elevation caribou habitat. The continued use of lethal predator control by the government of British Columbia is also ill-informed and unethical.
Are there any actions identified in the draft Partnership Agreement that you strongly support? Please describe them and explain why you support them.
Protection of additional caribou habitat is a crucial step in the right direction, including low elevation and high elevation ranges. Additionally, the creation of protected areas and habitat restoration are also important for caribou recovery.
Are there any actions that you feel are missing from the draft Partnership Agreement? Please describe them and explain why you feel they should be added.
The Partnership Agreement must protect more caribou habitat, including low elevation ranges.
Overall, do you support the Parties entering into the Partnership Agreement? Why or why not?
The federal and provincial governments must work with First Nations in a genuine and meaningful way to protect caribou. It’s crucial that action focus on habitat protection and not rely on lethal predator control.
Do you have any additional comments?
It is important that the federal and provincial governments work in partnership with the West Moberly and Salteau Nations who have advocated tirelessly for the protection of their traditional territories from exploitation. The decline in caribou across the province must serve as a lesson for the provincial and federal governments - we cannot continue to endlessly exploit and destroy habitat and expect that wildlife will survive. Government must take immediate and concrete actions to protect caribou habitat and end the scapegoating of predators and other prey species.