Caribou herds in B.C. are divided into four groups, southern mountain (shown), central mountain, northern mountain and boreal. (Black Press Media)

B.C. VIEWS: Killing B.C. industries won’t save the caribou

Herds dwindling across Canada, with or without logging

The B.C. NDP government has imposed a two-year moratorium on new mining and forest work in large areas of forest land in northern B.C., after a bumbling effort to shut down existing industry and comply with a federal order to protect endangered caribou herds.

It’s a cruelly mistimed blow to B.C.’s struggling forest industry, and has implications for caribou zones down the Rocky Mountains to the Kootenays. The federal Liberals want to impress their urban environmentalist supporters going into a fall election, and Premier John Horgan appears to be trying to use the caribou crisis to further his aggressive transfer of provincial timber to Indigenous communities.

The initial B.C. proposal, worked out in secret with two selected Indigenous groups, created such a wave of public concern that Horgan put it on hold this spring and called on former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Blair Lekstrom to advise his forests minister, Doug Donaldson.

Lekstrom’s report details how local governments, other Indigenous groups and industry were shut out of private talks with the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations. Their chiefs falsely claimed the sweeping restrictions would not eliminate forest jobs, and Horgan intervened after forest-dependent people started packing meetings in the Peace and Kootenay regions to demand answers.

RELATED: Residents pack caribou meeting in Williams Lake

RELATED: Caribou protection plan halted as B.C. mends fences

The struggle to protect dwindling caribou herds has been going on for many years, and B.C. is part of a much larger picture. Newfoundland’s herds are many times bigger than B.C.’s total population, and decline there as well as here is attributed to climate shifts, resurgence of wolves and grizzly bears and their access to prey via roads and snowmobile tracks.

In B.C., professional environmentalists are as usual the loudest voices. They’re appalled that the province has resorted to shooting wolves from helicopters, dismissing the temporary moratorium as too little and too late.

Claims that successive B.C. governments have “done nothing” may be good for fundraising, but they are false. By 2016, the area protected from logging and road building in the South Selkirks was 2.2 million hectares, 95 per cent of the best caribou habitat. The South Peace recovery plan covered 400,000 hectares of high-elevation winter habitat.

The same winter, the forests ministry worked with West Moberly and Saulteau to try to shoot 120 or more wolves in the South Peace, where the Graham herd, B.C.’s largest, numbered about 700 caribou.

The fifth winter of wolf kills has now past, and oddly the NDP-Green government hasn’t been criticized for continuing it. Say what you want about these provincial efforts, but they’re not nothing. Predator control and maternity pens to protect tiny calves are the only strategies that have been shown to work, and these costly efforts are continuing.

Banning industrial activity and roadbuilding is also not a magic solution. As the Council of Forest Industries has pointed out, Wells Grey Provincial Park and Jasper National Park herds are also declining, with no industrial activity. Caribou are gone from Banff National Park, which has been protected since 1885.

In the meantime, the Justin Trudeau government has just discovered another endangered species it wants to be seen trying to save. The federal agency wrote to B.C. in June, urging work to start on a plan for the “threatened” grizzly bear, one of the caribou’s main natural predators.

Folks living in northern B.C. report that the main threat involving grizzlies these days is that there are too many of them, and they’re coming closer to communities.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

‘Our offence wasn’t on fire but our bus was’

Wranglers split games against Sicamous

Work truck stolen from Country Prime Meats along Highway 97 near Lac la Hache

100 Mile RCMP responded to 84 complaints and calls for service during the past week

GoFundMe started after fire leaves Ruth Lake cabin severely damaged

‘The fire hit hard and fast - he lost everything’

Will you be voting for a different federal party than you did in 2015?

The weekly web poll for the 100 Mile Free Press

VIDEO: U.S. officials refute British couple’s ‘accidental’ border-crossing claim

Authorities say couple was arrested after illegal entry from B.C., with $16,000 and marijuana

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

A year after pot legalization in Canada, it’s a slow roll

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

ICBC willing to loosen grip on driver claim data, David Eby says

Private insurers say claims record monopoly keeps them out

B.C. principal suspended for failing to help student who reported inappropriate touching

Principal didn’t remove student from the teacher’s class nor call the parents within a reasonable time

Most Read