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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From the court to coaching: Kody Worden

‘Basketball has brought me a lot of joy and I hope it does the same for the students I coach’

Williams Lake City Council and community advocacy leads to GPS monitoring of six prolific offenders

Counc. Scott Nelson said he is happy at this result and hopes to build on momentum

Off-duty Burnaby officer helps apprehend Cache Creek car thief fleeing towards Clinton

‘This is just one example of how we are always ready to respond to emergencies’

Clothing, jewelry, purses: RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Ryan nets hat trick in return as Senators beat Canucks 5-2

Ottawa winger received assistance for admitted alcohol problem

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

Speaker ‘will not tolerate illegal activity’ on B.C. legislature grounds, says chief of staff

Chief of staff to the B.C. speaker Alan Mullen says situation with demonstrators appears ‘fluid’

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Dates back to 2009: Calgary police lay charges in fraud involving semi-trucks

Three people from Calgary are facing charges that include fraud over $5,000

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs optimistic ahead of talks with feds, province

Discussions with provincial and federal governments expected to start later today

‘The project is proceeding’: Horgan resolute in support of northern B.C. pipeline

B.C. premier speaks as talks scheduled with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Most Read