We need to save the caribou

A letter to the editor

Editor:

Does anyone care about saving the mountain caribou herds east of 100 Mile and Williams Lake from the threat of extinction?

At the April 8th meeting in Williams Lake hosted by the federal and provincial governments (Southern Mountain Community Engagement Session), many people expressed concern that a Caribou Recovery Plan would mean losing access for recreational activities such as snowmobiling and ATVing, and that industrial activities like logging and mining would be restricted.

Although several government plans to prevent declines in caribou populations have been tried in B.C., such as the Mountain Caribou Strategy 2000 (part of our area’s Cariboo Land Use Plan), caribou numbers are now dangerously low in many regions. The Mountain Caribou Strategy called for a three-prong approach, which would control logging and recreational activities in key habitat areas and would also control wolf predation.

Unfortunately, the situation has only become worse in B.C. as a whole. The Southern Selkirk herd, for example, is now virtually extinct.

Although many people would like to blame wolves for the caribou’s decline, the issue is very complex and there are no simple answers. However, one key problem is that logging has continued in some of the caribou’s critical habitat areas. Mountain caribou are dependent on the arboreal lichen found only in old growth forests.

One positive story in caribou recovery is the KIinse-za maternal penning project, which is a partnership between federal and provincial governments and the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations. This project has increased the size of the Klinse-za herd from 22 animals upwards to 80.

I hope we can work together to save this iconic species from extinction. It will mean doing something different than in the past. We need a plan grounded in sound science that also incorporates indigenous and local knowledge. I hope there is the societal and political will to do this. Otherwise, in the future there will be no caribou in Cariboo.

Patricia Spencer

108 Mile Ranch

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