Southern mountain caribou are threatened by industrial logging eliminating large swaths of their old-growth forest habitat.
This sub-population of woodland caribou found in lands now called BC and Alberta need these forests for a source of their main food in winter – tree lichens. Consequently, due to the continued logging of their forest habitat, the southern mountain caribou population is declining and is now down to less than 3,800 animals scattered in small herds over a vast mountainous area. Some herds have died-off completely, killed by predators and starvation.
Southern mountain caribou were once so numerous that an entire region of BC is named after them. The Cariboo in the central interior of BC was given its nickname by mid 19th-century gold seekers who were amazed at the abundance of southern mountain caribou. These days southern mountain caribou numbers are so low, few people who live in the Cariboo have ever seen one.
The government of Canada has designated this population caribou as threatened. They have mapped the forest habitat that southern mountain caribou needs for their survival and eventual population revival. However, the government of BC has continued to issue permits to logging companies to cut these habitat forests down.
A recent investigation by the Wilderness Committee has revealed over 3,000 cutblocks either already logged or about to be logged in southern mountain caribou mapped habitat. These logging permits have all been issued by the BC government since 2012.
In August 2020 Wilderness Committee and allies discovered and brought attention to BCTS plan to log 14 old-growth cutblocks in or near the Argonaut Creek drainage. Twelve of the cutblocks overlap federally designated core critical habitat for the herd. We are actively campaigning against these cutblocks. Read more on it by clicking here.
The situation has become an emergency, and so the Wilderness Committee along with many other NGOs have come together to take action. We are calling on the provincial government to immediately stop any destructive activities within the critical habitat of southern mountain caribou. The BC government has failed to stop and so we'll call on Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson to issue an emergency order under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) to protect what critical habitat is left. And it seems our letter to the federal environment minister was received and heard.
Former federal minister of environment Catherine McKenna made an announcement which indicated that the Liberal government is serious about protecting southern mountain caribou. McKenna announced that the southern mountain caribou are facing imminent threats to their recovery. Once this happens, the cabinet is recommended to issue an emergency order under SARA. An emergency order would allow the federal government to effectively protect the critical habitat needed for caribou recovery in BC and Alberta. This announcement covers 10 herds, each with less than 100 animals, mostly living in BC.
Logging permits in mapped southern mountain caribou habitat should no longer be given out. And the BC government must rescind all logging permits already approved to destroy caribou critical habitat. Finally, the government of Canada and the government of BC must create a program to close and restore the thousands of kilometres of old logging roads that criss-cross southern mountain caribou habitat
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These animals have been traversing this Earth for 1.6 million years. Imagine that — woolly mammoths, giant sloths and Beringian lions all roamed the lands now called Canada, alongside caribou who are still here today. They’ve survived ice ages, tectonic shifts and Beringian lions. But tragically, they might not survive us.