Environmentalists denounce BC's refusal to expand habitat protection for rare deep-snow caribou
Twenty-three environmental groups, conservationists, and animal protection organizations have sent a letter to BC Premier John Horgan and federal Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, protesting BC’s refusal to protect additional habitat for BC’s rare Deep-snow Mountain Caribou. The signators have called on Environment Canada to enforce the Species at Risk Act to increase habitat protection.
The BC government’s position was announced by BC’s Forests Minister, Hon. Doug Donaldson, in interviews with media. (Nelson Star, Sept. 18) Minister Donaldson stated that the southern herds, which inhabit old-growth forest in the mountain ranges of southeastern BC, already have enough habitat protected. The letter by the 23 signators calls the claim “inexcusably erroneous” and says the government should disavow it before further caribou recovery planning proceeds.
Environment Canada has determined that all the Southern Mountain Caribou are under imminent threat of becoming unrecoverable. The chief cause of the decline is habitat loss due to logging and other industrial activities; another major cause is the displacement of animals from high-quality habitat by winter recreation. These factors increase predation on the caribou.
The Deep-snow Mountain Caribou inhabit BC’s Interior Wetbelt and are the only caribou in the world that spend winter at high elevation in rugged mountains, surviving on tree lichens. They are genetically distinct from all other caribou, and scientists have classified them as endangered and irreplaceable. They have already suffered extensive habitat loss.
In the Hart Ranges, caribou are facing 78 planned cutblocks and a pipeline. Wells Gray South caribou have more clearcutting of core critical clearcutting over an area as large as 500 football fields. The BC government admits that 35-40% of remaining old-growth forest habitat of the Columbia North and South herds remains unprotected, and logging is ongoing. The Central Selkirk herd has only 24 animals left alive, yet their habitat continues to be logged, and the government refuses to reduce snowmobile, heli- and cat-skiing that are displacing them from critical winter habitat.
The letter states that BC’s position makes a mockery of Canada’s Species at Risk Act, and defies the federal government’s attempts to urge BC to protect more habitat. Instead, BC is planning to kill 80% or more of wolves around the Hart Ranges and Central Selkirk herds. Together with similar plans for the Itcha-Ilgachuz and Tweedsmuir-Entiako herds in the west Chilcotin region, this would represent a massive extermination program for wolves and possibly other large carnivores. But Environment Canada (EC) scientists have made it clear that if habitat loss goes past a certain point, a caribou herd will be unlikely or impossible to recover.
Anne Sherrod, Valhalla Wilderness Society, 250 358 2610
Michelle Connolly, Conservation North, 778 349 3667, www.conservationnnorth.org
Charlotte Dawe, Wilderness Committee, 778 903 3992
Signators to the letter:
- Applied Conservation GIS. Baden Cross
- Animal Alliance of Canada, Liz White, animalalliance.ca
- Barrie Gilbert, PhD, Wildlife Professor (retired), Bluewater Adventures
- Bears Matter, Barb Murray
- Brian Horejsi, Ph.D., Speak Up for Wildlife Foundation
- Conservation North, Michelle Donnolly
- Craighead Institute, Dr. Lance Craighead
- Damien Gillis, BC Film Maker
- Elphinstone Logging Focus, Ross Muirhead, loggingfocus.org
- Friends of the Lardeau River, Jim Lawrence
- Friends of Nemaiah Valley, David Williams
- John E. Marriott, Assoc. Fellow, International League of Conservation Photographers
- Kootenay Reflections, Jim Lawrence Wildlife Photography
- McCrory Wildlife Services, Wayne McCrory, RPBio
- North Cascades Conservation Council, Phil Fenner
- Pacific Wild, Ian McAllister
- The Fur-Bearers, Lesley Fox
- Tourists against Trophy, Hunting, Judy Malone
- Valhalla Wilderness Society, Craig Pettitt
- Vancouver Humane Society, Emily Pickett
- Wilderness Committee, Charlotte Dawe
- Wildlife Defence League, Tommy Knowles
- Wolf Awareness, Sadie Parr