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

Bus crash survivor petitions Justin Trudeau to fix road where classmates died

UVic student’s petition well over halfway to 5k signature goal

Father and son duo win Iron Man tournament at Alberni Golf Course

Forty men teed it up for the Iron Man tournament on Sunday

EDITORIAL: Issues, not pettiness, must drive election

Who do you trust? Is that what the latest federal election is going to chalk up to?

BIZ BEAT: Alberni Chamber of Commerce to host women in business forum

Jowsey’s partners with WCGH Foundation for fundraiser

ARTS AROUND: Colourful fundraiser headed to the Alberni Valley

Aché Brasil Dance troop is an explosion of colour, energy and music

Yearbook photo surfaces of Trudeau wearing ‘brownface’ costume in 2001

The report describes the occasion as an ‘Arabian Nights’-themed gala event

B.C. ‘tent city’ disputes spark call for local government autonomy

UBCM backs Maple Ridge after province overrules city

B.C. drug dealers arrested after traffic stop near Banff turns into helicopter pursuit

Antonio Nolasco-Padia, 23, and Dina Anthony, 55, both well-known to Chilliwack law enforcement

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

NDP, Liberals promise more spending, while Tories promise spending cuts

Making life more affordable for Canadians a focus in the 2019 election

UPDATE: Police probe third threat against a Kamloops high school in eight days

Police have not released any further details into what the threat includes

Charges dropped against Mountie involved in shooting death of Surrey man

‘I feel like I’ve lost Hudson all over again,’ says mom

Most Read