West Moberly Chief Roland Willson holds caribou antler as he speaks at signing ceremony for new protection agreement, Vancouver, Feb. 21, 2020. (B.C. government)

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

The B.C. and federal governments have unveiled their agreement to add two million acres to protected areas in northern B.C., after efforts to include communities and industry were shut out.

The agreement, announced by federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and three B.C. cabinet ministers in Vancouver Friday, centres around the Klinse-Za caribou herd northwest of Chetwynd. It comes after years of maternity penning and wolf kills conducted with the West Moberly and Saulteaux First Nations, and Ottawa’s warnings that it would impose its own protections using species at risk legislation unless there was an agreement.

As with B.C.’s other 50-plus caribou herds, the Klinse-za was reduced to 16 animals in 2013. With pens to protect newborns, habitat restoration and wolf removal, the Klinse-Za population has recovered to 80 animals. The province estimates that the central group of southern mountain caribou is currently about 230.

The caribou habitat preservation deal with for northern B.C. has been divisive since it was worked out in secret with the federal and provincial governments. It’s groundbreaking in its approach to work directly with Indigenous communities, in this case two signatories to the historic Treaty 8 in northeastern B.C. and Alberta.

B.C. Forests Minister Donaldson told Black Press in September that herds in the Cariboo and Kootenay regions don’t require any further expansion of protected areas to restrict logging and development.

Former B.C. cabinet minister and Dawson Creek mayor Blair Lekstrom resigned in late January as Premier John Horgan’s advisor on the northeast cariboo, after being called in to mediate with communities and industry who were left out of the talks.

In his resignation letter to Horgan, Lekstrom said his recommendations to amend the West Moberly-Saulteaux deal were not being implemented and local governments were still not allowed a say.

RELATED: Local governments won’t be sidelined, Donaldson says

B.C. VIEWS: Wolf kill, not backcountry bans, saving caribou

Lekstrom joined Chetwynd Mayor Allen Courtoreille in denouncing the deal after it was released Friday.

“To sign an agreement of this magnitude with little or no understanding of the socio-economic impacts that it will have on our region is disgraceful,” Lekstrom said in a statement issued by the District of Chetwynd.

In a statement Friday, Donaldson said the West Moberly and Saulteaux agreed to changes that “provide more opportunities for local government in caribou recovery work.”

The B.C. government is continuing its work through the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation’s caribou fund with a new round of projects to decommission resource roads, plant native trees and plants and distribute woody debris to restore wilderness and disrupt predator travel.

Applications closed Nov. 1 for the latest round of enhancement and restoration grants, from an annual budget of about $6 million. The latest round of projects is due to be announced in mid-March.

The foundation’s work was given an initial $2 million in the spring of 2018, as part of a lengthy effort by the province to respond to the decline of its 54 known herds. Its first set of 11 projects included a lichen restoration area in the Tweedsmuir region, restoring 10 km of forest roads to benefit the Chase caribou herd, and restoring an oil and gas exploration road west of Chetwynd that affects the Klinse-Za and Scott herds.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCaribou

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

Just Posted

Better COVID-19 testing results needed in the north

Former senior Northern Health official also wants work camps shut down

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

Northern Health preparing ‘for a changing situation’ in response to COVID-19

The health authority is taking a number of measures to free up hospital capacity where possible

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Northwest Regional Airport says ridership extremely low amid COVID-19

The airport has enacted enhanced sanitary measures and reduced flights

How B.C. emptied its hospitals to prepare for COVID-19

Thousands of beds have been freed up, but patients and seniors have had to sacrifice

World COVID-19 morning update: Olympics delayed one year; 12,000 health care workers infected

Comprehensive world news update: Lockdown in UK showing signs of hope

Newspapers are safe to touch, World Health Organization confirms

Just make sure to wash your hands as you would after touching any surface or object

‘It’s up to us: Recently-returned B.C. couple urges Canadians to take COVID-19 seriously

Garrett Kucher and Tory Apostoliuk make it home after almost a week of lockdown in Spain

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

Canada will make sure masks sent by China meet quality standards: Trudeau

Chinese Embassy tweeted that China was sending 30,000 medical masks along with gowns, gloves and goggles

B.C. issues guidelines about distancing, reusable bags to grocery stores amid COVID-19

Hand sanitizer and markers to keep lines two metres are apart are needed, province says

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

Most Read