The District of Houston has recently signed onto a collective letter expressing concern about the province’s efforts to protect dwindling caribou herds.
Signed by over a dozen municipalities and regional districts in B.C., the letter expresses concern about a “lack of consultation with communities,” as well as the economic impacts that could potentially occur as a result of the proposed caribou habitat restoration.
The B.C. government has committed $27 million to develop and implement its Caribou Recovery Program.
According to the province, the program’s proposed restoration work would improve disturbed habitats and erase some negative impacts of mining, forestry, oil and gas, renewable energy and road building activities – which have all impacted caribou habitats in the province.
“We find it disappointing to learn that plans are underway that will have a significant impact on the socio-economic components of our communities and region,” states the collective letter, adding that plans to create caribou habitat protection areas could have “severe impacts on the forestry, energy, mining, and tourism sectors.”
“Many of our communities have attempted to engage with the provincial government throughout 2018 to get a seat at the table and to understand the plans to deal with the southern mountain caribou,” continued the letter. “We feel it is imperative that the provincial government engage us and involve us in the discussion taking place.”
“Our communities, our livelihoods and our families have a lot at stake.”
The letter urges B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial ministers involved in the caribou file to arrange for an “immediate meeting” with all of the northern and interior B.C. mayors and regional district chairs.
The number of caribou in B.C. has declined from 40,000 in the early 1900s, to less than 19,000 today. Threats to caribou include habitat loss and increased predation – likely related to increased development pressure in their ranges.
The government’s proposed restoration work would include replanting routes that are no longer in use, placing slash, trees and other debris across trails, disrupting sightlines and putting up fences. In addition, restoration would involve reducing the use of linear features such as roads, trails, rights-of-way and seismic lines.
Wolves, other large predators and people can move along these access routes more quickly than through dense bush, and easily travel to caribou habitats that were once difficult to reach.
These actions would also restrict human access.