Houston council plans to ask the B.C. government to review current caribou conservation measures to ensure the province is taking a “multi-species approach.”
“The predominant single-species approach does not reflect the range of situations and issues that may be encountered,” states a District of Houston staff report. “This includes habitat change caused by climate change, increasing numbers of other ungulates in traditional caribou territory, and rising predator populations.”
“A solution needs to factor in the management of these populations,” the report adds.
The District of Houston has also issued a letter to Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, expressing support for B.C.’s Caribou Recovery Program, stating that it’s important to balance the needs of other species, including “moose habitat and predator management.”
The provincial government has committed $27 million to develop and implement its Caribou Recovery Program, which includes information about the province’s controversial predator management. B.C. is currently in year four of a five-year pilot project that involves the killing of wolves around the South Selkirks and South Peace herds.
“Building on this knowledge, we can draft new provincial policy with a focus on multi-region predator plans, clear decision-making steps, and transparent communications,” states the Caribou Recovery Program’s discussion paper.
Earlier this year the province asked the public for feedback on the program’s discussion paper, which received over 2000 visits to its website and had about 600 comments. These comments will now be reviewed and reflected in the final paper which is expected to be completed in late 2018.
According to the District of Houston, further protection measures should be based on evidence and supported by research into the causes of population declines while ensuring that the socio-economic impacts of such measures be factored into any decision.
The district’s letter to McKenna also expresses support for a request by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN). The RDBN has recently asked Ottawa to support the B.C. government’s efforts to maintain and recover caribou herds.
According to the provincial government, B.C. caribou have declined from between 30,000 and 40,000 at the turn of the last century to approximately 19,000 caribou today. All six of the boreal herds and 23 of the southern mountain herds are decreasing; of the herds in B.C., 14 have fewer than 25 animals.
The province says the main threat to most caribou populations is a high rate of predation by wolves, bears and cougars that is out of balance from the natural cycle. This can happen when natural events such as forest fires and human activity such as logging and mining convert large areas of mature forests to young forest landscapes.
Houston council will discuss this topic with Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, which will be held in Whistler from Sept. 10-14, 2018.