The proposed Wildlife Habitat Area (WHA) for the Telkwa caribou is the largest WHA in B.C., covering 262,000 hectares.
Of that area, 178,000 hectares are in the Morice Timber Supply Area (TSA) and approximately one percent of the Morice timber supply will be impacted, said Jocelyn Campbell, a biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
“Biologists have been working for the past five or six years on creative ways to limit the timber supply impact,” she said.
“The one percent impact is small enough that it would pale in comparison to other pressures when the Annual Allowable Cut is determined.”
Councillor Jonathan Van Barneveld said he is concerned that this huge proposed caribou WHA, combined with other environmental limitations, may lead to too many restrictions on the land base for harvesting.
“I hope that the constraints proposed within the order don’t put unnecessary pressure on our local industry. We are still recovering from a mill closure and the Timber Supply Review could decrease the cut further. I think that we need to be cautious about implementing restrictions on the land base at this time,” he said.
Van Barneveld said that in the Morice Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP), there is a certain percent limit to the environmental impact on timber supply.
“I’m just wondering if you can guarantee that we’re not going to see an impact greater than anticipated,” he said.
Josh Pressey, District Manager for the Ministry of Forests, said that in looking at land use objectives, they always first look for opportunities for overlap, such as areas that fit for four or five values.
He added that some environmental concerns don’t limit harvest, but are more about managing timber harvest differently.
Van Barneveld said he wonders if the seral stage management is really needed.
“With the park and no timber harvesting areas and old growth management areas, is that not enough to protect the caribou? Do you think the seral stage constraints are necessary for this huge area?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Campbell, adding that the no harvest zones protect caribou habitat and the seral stage constraints affect the predator-prey dynamics.
A Volunteer Recreation Access Management Group has met since 1998 to discuss issues with the Telkwa caribou.
Les Auston, Secretary of the Houston Snowmobile Club, has been a part of that group since it started.
He says his main concerns with this proposed management plan is funding and predator control.
“You need money to do anything… no money, no management,” Auston said, adding that lack of funds is one of the key problems since Telkwa caribou protection started in the 1990s.
“How many times are we going to do this? They’ve had recovery in place since 1997. The herd was over 100 not many years ago and they can’t even tell you where the animals have gone,” Auston said.
Without funding and proper monitoring, no one knows why the caribou continue to decline, so “how do you know what recovery avenue to go down?” he said.
Auston’s other concern is predator control.
“You can tell people you can’t go here or you can’t go there, but if the wolves and cougars and grizzlies are cleaning up it does nothing,” he said.
“If you don’t have funding and a predator control plan, then all the habitat in the world is for nothing” he said.