Part three of an ongoing column and story series exploring the Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild maternity penning plan.
The mandate of the North Columbia Environmental Society (NCES) involves promoting the biodiversity and ecosystem health of the North Columbia Valley as integral to the social, physical and mental well being of the inhabitants of this valley and the citizens of Revelstoke. Therefore, it was within our mission to assist in the recovery of endangered species in this area. The mountain caribou is listed as threatened federally and endangered provincially. It is also an umbrella species with thirteen co-occurring species in the ecosystem. As such it has been deemed to be important to the biodiversity and ecosystem heath of this valley. Further, the mountain caribou ecotype is unique in the world, as is the Inland Temperate Rainforest where this iconic species is found.
Thus the NCES has been involved in the recovery of mountain caribou for the last seven years. The NCES sat on the multi-stakeholder Mountain Caribou Recovery Committee of the City of Revelstoke and has been an active member of the Mountain Caribou Project, a coalition of nine environmental organizations who worked for the conservation of mountain caribou leading up to the Provincial Recovery Plan of 2007. Since then, the Mountain Caribou Project has been a member of the Progress Board overseeing the Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan (MCRIP). However, as detailed in the preceding two columns on Revelstoke Rearing in the Wild (RCRW), despite the provisions of the Recovery Plan, the Columbia North Herd, and to an even greater extent the Columbia South Herd, are declining.
So when the idea of a maternity pen for the North Columbia Herd was proposed, the NCES was keen to participate. One of the strengths of this project from our perspective is that it promises to build up the herd without being very intrusive. That is, the pregnant cows are not moved far from their herd and then are released back to their herd with their calves.
Another positive about this project is that it has been a truly grassroots initiative. From the first meeting of four or five interested parties over coffee in a local restaurant, I have watched this idea grow, gradually involving all the different and sometimes divergent interests which touch mountain caribou. Many groups have promised or are already contributing “in kind” services or donations. I have been impressed to see that when push comes to shove, if there is a common goal or good to be achieved, this community seems to come together to accomplish it, locally. Perhaps this is due to the isolation of the community, but for whatever reason, it is impressive and heartening to see.
As the NCES has an on-going involvement in environmental education in the community both for youth and the general public, it made good sense for us to offer to contribute in this area. It is our hope to be able to support education about this maternity pen project at the elementary and secondary school levels.
As part of this experience, we plan to involve school children in the collection of lichen to feed the pregnant cows and later the calves in the mat pen. This may be broadened to involve parents or other interested members of the public as well. We are modelling our efforts on the successful Chisana maternity pen project in the Yukon, where school children were involved in the collection of lichen. We also plan to have a presentation on the maternity pen project as part of our speaker series.
The NCES is very excited about the Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild project and is proud to be a participant. It is a privilege to work with all parties in the community on such a positive common goal.
Virginia Thompson is a director of the RCRW and chair of the Mountain Caribou Committee of the NCES. I has a doctorate in adult education on eco-psychology and environmental philosophy.
The Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild project is competing for $100,000 in funding through the Shell Fuelling Change program. To be successful, RCRW needs community members to visit the RCRW page on shellfuellingchange.com, sign up and vote. Vote here by the April 30 deadline.