Roughly 90 per cent of Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation is in caribou habitat. This is the company’s log sorting yard just north of Revelstoke. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Caribou plans could have big consequences for Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation

19 cut blocks have been approved in caribou habitat in Revelstoke area in the past five months

A local logging company said they want to be more involved with caribou recovery plans negotiations.

The Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation, which is owned by the City of Revelstoke, has a tree farm licence north of the city. The licence is 120,000 hectares in area.

The caribou plans could have vast economical consequences. According Mike Copperthwaite, general manager, up to 90 per cent of their licence is technically in caribou habitat.

Worst case scenario, said Copperthwaite, most of their licence would close, making it difficult to operate. Last year, the company provided the City of Revelstoke with $600,000 in dividends. And $300,000 the year prior.

Of the 120,000 hectares, 8,000 has already been put aside for caribou.

“We want to be a part of the solution,” said Copperthwaite.

Two new drafts aimed to help woodland caribou recovery were recently released. Stakeholders and the public have until April 26 to provide feedback. The province said they aim to have the plans finalized later this year. (Submitted)

After months of controversy, the B.C. government released two draft plans this month to protect endangered caribou in the province. The public can provide feedback on the drafts until April 26.

READ MORE: MLA for Revelstoke calls draft caribou plans ‘worrisome’

According to provincial figures, southern mountain herds have declined from 2,500 in the mid-1990s to 1,200 today.

Wilderness Committee, a non-profit environmental agency, recently released data that outlined 314 new cutblock approvals in the past five months. The cutblocks are in critical southern mountain caribou habitat, of which 19 are in the Revelstoke area.

“This proves that the province is not ready to stand up to logging companies,” said Charlotte Dawe, conservation and policy campaigner at Wilderness Committee.

The 19 cut blocks are in Columbia North, Columbia South, and Frisby-Boulder-Queest herd ranges. The 314 cutblocks cover almost 16,000 hectares, while the 19 near Revelstoke cover 444 hectares. However, that does not include new roads to access the cutblocks.

A recent study from the University of Alberta by researcher Jonah Keim found linear developments, such as roads, can be detrimental to caribou survival as they become travel corridors for wolves to access caribou.

Last May, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna declared southern mountain caribou are facing “imminent threats” and immediate intervention was required.

If McKenna is not satisfied with B.C.’s plans to protect caribou, under the Species at Risk Act, the federal government could put in place an emergency order that could unilaterally close off caribou habitats and result in billions of dollars in economic loss, according to the B.C. government.

“The federal government needs to step in to save caribou,” said Dawe.

The complete caribou recovery plans should be released later this year.

READ MORE: Caribou maternity pen project nears its end by Revelstoke

In an email statement from Ministry of Forests, they said if the province was to protect the area the federal government describes as critical habitat, there would be a large loss of land access for industry/recreationalists without significant contributions to caribou recovery.

The ministry continued that most “core caribou habitat” is already protected from harvesting. Some areas approved for logging include salvaging dead trees due to mountain pine beetle and in some cases, cutting permits have been issued next to, not in, wildlife habitat areas or ungulate winter ranges.


 

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