The City of Revelstoke is concerned about the socio-economic impact of the province’s proposed Provincial Caribou Recovery Program.
With $27 million over three years committed by the province to build a science-based approach to protect and preserve the 54 caribou herds in B.C., proposed measures that the city is weary of include habitat protection such as increasing protected areas and restricting back-country recreation access.
The Southern Mountain Caribou are listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act. Since 1995 the population of the animals in B.C. has decreased from 2,500 animals to 1,540 animals.
On May 22, Revelstoke City Council heard a presentation from Rob Serouya of the Caribou Monitoring Unit based at the University of Alberta.
“I call it North Americas biggest conservation challenge, you have a species that is naturally rare but that cover such a huge area, there’s nothing else that comes close in America,” he said.
City staff as well as stakeholders in the community have expressed concerns with the province’s proposed measures in a report for the June 12 council meeting put together by Nicole Fricot, director of community development.
|The proposed policy would look at regulating recreational activity as well as harvesting in caribou habitat. (Black Press file photo)|
According to the report, the harvesting restrictions proposed in the Caribou Recovery Program could remove between 65 per cent and 100 per cent of the local Timber Harvesting Landbase.
“This impact on timber supply would likely take the majority of our local forestry companies below operating efficiency thresholds and would threaten the viability of the industry in our region,” the report says.
Currently the forestry industry employees 255 individuals in the community and contributes $29 million in direct employment income for community members, the report says.
Another area of concern was the recreational access restrictions which would impact heli-skiing, snowmobiling and mountain biking among other back-country activities.
According to the report, heli-skiing and snow cat companies alone directly employ over 270 people in the community.
“If heli-skiing were to be restricted in the matrix area, our local operators stand to lose between 40 per cent and 80 per cent of their tenure,” the report says.
It continues, saying that several operators have estimated that with proposed restrictions their skier volume would be cut in half.
Among other impacts, the report also points out that if these businesses had less access to the back country they would be unable to collect avalanche data points, decreasing the quality of avalanche forecasting.
According to Serouya the caribou population in the Revelstoke area has been stable since 2004, largely in part to the initiative that decreased the amount of moose in the area. The less moose, the less predators that will also hunt caribou.
However, a stable population is not an increasing population and the solution revolves around more than just protecting the critical caribou habitat, he explained.
“The take-home here is that one measure on its own won’t work,” he said. “You’ve got to throw everything and the kitchen sink at it: habitat protection, some wolf management in measured amounts.”
The draft policy for the Provincial Caribou Recovery Program includes measures beyond habitat management including predator control, penning, prey management and supplemental feeding, but the report from the city express concerns only with the changes to protected areas.
To see the draft policy and submit input go to engage.gov.bc.ca/caribou/draft-program-framework before June 15.