Dwindling caribou herds in B.C., Alberta face dire threat: feds

‘Immediate intervention is required to allow for eventual recovery’

(The Canadian Press)

The federal government is one step away from moving in to protect dwindling caribou herds in Alberta and British Columbia after finding them under imminent threat.

The finding, released by Environment Canada on Friday, covers 10 herds in the Southern Mountain population. They are all smaller than 100 animals and continue to decline. Seven are in British Columbia and the rest are all or partly in Alberta.

“Immediate intervention is required to allow for eventual recovery,” says a department document.

The finding obliges the environment minister to ask cabinet to issue an emergency protection order under the Species At Risk Act if the two provinces don’t do enough to remove threats to the herds’ recovery.

READ MORE: Province seeks feedback on caribou recovery program

Emergency protection orders allow Ottawa to control activity on critical habitat that is normally governed by the provinces. That would include energy development, forestry and agriculture.

The federal government has used the power twice before for the western chorus frog and the sage grouse. The protection order for the grouse affected the drilling plans of several Alberta energy companies.

The ministry’s analysis was being done as court actions from conservation groups sought to push Environment Minister Catherine McKenna into enforcing provisions of the law, said her parliamentary secretary Jonathan Wilkinson.

“In the short term, what it means is that we need to go and have conversations with the governments of B.C. and Alberta and relevant stakeholders to discuss how we actually move forward,” he said. “There is a high degree of urgency.”

There is, at most, a few months to do the work, said Wilkinson.

“If we don’t act, somebody will go to court and the courts will certainly find the minister has a requirement to go to cabinet.”

Another finding released earlier this week said the provinces are failing to adequately protect critical habitat for woodland caribou as well. It concluded the provinces don’t require their regulatory bodies to follow federal environmental legislation.

Friday’s release acknowledges Alberta and B.C. are taking some steps to help the herds, but concludes they aren’t doing enough.

“Such measures are not currently complemented by the significant habitat protection or restoration measures necessary to improve the likelihood of recovery in the long term.”

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said she knew the finding was coming.

“We are in a situation where the courts are beginning to lose their patience with the federal government,” she said. ”That is why Alberta must demonstrate progress.”

Caribou habitat has been so damaged by decades of industry presence that wildlife managers must resort to extreme measures while they rehabilitate thousands of square kilometres of seismic lines, cutblocks, well pads and resource roads.

Meanwhile, local communities have come to rely on current levels of industry to sustain them.

Phillips blames the situation on decades of inaction by previous Alberta governments.

“We went through about 25 years of the previous government doing precisely nothing — sweet tweet — on this file.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Four staff members at the Okanagan Men’s Centre have tested positive for COVID-19 since Oct. 23, 2020. (Adult and Teen Challenge OMC photo)
Four positive COVID-19 cases at Okanagan Men’s Centre

Those affected are staff and have been in isolation since Oct. 23

Vince Schnabl looks at the view this October from the Gorge, west of Revelstoke. (Photo by Jon Wichett)
There’s 3 times more snow near Revelstoke than usual

According to 54 years of data from Parks Canada for Glacier National Park

Mail in ballot, provincial election 2020. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Mail-in-ballots coming in from Columbia River Revelstoke

In a progress report Elections BC said around 45 per cent of those issued have been returned

Mayor Gary Sulz (centre) cuts the ribbon for the new roundabout. Councillor Jackie Rhind (left) and Councillor Cody Younker (right) are on either side. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke’s newest roundabout opens on Victoria Rd.

The project took approximately six months to complete

Revelstoke Drill Hall as it looked July 19, 1970; current home of Trans-Canada Fitness. (Estelle Dickey/Revelstoke Museum and Archives photo 392)
Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Oct. 29

Local history straight from the newspaper archives

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

The Kimberley Dynamiters' next two exhibition games have been postponed due to an individual testing positive for COVID-19. Paul Rodgers file.
Member of Kimberley Dynamiters tests positive for COVID-19

Exhibition games in Fernie, Creston postponed

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

H.O.P.E. Outreach volunteers not only spread support, but thanks to donations they offer makeup, jewelry and clothing to sex trade workers in Vernon and Kelowna. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Warm clothing sought for Okanagan’s most vulnerable

Coat drive at People Place Sunday, Nov. 1 in Vernon and Nov. 7 in Kelowna

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

On Nov. 8, 2017 as the search was called off, white tents and black privacy fencing were no longer visible at the Sagmoen farm in Silver Creek and fewer police vehicles were present. (File photo)
Several police vehicles seen at Sagmoen farm in Shuswap Thursday night

RCMP at Silver Creek property where the remains of an 18-year-old Vernon woman were found in 2017

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Search and Rescue Technicians carry a stretcher to the CH149 Cormorant during a 442 Squadron Search and Rescue Exercise in Tofino on February 28. (Photo by: Cpl Joey Beaudin, 19 Wing Imaging, Comox)
Father and son found dead after weeklong search near Pemberton

The father and son had set out for a day of mushroom picking last Thursday

Most Read