After months of controversy, the B.C. government has released two draft plans to protect endangered caribou in the province.
MLA Doug Clovechok for Columbia River-Revelstoke said the drafts are worrisome, in particular the short time frame for stakeholders and the public to provide feedback. The government is accepting feedback on the plans until April 26.
Clovechok referred to the short window for discussion as “not good enough!”
One draft plan covers the southern mountain caribou herds from the Kootenays to north of Prince George and the other focuses on the central mountain herds in northeastern B.C.
The drafts are meant to minimize the risk of a federal emergency order that would unilaterally close off caribou habitats and result in billions of dollars in economic loss, according to the B.C. government.
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson also announced a section 11 agreement under the Species at Risk Act for broad recovery in a larger portion of the province and access to federal funding. It does not include prescribed protected areas, but the development of herd plans through a collaborative process with Indigenous people and stakeholders could identify habitat in need of protection or restoration.
“These draft agreements are historic in Canada and aim to protect an iconic species at risk that’s seen drastic population declines,” said Donaldson.
Neither of the agreements set snowmobile closures. Further consultation with snowmobilers will take place, according to the B.C. government.
The draft for the southern herds includes plans for road re-habitation in caribou habitat, review of the predator control program, develop another captive breeding program for caribou, more management of deer and moose populations, review of logging practices and heliskiing, and an increase in undisturbed habitat for caribou.
According to provincial figures, southern mountain herds have declined from 2,500 animals in the mid-1990s to 1,200 today.
Those looking to provide immediate feedback can do so here.