When it comes to caribou there’s a lot of unknowns.
The province is currently in negotiations on caribou recovery plans. Mountain caribou are listed as threatened and under the Species at Risk Act, the federal government is compelled to act. However, there’s little information on the negotiations, which some people find concerning.
As a result, the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club launched a letter writing campaign earlier this year in response to one draft document in particular on the recovery of the Frisby-Boulder-Queest herd. The letters are addressed to Premier John Horgan.
“The letter is saying that when you are making decisions in the Revelstoke area, we require meaningful consultation,” said Teena Rumak, general manager of Revelstoke Snowmobile Club.
The Frisby-Boulder-Queest herd is one of 54 in the province and is situated within the Monashee Mountains west of Lake Revelstoke and north of Highway 1.
Over the past 25 years, the herd’s population has plummeted from 34 animals to just 11. The provincial government said the herd is at high risk of extinction.
According to the B.C. government, caribou in the province have declined from 40,000 in the early 1900s to less than 19,000 today. The animal’s decline is thought to be due to many factors, such as habitat loss and predation. Some studies suggest that snowmobiling can increase predation on caribou by providing packed trails for wolves.
Recommended actions within the Frisby-Boulder-Queest document call to “close snowmobiling in all delineated core areas.” However, the document doesn’t include what that entails.
“That is what created the concern to the snowmobile community. They have a recommendation to close all core areas but they haven’t defined the core areas,” said Rumak.
Snowmobile closures implemented several years ago have not been as effective in caribou recovery as hoped said Rumak as caribou are still declining.
On Feb. 26, MLA Doug Clovechok presented 972 signed letters to the legislative assembly.
|MLA Clovechok with 972 signed letters. (Submitted)|
“Due to the potential impact on our livelihoods, and the massive impacts on employment and jobs, back country closures cannot be done without proper consultation. Obviously we all want to see a healthy caribou population. Back country closures should not be implemented unless the methodology is backed by current science. In Estimates I will bringing this issue not only to the Minister but to the Premier as well. We cannot implement these land closures without scientific proof and then expect people to accept them,” said Clovechok via email.
There are several other rural MLA’s working on this issue together, as these closures are impacting the northern regions of the province, such the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
“This isn’t only affecting snowmobiling. It will affect logging, mining, snowmobiling, ATV, hikers, berry pickers, fishermen, hunters. This is a broad community impact. It isn’t just one user group,” said Rumak.
The club says it has worked closely with the government for the last 30 years. One of the initiatives is a voluntary snow pitch patrol program, where the club has riders out on the mountain to educate and look for compliance.
There is no time limit to sign the letters and they can be found at: Full Speed, Glacier House Resort, Infinite Powersports, Integrated Apparel, NAPA Revelstoke, Rough Country Marine, Sandman Hotel, Sled Rent.ca, Boulder Mt. Sled Shed, Smokey Bear Campground and Zalas Restaurant.
More than 1,300 letters have been signed to date.