There was standing room only at the caribou conservation meeting last night.
A crowd of more than 800 filled the Community Centre auditorium, spilling into the hallway. Thousands more tuned in to watch the proceedings live.
Government representatives are traveling the province to gather feedback on two draft agreements to protect endangered caribou.
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.
Mayor Gary Sulz told the government representatives that Revelstoke wants a seat at the table for ongoing caribou recovery plans negotiations.
“In a loud and clear tone. We’re concerned.”
The draft for the southern herds includes plans for road rehabilitation in caribou habitat, a review of the predator control program, development of another captive breeding program for caribou, more management of deer and moose populations, a review of logging practices and heliskiing and an increase in undisturbed habitat for caribou.
|Mayor Gary Sulz said if the federal government knew there was the potential for huge job loses, they’d tell the provincial government that they’d “screwed up” on caribou recovery plans. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
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.
Concerns raised at the meeting include potential loss of backcountry access for recreationalists, motorized or not, devastation to the logging industry and loss of access for trappers. Others questioned the science behind caribou recovery and wanted more transparency.
The representatives said the government is trying to be as clear as possible.
“We’re an open book. Ask us anything on caribou recovery,” said Darcy Peel, director of B.C. caribou recovery program.
Although there are no closures proposed in the drafts, it’s possible they could be added. In other documentation for specific herds, potential closures are noted.
For example, recommended actions for Frisby-Boulder-Queest herd calls to “close snowmobiling in all delineated core areas.” However, the document doesn’t include what that entails.
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.
While some people at the meeting last night called for stricter logging restrictions and halting the wolf cull, most were concerned with potential snowmobile restrictions and impact to the local economy.
“I want the government to understand how devastated we could be,” said Sulz.
Revelstoke’s economy is largely forestry and tourism based.
|George Buhler, president of Revelstoke Rod and Gun Club, said more has to be done to control wolf predation. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
Peel said the largest immediate issue facing caribou is predation from wolves, bears and cougars. However, increased predation is partly due to habitat change caused by industry and recreationalists.
The provincial government has pledged $47 million towards caribou recovery over five years, with the federal government contributing an additional $5 million.
Some in attendance asked whether saving caribou is even possible. Regardless of money and resources.
“Is it like washing dishes on the Titanic?” Asked George Benwell, Revelstoke resident.
Peel said the government has an obligation and a moral duty to at least try.
In regards to whether Revelstoke will have a place at the table for negotiations, the representatives said it will.
“We’ve heard you,” said Russ Laroche, from the ministry of forests.
Premier John Horgan has extended the local consultation time frame through to May.
Those looking to provide feedback online can do so here.