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Letter: Why save mountain caribou?

Dear editor,

I feel it necessary to respond to Mike Copperthwaite’s letter of April 29. As I stated in my letter of April 23, about 40 per cent of mountain caribou core habitat was protected in the first recovery plan for the Revelstoke Shuswap Plannign Unit. Mr. Copperthwaite stated that 188,000 Ha was protected, which is the 40 per cent of core habitat. What wasn’t mentioned was that only 69,000 Ha of this is Operable (for logging) and of that only 55,894 Ha is in the Timber Harvesting Land Base.

READ MORE: Letter: Total area protected against logging for caribou

Since the herds were still crashing a second Recovery Plan was made in 2007. However, the province chose to protect only 10,000 Ha more despite their scientists’ recommendation that 34,000 Ha were necessary to achieve the assisted self-sustaining option for recovery they had chosen. Then the 10,000 Ha was never implemented except for approximately 250 Ha as I showed in my last letter. Therefore, only about 45,000 Ha is protected in this Planning Unit. While these numbers may sound like large, using Mike Copperthwaite’s own comparison, it only equates to less than two Revelstoke National Parks, which in this vast Planning Unit which stretches from Revelstoke north to the Kinbasket, west to Sicamous and east to Glacier National Park, is very small.

Should protection of habitat affect workers, I strongly suggest that funds for transition to other work be provided in the new Section 11 Agreement between the province and Canada. I also think the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation should have special consideration as it is a community company. Interestingly, the Union of BC Municipalities has called for the protection of all old growth forest as they consider it to be worth more (to tourism) standing up than lying down. This will be true in our Planning Unit also. The future economically is in protecting our old growth forest.

Since the Federal Environment Minister, Catherine Mckenna, issued her statement that mountain caribou recovery was under imminent threat in May of last year, 314 cutting permits in the total area of all Planning Units have been granted in caribou critical habitat. It seems that the province wants to log as much as possible before any agreement with the federal government is reached.

READ MORE: Letter: Caribou recovery and the Section 80 application

Some would say the fact that mountain caribou are endangered is enough reason to save them and I agree. However, it goes much deeper than that. Mountain caribou evolved together with our Inland Rainforest since the last ice age. They are integral to one another. The Inland Rainforest, which stretches now from approximately Prince George to our BC southern border and over into the U.S., west to Sicamous and east to the Rocky Mountains, is the last Inland Rainforest on the planet. Mountain caribou are also found nowhere else on the planet. Mountain caribou are the canary in the mine for this ecosystem. They co-occur with 13 other species which will also be affected. Most protections of old growth forest have been wrapped into mountain caribou protections. If the caribou go extinct, the default plan of the forest industry will kick in. That plan is TO LOG ALL THE NATURAL FOREST. That would be the end of the Inland Rainforest as all the old growth or natural forest would go into cutting rotation which occurs as early as 60 or 80 years now. It would simply be a tree farm.

READ MORE: ‘We’re concerned’-hundreds attend caribou meeting in Revelstoke

Most Native people consider the natural world to be sacred. Many other people also feel this way. For many, pristine places are spiritual. For some people, old growth forest is their cathedral. I am struck by the fact that people are mourning the loss of priceless treasures in Notre Dame Cathedral and the Cathedral itself. Within 24 hours, a billion dollars was pledged for its reconstruction. This is as it should be. Then, I think of the Inland Rainforest, with its priceless treasures, over 10,000 years old, and wonder if it should not be looked upon and saved in a similar way. The irony is the Cathedral can be rebuilt but the Inland Rainforest and the caribou can never be brought back once they are gone.

-Virginia Thompson, Revelstoke

*Correction notice: This statement has been corrected from 2,500 Ha to 250 Ha. We apologize for the mistake. “Then the 10,000 Ha was never implemented except for approximately 250 Ha as I explained in my last letter.”

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