Caribou is a symbol of wilderness in British Columbia and across Canada; Caribou is on our quarter, and are far more sensitive to the effects of people than other species such as burrowing owls, grizzly bears, and orcas. We likely know more about Caribou than any other wildlife species in Canada. British Columbia has been investing in caribou research and recovery for decades, yet most populations continue their downward slide to extinction. Caribou is a symptom of a more significant problem: an intentional long-term defunding and dismantling of natural resource management in British Columbia and across Canada principally due to a lack of political will to adequately conserve and manage our natural resources.
StatusWhile the most recent government report indicates three extinct populations, it is likely that the Columbia South, South Selkirks, George Mountain, Central Purcells, Kinbasket, and Central Monashees are extinct or functionally extinct as well. There are glimmers of hope in the Columbia North and Klinze-za populations where management levers are exercised. In most of Central and Southern B.C., we are in a crisis.
FundingCaribou recovery, wildlife management, and natural resource management have been chronically under-funded for decades. Without funding, the science which managers and elected officials need to make sound decisions often is not available. Wildlife does not exist on four-year election cycles and should not be a passing thought in the budgeting process.
Recommendation: All who use and benefit from our natural resources to give back to conservation, including but not limited to; hydro-electrical development, heli-skiing, ski hills, logging, mining, oil & gas, ecotourism, hunters, anglers, naturalists. Natural resource conservation funding should be based on a pay to play approach which increases legitimacy and provides stable, predictable, long-term funding.
Funding should be placed at arm’s length from government to increase transparency, public confidence, and the ability to leverage funding.
|Photograph by: Handout , Mike Jones for Canadian Boreal Initiative|
The BCWF is extremely concerned since last year’s funding announcement that the province has excluded the top caribou ecologists from meetings, and failed to engage researchers on study designs for management, monitoring, and recovery. Significant expertise is available, and research is being conducted at the University of Alberta as well as University of Northern British Columbia, and University of Montana which should be a focal component of caribou recovery.
Recommendation: Caribou research should be funded and housed in an academic institution, or cooperative wildlife unit, which would minimize big"P" politics and provide focus and the rigour required to inform and guide science-based decisions.
InventoryThe status quo approach is "fly when you have money," which is not meaningful for caribou or other wildlife species. It will not restore caribou populations by confirming that there is fewer caribou than the last inventory flight restore caribou populations.
Recommendation: Monitoring should occur via stratified random block surveys every five years. Between collaring, camera trapping, citizen science, and aerial inventory work there may be more efficient and cost-effective means to monitor caribou populations. The results of inventory need to inform an adaptive approach to landscape-level management.
ObjectivesThere are currently no meaningful objectives for mountain caribou. Aggregated or long-term objectives, without short-term objectives, will fail the test of time. While the government has indicated recovering all caribou herds may not be feasible, the critical habitat provision in SARA exists even after caribou populations have become extirpated.
Recommendation: There should be legislated objectives for all Mountain Caribou populations, as well as legislated objectives for habitat, and all other species to ensure caribou recovery is successful and those involved are accountable to the process each other, and caribou.
ToolsThe BCWF recognizes habitat restoration, access management, predator management, maternal penning, supplemental feeding, and management of over-abundant prey species, as legitimate management tools. The BCWF does not support using these tools in isolation, or when they are politically, or socially convenient.
|Photo courtesy of CBC|
FeedingThe BCWF recognizes that supplemental feeding is part of maternal penning and supports it as an interim measure for small populations.
Prey managementWith legislated objectives for habitat and wildlife populations comes management of all species. The BCWF supports managing habitat and wildlife by setting objectives and following them, using hunting as a legitimate wildlife management tool.
Predator ManagementThe BCWF notes that caribou population declines and extinctions have occurred both inside and outside Provincial and Federal Parks and protected areas for a myriad of reasons which are often correlated to people and industrial development as ultimate causes, with proximate causes related to predation. While controversial, predator management is a legitimate tool to ensure the perpetuation and support recovery of prey species.
Recommendation: The Federal government's guideline wolf density target is 3/1000 km2 for Southern caribou populations. Site-specific wolf management has proven to be ineffective; it must be meaningful for caribou and applied at the landscape level.
Land UseRecommendation: B.C. needs to set a vision for what its landscapes should look like in five decades, including caribou recovery zones. Land use should include private lands, and private land acquisition and management.
Recommendation: The environmental assessment process needs:
1) A commitment to scientific integrity
2) Mitigation measures which are ground-truthed, and monitored
3) Cumulative effects must be applied spatially and across all industries and uses
4) Information must be transparent, public and permanent
British Columbia’s wilderness is crisscrossed with resource extraction roads and other linear features such as seismic lines. The most commonly cited threshold for wildlife is 0.6 km/km2; nearly all of southern B.C. exceeds this threshold. Caribou is more susceptible to roads and linear features than most other wildlife populations.
A threshold for landscape-level management and caribou recovery should be legislated. Linear features (logging roads, seismic lines) should be decommissioned as part of licensees’ obligations to ensure these targets are met.
The BCWF recognizes changes to commercial and recreational use will likely need to be adjusted over time. The BCWF supports limiting and modifying commercial and non-resident use before that of British Columbians.
Enforcement and OversightCurrently, there are numerous ‘voluntary' guidelines, which may not be sufficient to manage the impacts of resource extraction and recreational use properly. There must be research on the effects of eco-tourism, heli-skiing, and cat skiing. Enforcement of snowmobile closures and the associated penalties have not been sufficient.
Recommendation: The BCWF would like to see increased oversight, enforcement and monitoring of all industries provincially, including those in caribou recovery zones. Oversight would be conducted through a Natural Resources Practices Board to evaluate practices and serve as an independent watchdog for natural resource management in B.C.
Recommendation: The BCWF recommends legislated commitments around staffing and budgeting through the Conservation Officer Service. All fines resulting from infractions in Caribou recovery zones should go back to landscape-level management in the area where the violation occurred.
CommunicationThe BCWF supports increased communication and the incorporation of modern web-based tools to report. The BCWF is disappointed in the current consultative process which provides no substance or legitimacy to respondents’ comments. Public consultation should be qualified, and transparent. The current process delegitimizes public consultation, integrity, legitimacy, and accountability of the process.
Social SupportGovernment’s historic top-down, divisive and authoritative approach creates and leaves caribou recovery subject to the elected regulatory framework.
Recommendation: The BCWF would like to see a roundtable approach, similar to the current Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan where legitimate interests are represented. A roundtable would include First Nations, NGOs, experts, scientists, the public sector, and industry. Represented interests should be B.C.-based, be provincial in nature and non-governmental organizations should be involved in on-the-ground conservation and stewardship projects. The roundtable would add to the legitimacy of the process, and minimize free-riding, mistrust, and instability. The BCWF would also like to see a non-partisan MLA committee formed included in this process.
ConclusionThe BC Wildlife Federation is excited that this review is occurring and that there has been a short-term commitment to funding. For caribou to continue to exist in B.C., we will have to do things differently. In the short-term, we need to stop the bleeding by reducing mortality of caribou by wolves and cougars, access, and the loss of large intact blocks of habitat until the habitat becomes caribou friendly. In the long-term, we need to decommission roads, seismic lines, trails, cut blocks, other activities (heli-skiing, cat-skiing, snowmobiling), and high-density ungulates.
If we are to recover caribou, and wildlife broadly, B.C. has to change its approach: we need a new model which is adequately funded, has legislated objectives and which puts wildlife first.
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ACT NOW! encourage others to give their feedback to the BC Government on Caribou recovery before June 15th at 4 pm!
Send your MLA a Letter and Book a Meeting:1) CLICK HERE TO Download a template letter for you to easily format, email or mail off to your MLA
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Example of Letter:
Your Address Here
Your Address Here
June xx, 2018
Your MLA's Name and
Re: BC Caribou Recovery
I am writing to you today to request that you put more funding and effort into the recovery of BC’s Caribou.
Caribouare a symbol of wilderness in British Columbia and across Canada. Yet, caribou recovery, along with wildlife management, and natural resource management, have been under-funded for decades.
I believe more funding should be allocated to wildlife management, so more effort can be put into collecting data and setting legislated objectives for all mountain caribou populations, as well as a legislated objective for habitat, and all other species.
To provide more funding, I suggest all who use and benefit from our natural resources should give back to conservation, including but not limited to; hydro-electrical development, heli-skiing, logging, mining, oil & gas, ecotourism, hunters, and anglers.
If we are to recover caribou, and wildlife broadly, B.C. must change its approach. We can no longer manage our wildlife to zero. We need a new model which is adequately funded, has legislated objectives and which puts wildlife first.
Thank you for your consideration in this matter.
Insert your name here
CC: Right Hon. Justin Trudeau
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A2
Insert name of your MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6
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