Mountain caribou recovery program funding welcomed
Wildsight and Conservation Northwest welcomed Premier Christy Clark’s Feb. 1 announcement of $27 million for a comprehensive caribou recovery program.
“It’s clear that a multifaceted approach to caribou recovery is necessary as efforts to date have failed to stop the decline in caribou numbers across the province,” said John Bergenske of Wildsight. “There is a lot of work to be done to ensure critical habitat is protected and impacted areas are allowed to recover.”
Both groups participate in the Mountain Caribou Recovery Progress Board made up of stakeholders from industry, hunting and environmental groups. The Progress Board has been critical of funding shortfalls that have limited recovery efforts and has called for the province to make use of all available tools to ensure successful recovery of caribou populations. These include excluding logging and road building from critical habitat, restrictions on commercial and public motorized recreation, targeted predator-prey control measures and maternal penning to increase calf survival.
The board has also strongly recommended a captive breeding program in order to supplement southern herds on the verge of extirpation.
“The science is crystal clear that caribou population declines are tightly correlated with significant landscape-level changes to old-growth forest habitat, which have led to increased predation and other stressors. We expect this new commitment by the province to support additional habitat protection, tightly-controlled predator-prey control programs, monitoring of impacts, and enforcement of regulations on recreational use,” said Joe Scott of Conservation Northwest.
“We are encouraged by the draft recommendations by Environment Canada scientists to protect significantly more mountain caribou habitat in response to ongoing caribou declines. We hope to see these recommendations implemented as part of the province’s renewed commitment to recovery.”
“We are committed to working with the provincial government and all of the stakeholders at the table to make caribou recovery a success,” concluded Bergenske.
“We’re taking action to protect the long-term survival of the woodland caribou. We’ve already invested millions of dollars and set aside critical habitat, but stronger action is required to reverse population declines, and ensure that our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to experience these animals in the wild,” Clark stated during the 14th Annual Premier’s B.C. Natural Resources Forum.
The program will build on existing efforts and will have five key components:
Critical caribou habitat protection and restoration; Maternal penning; Predator management; Research and monitoring; Increased compliance and enforcement.
“Caribou recovery is complicated by numerous factors including habitat alteration, climate change, increased predation and competition from moose, deer and elk,” said Minister of Forests and Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Steve Thomson. “By investing $8 million this year, and another $19 million over the next two years, B.C. is making a clear statement that it is serious about caribou recovery.”