Wilderness Committee applauds West Moberly and Saulteau caribou recovery efforts

A map of the Southern Mountain Caribou's central group range, with various herd areas and areas that have been or are approved to be logged. Photo by The Wilderness Committee.

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The Wilderness Committee is applauding the efforts of the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations to help recover the population of the Southern Mountain Caribou’s central group, but says that more restrictions on logging need to be put in place.

The Wilderness Committee says that the two Treaty 8 First Nations have had some of the most successful results in their caribou management plans, which has seen an increase in the size of the Klinse-za herd from 16 to 70 animals in just four years. However, the organization said it is still concerned that the draft conservation agreement is not moving fast enough.

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Southern mountain caribou are listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act, but many herds are on the brink of extinction. There are 23 cut blocks within the critical habitat of the central group, of which fifteen have already been logged and companies have the go-ahead to log eight more. Another eight are pending approval to be logged.

“West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations have rightfully taken matters into their own hands to save southern mountain caribou,” said Wilderness Committee Conservation and Policy Campaigner Charlotte Dawe. “Conservation agreements must be based on traditional knowledge and science, so this collaboration with First Nations for caribou recovery is long overdue. Governments are consulting and making plans and at the same time logging companies are having a heyday in the critical habitat of the central group – the exact group this conservation agreement is meant to protect. If we are serious about protecting these caribou, governments need to enact a moratorium on logging in identified critical habitat until the agreement is done.”

The central group is not the only caribou facing logging threats. There are various herds under threats from active logging, including one near Wells Gray provincial park whose population has been plummeting.

“The first draft of the central group agreement didn’t protect the migration range or low elevation habitat of caribou – making recovery of the herd impossible,” Dawe added. “This is why we need provincial endangered species legislation. For now, the fate of caribou is left to conservation agreements, which aren’t usually legally binding nor do they hold governments and industry accountable.”

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