FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Union of B.C. Municipalities published an update from provincial officials in regards to the Southern Mountain Caribou Recovery Program.
In the update, the Province says they are taking all reasonable efforts to support the recovery of Southern Mountain Caribou in British Columbia.
“The B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and Environment Climate Change Canada have been developing an S.11 Bilateral Conservation Agreement under the Species At Risk Act. This S.11 Agreement will contain overarching commitments and meaningful strategies for the recovery of Southern Mountain Caribou in B.C. while minimizing implications to local governments and to the various industry sectors that operate in caribou habitat. The S.11 Agreement is looking to increase efforts for habitat restoration, maternity penning, and minimizing land disturbance, etc.”
The Province also says they have been negotiating a Caribou Recovery Partnership Agreement with the federal government and West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations.
This Partnership Agreement will contain conservation and recovery measures specific to the recovery of the Central Group of the Southern Mountain Caribou.
According to the Province, they have met face-to-face with local governments, other Indigenous nations, sectors and stakeholders, listening to the concerns of the affected communities.
The concern for the communities is that if the Province were to go through with the Caribou Recovery Program, it would threaten the future of the logging industry; an industry that residents rely on heavily for their livelihoods.
In the update, it states senior officials with the provincial government have met with the Peace River Regional District twice over the past three weeks, and have provided them with the information they have requested.
Although, in a letter responding to the UBCM’s update, the Regional District says that while they have met with the Province several times, they say the part about the government providing them with the requested information is untrue.
“While it is true that the Province has met with the Regional District several times in person, or on conference calls, it is not accurate that the PRRD has been provided with all information requested.”
The Regional District is demanding that the process is halted until the soci-economic impact the program will have on the communities is assessed.
Residents are also concerned with the fear of losing their jobs to the point that they have even started a petition to halt the program.
In the petition, started by resident Mike Mulvahill, says they are concerned about the closure of the sawmill in Chetwynd and the impact it will have on the community.
Both residents and the Regional District hope the government will halt the program and consult with the affected parties before proceeding any further.
You can view the petition here.