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Conservationists Launch Petition for BC's Endangered Mountain Caribou, Call on BC's Politicians to Protect Ecologically Vital Forests

Media Release, April 18, 2013

Canada's Mountain Caribou
Conservationists Launch Petition for BC's Endangered Mountain Caribou, Call on BC's Politicians to Protect Ecologically Vital Forests
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Mountain Caribou are Canada's largest old-growth dependent animal.
Trevor Goward

 

Conservationists have launched an on-line petition calling on BC’s politicians to commit to protecting critical lowland forests that buffer the province’s gravely endangered Mountain Caribou against predators. Clearcuts adjacent to Mountain Caribou habitat support increased moose and deer, and so bolster predator populations that also prey on caribou. See the petition at: www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/help-save-canada-s-mtn-caribou

Mountain Caribou are the world’s most southerly reindeer and Canada’s largest old-growth dependent animal. Resident almost exclusively in British Columbia, their population has declined precipitously in recent decades, from 2500 animals in 1995, to 1900 animals by 2007, to 1500 animals by 2013 (i.e., a 40% decline since the 1990s). Since 2002, they have been formally designated as Threatened in Canada. See: www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/speciesconservation/mc/ and http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoastnews/story.html?id=d60d4968-1fba-45ed-aa3f-2e450b348c15

The petition comes in response to pending plans by Canfor to undertake major logging in the Clearwater Valley adjacent to the southern boundary of Wells Gray Provincial Park. It calls for an immediate moratorium on logging in the valley through a provincial Land Use Order. It also urges the B.C. government to establish low-elevation “Caribou Matrix Management Zones” throughout the range of the Mountain Caribou. Such management zones are needed adjacent to high-elevation winter habitat, which already receives protection. Link here for maps and further details: www.wellsgrayworldheritage.ca

The petition has the backing of the Ancient Forest Alliance (www.AncientForestAlliance.org), a provincial conservation group working to protect BC’s endangered forests, and is being spearheaded by Trevor Goward, a well-known lichenologist and naturalist who makes his home in the Clearwater Valley.

“Surely it ‘s unthinkable that the BC government would endorse logging plans guaranteed to enhance wolf and cougar populations adjacent to Wells Gray, home of one of the largest remaining mountain caribou herds anywhere,” stated Goward. “Wells Gray’s southern herd has declined by about one-third in the past decade. If we can’t maintain a viable population of Mountain Caribou in a vast wilderness park like Wells Gray, then what hope is there of doing so elsewhere? This makes a mockery of B.C.’s Mountain Caribou Recovery Strategy.”

“BC’s politicians have a moral obligation to save one of BC’s most endangered and iconic large mammals by establishing a moratorium on industrial logging in the Clearwater Valley by Wells Gray Park, and to restrict logging in the lowland matrix habitat across the Mountain Caribou’s range,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance executive director. “We’ve seen old-growth dependent species decline, including the Spotted Owl, Marbled Murrelet, and now the Mountain Caribou, under successive BC Liberal and NDP governments who’ve lacked the will to do what it takes to halt their slide towards extinction. Now is the time, before the upcoming election, for BC's politicians to commit to make it right.”

On paper the BC Liberal government’s 2008 Mountain Caribou Plan looks good, promising to rebuild BC’s Mountain Caribou population from 1,700 in 2008 to 2,500 animals by 2027. This will be achieved, it claims, through a three-pronged approach comprising: first, 2.2 million hectares of mostly high-elevation forests set aside as winter habitat; second, intense predator control targeted at wolves and cougars; and third, management of mechanized backcountry winter recreation.

Actually, one government caribou recovery team argued for inclusion of a fourth prong, what they called ‘matrix habitat’: low to mid-elevation forest not necessarily occupied by mountain caribou but capable, when logged, of supporting moose and deer and hence their predators in substantial numbers. “What the recovery team was urging,” notes Goward “was a commitment by government to refrain from creating ever more clearcuts in matrix habitat. Unfortunately, this did not happen. As a consequence, the government’s plan has largely entrusted the Mountain Caribou’s future to a costly regime of predator control: a war on wolves.”

The very idea that a workable recovery strategy could be founded on a war against predator populations largely of its own creation seems incredible. It is like hoping to raise chickens without building a chicken coop. You can blast away at predators as long as you like, but the problem never disappears. Sooner or later you lose your chickens,” Goward notes.

Wells Gray Provincial Park supports the world’s second largest populations of Mountain Caribou. However, since 2002 the park’s southern herd has declined from 325 animals to only 200 animals a few years ago. By creating more habitat for deer and moose, and hence for predators, the pending logging proposal by Canfor would further stress a herd already in serious decline.

Goward would like to see an extension to the park’s boundaries southward to help make Wells Gray ecologically self-sustaining. This has been done twice in the past: once in the mid- ‘50s, and again in the mid- ‘90s. The habitat needs of Mountain Caribou played a major role in both decisions. Protecting a small area adjacent to the park would be a significant step towards the recovery of the Wells Gray herd.

The Ancient Forest Alliance is running a campaign calling on the province to protect old-growth and endangered forests, to ensure sustainable, value-added forestry jobs, to implement a sustainable rate of cut, and to end the export of raw, unprocessed logs from BC to foreign mills.  

Authorized by the Ancient Forest Alliance, registered sponsor under the Election Act
Ancient Forest, Alliance, Victoria Main PO, PO Box 8459, Victoria, BC, V8W 3S1 Canada


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