The federal government declines an emergency order to protect threatened caribou population

Gov't not caring for caribou

The federal government recently declined an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act to protect threatened southern mountain caribou.

“This is a huge mistake and terrible news. The Species at Risk Act was created to address and halt extinction, but it hasn’t been very effective for caribou,” says conservation and policy campaigner of activist group Wilderness Committee, Charlotte Dawe.

Under the Species at Risk Act the province shoulders responsibility for the protection of a species on non-federal land. Non-federal land makes up 94 per cent of the land base in B.C. The government has not completed recovery plans for the caribou in the southern and northern groups. This means federally-mapped critical habitat is largely unprotected.

“The B.C. government thinks it can have caribou without old-growth forest habitat. That’s simply not possible and this province is learning that the hard way. Entire herds are going extinct,” Dawe explains.

“Until B.C. reigns in industry, we will continue to see caribou decline as their unprotected habitat is loaded onto logging trucks,” she continues.

The federal government defended its decision by stating that measures have already been enacted to protect caribou, like the partnership agreement led by the Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations. This robust plan has significant habitat protection for the central group but does not offer protection for any of the 22 herds in the southern or northern group, according to Wilderness Committee.

“The partnership agreement is historic, and thanks to the leadership of West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations, caribou in the Peace Valley have a shot at a future, but we can’t ignore the threat to the remaining 22 herds, and today the federal government has done just that,” adds Dawe.

The government was required to make a decision on the emergency order, after former-environment minister Catherine McKenna announced southern mountain caribou were facing imminent threats to their recovery.

McKenna concluded immediate intervention was required for their recovery three years ago. As of February 2020, the species has declined by 53 per cent in six years.

More BC News