The Y2Y initiative say the decimation of the South Selkirk caribou herd is a ‘conservation disaster’. File photo

New caribou census data shows dire situation across B.C.

‘This is an emergency’

The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) says the de-facto extinction of the international South Selkirk caribou herd (census found only three animals remain, all females) is a conservation disaster, and is calling for an immediate moratorium on industrial activity in southern mountain caribou critical habitat. The loss of this internationally important caribou herd, and the reduction of the entire southern mountain caribou population from – 4500 last year to – 3800 this year, clearly shows the failures of past approaches, and the need for emergency action.

“This is an emergency,” said Candace Batycki of Y2Y. “For decades B.C. has failed to protect sufficient critical habitat to even maintain mountain caribou, never mind recover them. And Canada has failed in its responsibility under the federal Species at Risk Act to intervene when provincial recovery measures are insufficient. Both governments have had all the information they need to act for many years, and now must act immediately, before we lose more habitat.”

“The functional loss of this herd is the legacy of decades of government mismanagement across caribou range,” says caribou expert Mark Hebblewhite, with the University of Montana. “B.C. has permitted logging, road-building, unsustainable recreation, oil and gas development and mining to continue in mountain caribou habitat for decades, from the U.S. border all the way to the Peace River and beyond. This tragic outcome was very predictable. The science is clear. We now need to make sure that more herds don’t go down the same path, to extirpation.”

“Our mapping and analysis clearly shows that logging and road-building has been ongoing in mountain caribou critical habitat, even in areas that were supposedly protected for caribou in 2007,” says Gwen Bridge of Y2Y. “New proposals for extensive helicopter-based recreation in the South Purcells are illustrative of the many stresses facing caribou in south-east B.C. We can’t just keep talking about caribou recovery, we need action.”

“In the Peace region, voluntary management measures by industry have proven woefully inadequate. We lost the Burnt Pine herd in 2009, and other herds are facing the same fate,” said Tim Burkhart of Y2Y. “First Nations are leading on caribou recovery in the Peace with emergency maternal penning, but we need BC to do its part by protecting enough habitat to support meaningful numbers of caribou. We need emergency habitat protections, while permanent protections are developed.”

“Only an interconnected system of protected habitat and lands managed for conservation will prevent the loss of mountain caribou and many other species, including grizzlies, goats and wolverines,” said Batycki. “We call on B.C. and Canada to take emergency action to protect mountain caribou habitat, immediately.”

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