by Andru McCracken
If the provincial government doesn’t take action to conserve mountain caribou, the federal government is required to intervene with an emergency order to protect the caribou herds that are left. That order would likely have a disastrous impacts on BC’s economy, including for Valemount and McBride.
This is why the Province has been busy putting together its Caribou Recovery Plan.
According Tim Burkhart, the Peace Region Manager of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, few people, including his organization, wants to see an emergency order implemented.
The federal government has been reviewing the mountain caribou file since 2014 and according to Burkhart, the Province’s measures to save the caribou are lacking.
The threat of an emergency order looms large: since the Feds began examining BC’s efforts, two herds have died out. That includes the last herd to roam between the contiguous United States and through southern BC.
“A federal Emergency Order could result in billions of dollars in economic losses in British Columbia, with unpredictable effects on jobs and local communities,” reads a summary document on the provincial governments engagement website.
Burkhart said BC clearly doesn’t want to see the federal government take that action.
“Thus an alternative path was created using Section 11 of the Species At Risk Act, where both the federal government and the provincial government put together a conservation agreement,” he said.
If the plans are going to drastically alter the economy, it’s not apparent how.
According to Vivian Thomas, spokesperson for the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations said the draft section 11 agreement is a “framework agreement” and is expected to have minimal economic impacts. “The draft doesn’t provide for specific habitat protection measures that would immediately impact industry, tourism or recreation.”
Thomas encourages people to get more information online on their engagement website: engage.gov.bc.ca/caribou. The province has also planned an engagement session for Valemount on April 23. Watch this newspaper for more information on exact details.
The plan has come under scrutiny by many, including Member of Parliament Bob Zimmer for being formulated without meaningful public input. Locally, a concern was the implications for motorized backcountry recreation, specifically snowmobiling, but to date there are no proposed changes. See the sidebar for more information.