Letter: The flip side of the caribou closure coin

It sounds like the caribou closure meeting in McBride was a feisty, if one-sided, affair. However, when debating these emotional issues, it is essential to examine both sides of the argument or the flip side of the coin (maybe the one with the caribou on it) if you will. In an effort to balance the caribou closure debate equation, following are some arguments for and against, pro and con, heads and tails. Prepare to boost your “caribou IQ.”

 

HEADS

“…the caribou is a dwindling species that is too stupid to live.”  -Matt Hillier

TAILS

“The caribou are being killed off by climate change, habitat destruction, logging and highways.”  -CBC news report

“We’ve jeopardized caribou habitat over the last 30 to 40 years through unsustainable rates of logging. This is really the legacy of 30 years of mismanagement of habitat.” -Mark Hebblewhite, biologist

“The winter habitat of mountain caribou is old-growth forest; as such, harvesting these valuable trees damages the habitat available to the species.” -Eliot L. Terry, Journal of Applied Ecology

 

HEADS

“Keeping caribou populations healthy won’t benefit locals.” -Matt Hillier

TAILS

“Annually, a caribou returns to the ecosystem, 270 kg nutrients in the form of fecal pellets. At the herd scale, 170,000-350,000 caribou return 38 to 77 million kg of fecal pellets spread over the annual range.” -CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring and Assessment (CARMA)

“The value of biodiversity is that it makes our ecosystems more resilient, which is a prerequisite for stable societies; its wanton destruction is akin to setting fire to our lifeboat.” -Johan Rockstrom, Professor of Resource Management

“We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity.” -E. O. Wilson, Pulitzer Prize winning biologist

 

HEADS

“What’s the social and economic benefits of having that animal in our ecosystems. Zero.”

TAILS

“A recent study determined the total annual net value of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq herd harvest is $19.9 million annually.” -Beverly/Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board

“At a beef replacement value of $20/kg, the annual average harvest of caribou just for meat replacement is $35 million. This excludes any commercial harvesting or any value for hides let alone the intangible cultural strength and value of hunting.” -CARMA statistic

“The caribou in their central role ecology and inter-connection with the culture of many aboriginal people have parallels with the role of salmon on Canada’s Pacific West Coast.” -CARMA

“In Canada, caribou are an important source of food for northern communities, valued at over $100 million/year.” -WWF

What does it say about us as a culture if we allow an iconic animal deemed so important that it appears on our currency, an animal that has evolved here over the last two million years and at one time lived in every province, die on our watch due to our avarice, incompetence, and mismanagement?  If we exterminate the caribou, knowingly or unknowingly, what’s next?  Do we recall all the 25 cent pieces and re-mint them with a big X across the caribou?  Perhaps we should replace the caribou engraving on the quarter with an epitaph on a tombstone, “Here lies the caribou, another victim of our shortsighted mismanagement – May it Rest in Peace.” Better yet, we could make it a special “collector’s edition” coin which would add the much needed social and economic value to an animal that has none.

Michael Austin,

Valemount

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