VANCOUVER, B.C. – Chiefs of the West Moberly First Nations, Saulteau First Nations and Ministers of the British Columbia and Canadian governments signed a partnership agreement to recover the endangered central group of southern mountain caribou.

The partnership agreement has a 30-year term and is the first of its kind in Canada.

According to the agreement, approximately 2 million acres of land will be placed into protected areas. Caribou habitat in these zones of the partnership agreement will not be disturbed by new industrial development activities. The partnership agreement is centred around the Klinse-za (Twin Sisters) mountains and the Klinse-za caribou herd.

The partnership agreement will also establish a Caribou Recovery Committee, which is said to be staffed by officials from the four governments and will operate on a consensus-basis. According to the governments, the Caribou Recovery Committee will review applications in the other areas covered by the partnership agreement. Proposed development in these zones must meet stringent mitigation requirements and be consistent with the goal of stabilizing and recovering self-sustaining caribou populations.

In 2013, the Klinse-za caribou herd numbered just 16 animals and was facing imminent extirpation. West Moberly and Saulteau began a maternal penning program to give newborn calves a better chance of escaping predators. Along with habitat restoration and a combination of scientific and traditional management measures, the Klinse-za population has now risen to over 80 animals.

According to the governments, the partnership agreement promises long-term support for these recovery efforts, including multi-year funding for maternal penning, habitat restoration, and an Indigenous Guardians program.