VANCOUVER, B.C. – The federal government is defending its decision to decline an emergency order to protect threatened southern mountain caribou by mentioning its partnership with Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations.

Under the Species at Risk Act, the order protects species on non-federal land, which accounts for 94 per cent of the land base in B.C, according to a Wilderness Committee release. The government declined the order on Thursday.

“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 Charlotte Dawe in a release. “Governments continue to make decisions to appease corporations and increase profit, and that’s leading to extinction for species.”

Dawe says the First Nations-led partnership between the feds is a “robust plan” that offers significant protection for the central group of caribou but not for the 22 herds in the southern or northern groups. B.C has yet to complete recovery plans for these groups, according to Dawe.

The government was required to decide after former-environment minister Catherine McKenna announced southern mountain caribou were facing imminent threats to their recovery. As of February 2020, the species has declined by 53 per cent in six years.