FORT NELSON, B.C. – The province is looking for residents to provide feedback on a draft of a Boreal Caribou Protection and Recovery Plan specific to Northeast B.C.
The province says boreal caribou are listed as “threatened” in Schedule 1 of Canada’s Species at Risk Act and are red-listed in B.C.
According to the province, recent population trends from herd monitoring activities and Indigenous and local knowledge have documented a long-term decline in local boreal caribou populations.
“We want to make sure that the caribou survive and thrive in the Northern Rockies. We have to also make sure that we aren’t impacted too severely in our forestry industry or the oil and gas industry,” Northern Rockies Regional Municipality Mayor Gary Foster said.
The 47-page draft plan outlines a recovery path for four of B.C’s five boreal caribou herd ranges.
It was co-developed by the province in partnership with the Fort Nelson First Nation in collaboration with the NRRM.
“There’s been different levels of collaboration throughout this whole process. Today we find ourselves, the [NRRM], Fort Nelson First Nations, and the province coming together and looking at stakeholders and input from the community,” Foster said.
“It’s very important that in an area such as the Northern Rockies here, we don’t simply have plans sent down from the provincial government about how this is going to be. We want to have some local input on this. We have a lot of shared knowledge within this area between First Nations, trappers, and hunters, and we want to share that knowledge,” Foster added.
The draft plan seeks to replace the existing Implementation Plan for the Ongoing Management of Boreal Caribou in British Columbia, which has been in place since 2011.
It details recovery goals and objectives and outlines management actions to make progress on those goals and objectives.
The plan also includes an “adaptive management framework” to inform monitoring, evaluation, and future decisions, according to the province.
The NRRM says the plan is a provincial effort directly linked to the Winter Motorized Recreation Management Plan affecting snowmobiling in the South Peace.
“Though not the primary or sole threat to caribou recovery, the impacts on caribou from winter motorized recreation act cumulatively with other primary threats such as habitat loss and increases in predator populations,” the NRRM told Energeticcity in an email.
“Working collaboratively with the Governments of Canada, West Moberly First Nations and Saulteau First Nations and informed by the South Peace Snowmobile Advisory Committee, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development prepared the draft Winter Motorized Recreation Management Plan for the South Peace Region,” the NRRM continued.
While directly linked, Foster says he’s not aware of any restrictions on snowmobiling impacting the Northern Rockies.
“I think that’s very important because one of the reasons people come to the Northern Rockies to live is for the outdoor activities,” Foster said
“What we want to do on this Caribou recovery program is we want to enhance the number of caribou, we want to see that number increase, but we want to do it in a careful manner that doesn’t impact outdoor recreation,” Foster said.
In December of 2021, the province announced restrictions on snowmobiling in the South Peace after they said they had consulted with local governments and residents, a claim that mystified members of the Peace River Regional District.
The province says feedback provided by residents will be taken into consideration when the draft plan is revised.
Residents can provide their feedback until May 20th.