BC’s new Boreal Caribou Plan is an improvement, but leaves questions unanswered

Vancouver, BC – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s BC Chapter (CPAWS-BC) welcomes the provincial government’s proposed Boreal Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan announced last week, but notes that without a strong commitment to stop the decline of all herds and their critical habitat, the plan’s goal of self-sustaining populations may not be achieved.

“This new plan is a big improvement over the abysmal 2011 boreal caribou plan,” says Johnny Mikes, CPAWS-BC Northern Terrestrial Campaign Manager. “Most notably in that it now includes a goal to recover these threatened populations to self-sustaining levels rather than to simply manage their decline. We are pleased with the research and monitoring investment made by the province in recent years and that the new Boreal Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan appears to be more in line with the federal recovery strategy. However, there are some aspects of the plan left open, that are concerning,” says Mikes.

For example, the new plan outlines implementation objectives linked to forestry, oil and gas, and species and wildfire management. There are also some details on linear disturbance limits, mandatory habitat offset requirements for new disturbances, management of early seral forest, and wildlife measures. However, the cumulative benefit of such actions in terms of having a total of undisturbed critical habitat are not captured in the document. CPAWS-BC warns that the goal of achieving “positive habitat trend” is welcome but, in order to effectively protect the habitat these caribou need for survival, specific habitat disturbance targets must be better articulated and timelines clarified.

“Currently, every single one of B.C.’s boreal caribou ranges far exceeds the target habitat disturbance threshold that the province is working towards in the long term,” continued Mikes. “While it is good news that the plan appears to be calling on a moratorium for both forestry and linear disturbances in almost every core area in the five ranges (until further details about what can occur are sorted out), the plan mentions that there is some room for timber harvesting in every range, as well as for new linear disturbances. If we’re serious about giving these caribou a real chance at recovery, the most important action is to avoid further expansion of the industrial footprint in these ranges,” says Mikes.

“CPAWS is heartened by the 2016 plan,” says Mikes. “But only the ongoing monitoring of caribou population numbers and trends, and regular assessment of the condition of the habitat, will tell whether the plan is being implemented with enough resolve to actually achieve self-sustaining herds of boreal caribou in B.C.,” concluded Mikes.

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Contact: Johnny Mikes, CPAWS-BC Northern Terrestrial Campaign Manager
Email: johnnymikes@shaw.ca

Further Information:
Past CPAWS caribou reports: http://cpaws.org/publications/caribou
Public consultation: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/caribou/boreal-caribou/