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Joint study opens door for Federal Government to order caribou habitat protection in B.C.

Following today's release of the Canada-British Columbia Southern Mountain Caribou (Central Group) Protection Study for caribou in British Columbia, Y2Y agrees the province needs to do more to protect caribou, particularly in the South Peace Region.

The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) welcomes today's release of the Canada-British Columbia Southern Mountain Caribou (Central Group) Protection Study for caribou in British Columbia.

Y2Y agrees that B.C. needs to do more to protect caribou across the province, particularly in the heavily-impacted South Peace Region.

The caribou has been a fixture on Canadian quarters for more than 75 years; in fact earlier this month the Royal Canadian Mint issued a new caribou coin as part of its endangered species series.

Once numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the northern and mountain caribou ecotypes of woodland caribou in B.C. — including those in this study — are now endangered due to the loss and fragmentation of the critical habitat on which they depend.

“This joint provincial-federal study assesses existing caribou recovery efforts by B.C.,” says Candace Batycki, B.C. and Yukon Program Director. “The federal government’s approach to caribou recovery only allows for 35 per cent of caribou habitat to be disturbed by human activities. In B.C. this threshold has been exceeded significantly for all herds in the South Peace. That’s why the herds are shrinking so dramatically and the Burnt Pine herd is gone.”

The report confirms the provincial government’s admission that a marked increase in caribou predation, mostly by wolves, results largely from extensive habitat changes due to industrial and natural disturbances. Industry service roads and packed trails, as well as motorized recreation access, increase the mobility of predators in forested areas. Research shows caribou avoid these corridors as a result.

B.C.’s approach has focused on voluntary management practices from industry, and predator management. The land-use designations that the province has applied to caribou habitat now appear inadequate to protect critical habitat from industrial disturbance. This study must now be considered by the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, who can recommend issuing a protection order under the federal Species at Risk Act.

“We are hopeful that federal oversight will trigger changes in the South Peace,” says Tim Burkhart, Peace Region co-ordinator for Y2Y. “We still have high quality habitat, mostly in the Hart Ranges, fast becoming the last intact refuge for caribou in the South Peace region. The Wild Harts include much of the remaining ranges of the Quintette, Kennedy, Narraway and Klinse-Za herds, and are the last contiguous intact forest landscape in northeastern B.C. If the province truly wants to save this iconic species, protecting this landscape is the first step.”

“Without proactive conservation measures across caribou habitat in B.C., including landscape-level habitat protection and restoration of legacy habitat impacts, the fragmentation and decline of caribou will only continue, given the future trend of human activity and development,” says Batycki. “These caribou ecotypes live nowhere else on the planet, and Y2Y welcomes the Government of Canada’s leadership in ensuring these magnificent animals survive for future generations.”

For further comment please contact:

Tim Burkhart, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative Peace River Break co-ordinator 250-719-9614 |

Candace Batycki, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative B.C. and Yukon program director 250-352-3830 |

Media:
High resolution photos of the South Peace caribou maternal pen are available for download.