Ninety per cent of identified high-elevation winter caribou habitat across the South Peace area will be protected to support the recovery of Northern Caribou, Environment Minister Terry Lake and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson announced today.
Today's announcement comes as a result of ongoing consultation and collaboration with First Nations and industry representatives on the development of a plan with a goal to increase the current population of Northern Caribou in the South Peace from 1,100 animals to 1,200 animals within three caribou generations. Without this collaborative effort this population is expected to decrease to approximately 800 animals over the next 21 years.
The details of this plan will be formalized in an implementation plan document to be released over the next several months. The plan commits government to:
- Protect 90 per cent (approximately 400,000 hectares) of identified high-elevation winter caribou habitat across the South Peace through a combination of existing and new habitat protections.
- Implement caribou population management activities to support population recovery and opportunities of First Nations' caribou harvest.
- Develop management objectives and best management practices in lower-elevation winter caribou habitat to minimize habitat fragmentation and support long-term habitat conditions.
- Allow some resource development opportunities such as mining, to move forward in certain areas of high-elevation winter caribou habitat.
- Develop funding opportunities to support the implementation of management activities over the long-term.
Northern Caribou in the South Peace are part of a larger population that ranges throughout British Columbia, from the Alberta border west to the coastal mountain ranges and north into the Yukon.
Approximately 17,000 Northern Caribou live in British Columbia. Northern Caribou in the South Peace are declining and are currently listed as "threatened" under the federal Species at Risk Act.
Information on Northern Caribou management and recovery in British Columbia can be found at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/speciesconservation/nc/index.html
BC Newsroom - Ministry of Environment: http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/ministries/environment-1
A backgrounder follows.
Ministry of Environment
Northern Caribou recovery actions
Government's recovery plan for the Northern Caribou in the South Peace will be a collaborative effort with First Nations and various industry sectors.
Recovery will be achieved by:
1. Protecting caribou habitat from industrial development:
High-elevation winter habitat
Habitat fragmentation and alteration from industrial development is believed to be the ultimate cause of Northern Caribou population declines in the South Peace.
To support recovery, 90 per cent of the high-elevation winter habitat will be protected across the South Peace using new and existing habitat protections. This goal is expected to be achieved over the next 12 to 18 months by protecting 90 per cent or greater of the high-elevation winter habitat in the Graham, Moberly, Burnt Pine, Kennedy Siding, Scott and Narraway herd ranges and 80 per cent in the Quintette range.
Achieving the above protection objectives in high-elevation winter habitat across caribou ranges will require protecting all currently untenured areas from surface disturbance, consider cancelling and deferring certain tenure applications, working with industry to identify areas where tenures can be relinquished voluntarily, and developing best practices for minimizing or eliminating surface disturbance.
2. Managing caribou habitat in low elevation forests:
Low-elevation winter habitat
Currently, 90 per cent of the low elevation winter habitat is legally designated as either Ungulate Winter Range or Wildlife Habitat Area under the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) and Oil and Gas Activities Act (OGAA). Over the next 12 to 18 months, the boundaries and practice requirements managed under FRPA and OGAA will be reviewed to ensure that they are consistent with current research regarding caribou habitat use and predator-prey relationships. This review will determine where requirements for applications such as mineral exploration can be extended and or modified to other sectors to ensure consistency, and more importantly, support sustainable caribou habitat conditions by restoring and rehabilitating habitat and deactivating roads.
3. Caribou population management:
The direct cause of the declining Northern Caribou population in the South Peace is predation. Wolves and other predators can have significant impacts on caribou populations, particularly if herd size is small.
To support Northern Caribou population recovery and to ensure First Nations have the ability to harvest caribou in the future, caribou population enhancement programs will be established. Government staff will work with First Nations and industry to develop a caribou population enhancement program. Such a program may involve rearing caribou through maternal pens, transplants and captive breeding.
4. Funding Recovery:
Implementation of mitigation management plans to support recovery efforts will be funded through financial offsetting administered by a third-party trust.
The amount of the financial offset will be determined by the size of the development and quality of the habitat being affected. It is anticipated that financial offsetting will generate approximately $20-30 million (based on current market prices) over the next 21 years to fund implementation activities.
For more Information on Northern Caribou management and recovery in British Columbia can be found at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/speciesconservation/nc/index.html
Ministry of Environment