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The Canada-British Columbia conservation agreement for southern mountain caribou

What is a conservation agreement?

Section 11 of the Species at Risk Act enables a federal minister to enter into an agreement with any other government in Canada, organization, or person to benefit a species at risk or enhance its survival in the wild. These agreements must provide for the taking of conservation measures and any other measures consistent with the Species at Risk Act, including measures with respect to:

  • monitoring the status of a species
  • developing and implementing recovery strategies, action plans and management plans
  • protecting the species’ habitat, including its critical habitat
  • undertaking research projects in support of recovery efforts for the species

The agreement between the governments of Canada and British Columbia describes how the parties will work together to support the survival and recovery of southern mountain caribou, starting with the population known as the Central Group.

The draft Canada-British Columbia conservation agreement for southern mountain caribou

The goal of this draft agreement is to describe the actions the governments of Canada and British Columbia will take over the next five years to support the recovery of southern mountain caribou populations to self-sustaining levels within the Central Group. The agreement commits Canada and British Columbia to collaborate with directly affected First Nations in all aspects of caribou recovery, and support their treaty and Aboriginal rights to harvest caribou. The federal and provincial governments contemplate expansion of this agreement to include other southern mountain caribou populations. 

The draft agreement acknowledges that the long-term goal is to achieve self-sustaining populations across each of the local population units, consistent with the outcomes set out in the Species at Risk Act federal recovery strategy. It sets short-, medium-, and long-term population targets. The agreement also commits to the development of scenarios to achieve the British Columbia portion of the federal recovery target of 1,000 caribou over the long term for the Central Group. Caribou recovery requires immediate on-the-ground measures and additional actions over the long term to protect and restore habitat, increase caribou recruitment and manage caribou mortality.

British Columbia is committing to:

  • identifying and reserving all untenured, winter and summer, high-elevation caribou range
  • developing range plans in consultation with directly affected First Nations
  • ensuring incremental increases in habitat for caribou by a range of measures, including restoration, incremental habitat protection and habitat offsetting 
  • improving its overall legislative framework for species at risk, within the terms of the agreement
  • providing mortality and population management, including predator management and captive rearing
  • managing access to areas containing caribou habitat
  • co-ordinating planning efforts between Canada, British Columbia and the directly affected Indigenous peoples
  • establishing a mechanism to resolve key knowledge gaps, including Indigenous traditional knowledge, or technical questions with respect to caribou recovery
  • facilitating the integration of new information into updated recovery and planning documents

These short-, medium-, and long-term targets rely on continued progress on habitat protection, and restoration and presume minimal impact on caribou recovery from unknown or unanticipated factors, such as climate change, the continued ability to manage predators over the short and medium term, and some ability to manage primary prey for those predators. If those assumptions prove to be invalid, then these targets will not be attainable. The parties have the greatest degree of confidence in the ability to meet the short-term goal.

The draft agreement also commits the parties to establishing a restoration fund that may also receive third-party contributions.

The governments of Canada and British Columbia are also proposing to enter into one or more parallel agreements with directly affected First Nations to support recovery, including participating in planning, implementing conservation measures and gathering further information, such as traditional knowledge.