Government is implementing an interim moratorium on new resource development in parts of northeastern British Columbia, while providing more time to protect jobs and support workers as it engages with affected communities and industries on long-term caribou protection strategies.
Government has also released the Lekstrom report on caribou recovery and unveiled a broader plan to continue work with the Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations to protect the region’s caribou herds.
The Lekstrom report on caribou recovery makes 14 recommendations, including calling for the interim moratorium.
Government also announced its intention to sign the Southern Mountain Caribou Bilateral Conservation Agreement (Section 11). The agreement establishes a framework for co-operation between Canada and B.C. to work collaboratively with Indigenous nations, local governments, industry and communities to develop caribou management plans for southern mountain caribou.
“Blair Lekstrom has recommended that we press the pause button on new resource development and take more time to engage with affected communities and industries, while taking necessary steps to protect caribou,” said Premier John Horgan.
“Everyone in the Peace region agrees that we need to recover our caribou herds and protect local jobs. Regrettably, this issue has divided communities and provoked sentiments that have no place in British Columbia. The only way we will make progress is by working together. We must listen and work collaboratively to find the best solution.
“Chief Ken Cameron of the Saulteau First Nation and Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nation have provided visionary leadership on caribou recovery. We are asking them to work with our government and the federal government as we engage with community, industry and stakeholder groups to protect this iconic species, while supporting a healthy local economy.”
Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, said, “We’re taking these actions because we want to protect the caribou herds while limiting potential economic impacts. This allows us to look after the interests of workers and communities as we take real action to recover the herds.”
Caribou numbers in the central group of the southern mountain caribou population have faced serious declines in the past 20 years. Prohibiting new high-impact forestry and mining activities is required while public engagement, Indigenous consultation and negotiations on a long-term caribou management strategy are underway.
Today’s announcement follows public engagement on caribou recovery and the Draft Section 11 Agreement and Draft Partnership Agreement, which began in March 2019. In April, Premier Horgan announced the appointment of Lekstrom as community liaison tasked with engaging residents of the Peace region on a draft Partnership Agreement between British Columbia, Canada, West Moberly First Nation and Saulteau First Nation. The government will continue to engage with communities and stakeholders and expects to sign the partnership agreement following that engagement. That process will include identifying opportunities to mitigate industrial impacts as a result of the moratoriums. Lekstrom will continue to act as a liaison between government and communities on caribou protection plans.
A backgrounder follows.