A B.C. mountain caribou in winter. (Jim Lawrence photo)

Columbia-Shuswap governments promised voice in caribou recovery

Population of Frisby-Boulder herd northeast of Sicamous at 11 animals and declining

Ongoing consultation on B.C.’s mountain caribou preservation efforts has created some ease among local government officials concerned with potential impacts on tourism and recreation.

On Thursday, Sept. 19, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board heard from some of the provincial employees working on implementing plans aimed at recovering the threatened Southern Mountain Caribou herds.

The presentation was led by Tami Kendall, a land and resource coordinator with the BC Caribou Recovery Team.

Kendall said as it works on plans to help the caribou, the province will be consulting with local governments and First Nations, as well as the stakeholders who rely on the areas the caribou call home for industry and recreation. She said local knowledge and the traditional ecological expertise of the First Nations are important information to be included in the document. The engagement process will run from January to March 2020.

After taking their strenuous objection to the lack of consultation on the issue of caribou recovery plans all the way to the Premier’s office, Sicamous and Revelstoke Mayors Terry Rysz and Gary Sulz told the board they are feeling more positive about the process now.

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Sulz said he was assured advanced herd planning for 14 of the most at-risk herd in the province would begin in the fall and Revelstoke would get a seat at the table to discuss nearby herds from the start.

Rysz said things have come a long way from when conversations about the threatened caribou began in terms of public consultation. He said he remains concerned about backcountry being closed to recreation and industry as part of the herd recovery plans.

Kendall detailed how the 54 Caribou herds in the province have undergone a population decline from 40,000 to 19,000 animals since the early 1900s.

The Frisby-Boulder herd which ranges from northeast of Sicamous to the Revelstoke area has a population estimated at 11 animals and is still in decline. The largest herd in the area is the Columbia North herd ranging north of Seymour Arm with a population of 147 animals.

Actions that could possibly be taken to help the struggling caribou herds were discussed with the board. Kendall said habitat protection and restoration is being considered that could include measures to obstruct lines of site, making it more difficult for predators to hunt caribou. Also noted in Kendall’s presentation was management of recreation in caribou habitat, supplemental feeding and predator control. Kendall said maternal penning, which involves placing pregnant caribou cows in an enclosed space safe from predators until their newborn calves are old enough to move quickly and then turning them loose, is already being employed near Revelstoke and could be expanded in the future.

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jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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