West Moberly Chief Roland Willson holds caribou antler as he speaks at signing ceremony for new protection agreement, Vancouver, Feb. 21, 2020. (B.C. government)

West Moberly Chief Roland Willson holds caribou antler as he speaks at signing ceremony for new protection agreement, Vancouver, Feb. 21, 2020. (B.C. government)

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

The B.C. and federal governments have unveiled their agreement to add two million acres to protected areas in northern B.C., after efforts to include communities and industry were shut out.

The agreement, announced by federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and three B.C. cabinet ministers in Vancouver Friday, centres around the Klinse-Za caribou herd northwest of Chetwynd. It comes after years of maternity penning and wolf kills conducted with the West Moberly and Saulteaux First Nations, and Ottawa’s warnings that it would impose its own protections using species at risk legislation unless there was an agreement.

As with B.C.’s other 50-plus caribou herds, the Klinse-za was reduced to 16 animals in 2013. With pens to protect newborns, habitat restoration and wolf removal, the Klinse-Za population has recovered to 80 animals. The province estimates that the central group of southern mountain caribou is currently about 230.

The caribou habitat preservation deal with for northern B.C. has been divisive since it was worked out in secret with the federal and provincial governments. It’s groundbreaking in its approach to work directly with Indigenous communities, in this case two signatories to the historic Treaty 8 in northeastern B.C. and Alberta.

B.C. Forests Minister Donaldson told Black Press in September that herds in the Cariboo and Kootenay regions don’t require any further expansion of protected areas to restrict logging and development.

Former B.C. cabinet minister and Dawson Creek mayor Blair Lekstrom resigned in late January as Premier John Horgan’s advisor on the northeast cariboo, after being called in to mediate with communities and industry who were left out of the talks.

In his resignation letter to Horgan, Lekstrom said his recommendations to amend the West Moberly-Saulteaux deal were not being implemented and local governments were still not allowed a say.

RELATED: Local governments won’t be sidelined, Donaldson says

B.C. VIEWS: Wolf kill, not backcountry bans, saving caribou

Lekstrom joined Chetwynd Mayor Allen Courtoreille in denouncing the deal after it was released Friday.

“To sign an agreement of this magnitude with little or no understanding of the socio-economic impacts that it will have on our region is disgraceful,” Lekstrom said in a statement issued by the District of Chetwynd.

In a statement Friday, Donaldson said the West Moberly and Saulteaux agreed to changes that “provide more opportunities for local government in caribou recovery work.”

The B.C. government is continuing its work through the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation’s caribou fund with a new round of projects to decommission resource roads, plant native trees and plants and distribute woody debris to restore wilderness and disrupt predator travel.

Applications closed Nov. 1 for the latest round of enhancement and restoration grants, from an annual budget of about $6 million. The latest round of projects is due to be announced in mid-March.

The foundation’s work was given an initial $2 million in the spring of 2018, as part of a lengthy effort by the province to respond to the decline of its 54 known herds. Its first set of 11 projects included a lichen restoration area in the Tweedsmuir region, restoring 10 km of forest roads to benefit the Chase caribou herd, and restoring an oil and gas exploration road west of Chetwynd that affects the Klinse-Za and Scott herds.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCaribou

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Russell Jonathon George Gurney was last seen in Chilliwack in mid-December. (RCMP photo)
RCMP ask for help to find missing Abbotsford man last seen in Chilliwack

Police and family are concerned for the well-being of Russell Jonathon George Gurney

Ottawa serial killer Camille Joseph Cleroux died of natural causes at Abbotsford’s Pacific Institution on Sunday.
Serial killer housed at Abbotsford’s Pacific Institution dies of natural causes

Camille Joseph Cleroux announced dead on Sunday, known as notorious Ottawa serial killer

Garry Blanchard of Hope won $77,000 correctly guessing the outcomes of all 13 games of NFL week 17. (Photo/BCLC)
Hope resident rakes in $77,000 in NFL Week 17 bet

Garry Blanchard won the record-breaking prize correctly guessing every outcome that week

This urn was found Jan. 4 at a Yale Road bus stop and has now been returned to its owner. (RCMP photo)
RCMP find custodian of urn that was left at Chilliwack bus stop

Police say the urn contained the remains of a family’s cat

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Ralliers gather in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge to protest attempts to evict low-income tenants by the building owner. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Tenants protest pressure tactics by new landlord at Maple Ridge apartment building

Protest held in front of Cityviews Village on 223 St. Tuesday to rally against low-income evictions

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

Snow is forecasted to appear in parts of Metro Vancouver this weekend. (Black Press Media files)
Snow forecasted for parts of Lower Mainland this weekend

Environment Canada is predicting flurries and snow from Saturday to Monday evening

Most Read