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Heli-skiing and mountain caribou

Canadian Mountain Holidays conducts heli-ski operations primarily in the Columbia Mountains of interior lower BC. Unfortunately, many of their recreation tenures and routes directly overlap critical habitat areas for the endangered mountain caribou.

Selkirks heli-skiingWhat recreational pursuit costs $2,300 per day, generates nearly 600 times the CO2 on a per/km basis as a Hummer, is subsidized by taxpayers, and scares the heck out of wildlife? No, it's not a recreational space flight or a flight to Antarctica… It's heli-skiing with Canadian Mountain Holidays! Unfortunately, many of their recreation tenures and routes directly overlap critical habitat areas for the endangered mountain caribou.

Caribou, like most animals (and many humans), are disturbed and stressed by high-decibel machines flying above, landing, or taking off immediately overhead. On some routes, overflights occur several times a day. That's a big stress on animals trying to make a living in winter in the mountains.

Read a paper on displacement of caribou by snowmobiles

 

Caribou running for their lives. Photo by Bill SwannCanadian Mountain Holidays conducts heli-ski operations primarily in the Columbia Mountains of interior lower BC. Footage of caribou usually features these gorgeous animals running downhill through deep snow. However, they aren't doing it simply for the freedom of running, but because there's a plane or helicopter overhead, with cameras running. Caribou in winter are on the edge physiologically–how would you feel if you'd subsisted on lichens all winter?–and they don't need to be burning extra calories to escape from distressing overflights.

Mountain caribou are endangered in BC and the US. The BC government is currently finalizing plans to implement caribou habitat protections. These include prohibitions on logging and road-building and closing some critical caribou habitat to snowmobiling. However, the BC government has not committed to such closures for heli-skiing despite the fact that such activities could drive caribou from their preferred critical winter habitat. Government is instead allowing industry to self-regulate–to fly and drop skiers when and where they want. Mountain Caribou Project Groups have consistently opposed this approach, insisting that scientists' recommended motorized closures should apply to heli-skiing, but the issue is still unresolved.

Next time you're considering Canadian Mountain Holidays for your first, or maybe your last, heli-ski vacation in BC's Rockies, make sure to let them know that you care about caribou, and ask them to help protect this endangered species and limit their runs to areas outside their critical habitat.

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