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Mountain caribou victory

Dec 04, 2007

A landmark agreement promises to protect 5 million acres of Inland Temperate Rainforest in British Columbia for the highly endangered mountain caribou.

Landmark habitat protection for caribou

Mountain caribou. BC government photoThe Mountain Caribou Project has reached an historic agreement with the British Columbia government on a draft plan to recover the critically endangered mountain caribou and significant habitat in the Inland Temperate Rainforest. Conservation Northwest has worked with our partners on this effort for the past six years. Now the work lies in keeping government to its word to protect caribou.

“The unique and encouraging strength of this plan is that it represents informed decision making.... If fully implemented, I believe we will see significant recovery across most of the range of mountain caribou over the next few decades.” ­—Trevor Kinley, Mountain Caribou Science Team biologist

At the heart of the new caribou recovery plan is a commitment to permanently protect, from logging and road-building and new mining claims, 2.2 million hectares (more than 5 million acres) of mountain caribou habitat in southeast British Columbia, representing about 60 percent of the total mountain caribou current range.

Goat River in the Inland Temperate Rainforest. Photo by Doug RadiesFrom agreement to real progress

The plan is significant because government has committed to protect 95 percent of “high suitability habitat” throughout the caribou’s range including new forest protections totaling more than one million acres. High suitability habitat is the landscape used most extensively by caribou seasonally.
 
But, as with any plan, the devil’s in the details, including implementation, funding, and the degree to which motorized use will be limited in core caribou habitat and to what degree caribou recovery will depend on predator control.

We're working to ensure that the plan is implemented according to government commitments and that it is consistent with the science and directed toward recovery.

Since government already has legally binding agreements with forestry companies that allow the companies to log, interim protections must come through voluntary deferrals by those companies until protected areas can be legislated sometime in spring of 2008. At the time of this writing most companies have agreed to deferrals.

In this plan caribou conservationists have a chance to engage with communities, government, and companies to forge conservation agreements in which everyone has ownership. Engaging not only shows our true mettle as conservation advocates and negotiators but gives people who might be traditionally “anti” caribou the mental and emotional “space” to conclude that it is irresponsible to squander such a powerful wildlife legacy.

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