Caribou conservation plans face backlash from BC forestry sector
By Ellen Cools
The government of B.C. has proposed a new plan to protect endangered caribou living near Chetwynd, B.C.
But 500 jobs may be at risk under this plan, which may limit logging in the region instead of executing wolf culls. According to Dale Seip, B.C.’s head researcher on caribou conservation, the underlying cause of caribou endangerment is clearcutting mature forests, which makes it easier for moose to roam. This results in an increased number of moose, and the wolves feeding on them, as well as caribou.
An “aerial wolf removal program” has been ongoing in the province since 2015, but it is costly and time-consuming because it must be done annually while there is space for moose to roam, the CBC reports.
According to the CBC, the plan could result in the shutdown of at least one of the town’s two lumber mills, possibly both.
At a public meeting in Chetwynd on April 1, attended by 500 members of the community, government officials tried to reassure the town that no plan would be finalized without hearing their opinions. But many believe too much decision-making is going on behind closed doors. (To read the full article by the CBC, click here.)
Last week at the annual BC Council of Forest Industries (COFI) convention in Vancouver, Ted Seraphim, President and CEO of West Fraser, which operates a mill in Chetwynd, also voiced his concerns.
“I’m shocked and disappointed that the federal and provincial government in British Columbia made this decision very quickly without consulting our communities, our employees, or our companies in any meaningful way,” he said. West Fraser has invested millions in Chetwynd, and Seraphim questioned how the company could protect its employees.
“This to me is a big, big issue,” he added. “When you invest $150 million in a community with the expectation that if any big changes are going to be made, you’re going to have significant consultation with the government, that affects your confidence in further investment in British Columbia. I’m not just speaking for myself, I’m speaking for our company – we are pretty discouraged and pretty disappointed by what has happened.”
Public meetings in Chetwynd will continue this week, and consultations on the protection plan close May 3.
The provincial government has also announced community engagement sessions from April 15-17 to provide feedback on two draft agreements to conserve caribou populations in the Kootenays.