Home: Bearing Witness

Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou

Photo by Steve Forrest

Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou live in south-eastern and south-central British Columbia, Canada. They exist nowhere else in the world.

The first thing to know about these caribou is that they’re disappearing fast. In 2005 there were 18 herds of Deep-Snow Caribou. Now there are only 12. Very soon there will likely be only eight.

This disappearing act is not accidental. Rather, as this website shows, it’s the long-foreseen, highly choreographed outcome of a modern-day “gold rush” that targets the oldgrowth inland rainforests of southeastern BC – forests these caribou need for survival. It’s that black and white.

THIS WEBSITE HAS SIX OBJECTIVES:

(1) to bear witness to the deliberate extinction of Canada’s southernmost caribou by the BC and Canadian federal governments;
(2) to bring clarity to an issue that even the best journalists often get wrong;
(3) to call out the corporations and agencies most directly responsible for the pending loss of a charismatic Canadian ungulate;
(4) to encourage engagement by young Canadians with an issue with troubling implications for their own future;
(5) to set out an ecology of hope for the future of Canada’s icon of mountain wilderness;
(6) to serve, by example, as resource for a deeper understanding of the profoundly disequilibrating consequences of ever-increasing consumption.

Canada encompasses nearly a quarter of the world’s remaining forested wilderness. The first objective of this website is to bear witness to the structure of deliberate extinction in Canada. – a country, it should be remembered, that ranks among the wealthiest in the world,

While these pages document the decline of the Deep-Snow Caribou in general, they give special emphasis to the “Wells Gray South” herd of southern Wells Gray Provincial Park. This is only one of only three herds whose ranges broadly overlap with protected areas. The fact that even this herd has declined by 60% since 1995 raises two important questions: (1) If these caribou can’t persist even here, in a large protected area, then Why not?; and (2) If they can’t persist even here, then where else could they persist? The second objective is to provide answers to these two questions.

This overview of clearcut logging adjacent to southern Wells Gray Park dates from 2004. Much more has been cut since then, meanwhile leading to a 40% loss of the Wells Gray South Deep-Snow Caribou herd. In 2019, the local mill permanently closed, putting nearly 200 people out of work. All this with thanks to the environmental policies of BC governments past and present – and with the able assistance of industry and, tragically, countless ethically compromised resource professionals.

To knowingly drive an animal like the Deep-Snow Caribou to extinction is against the law under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. The third objective is to shine a light on the actions and inactions of individuals in positions of authority at every level of government, industry and professional reliance – the morally questionable people most directly responsible for continuing to drive a charismatic, quintessentially Canadian ungulate to the brink even now, in its darkest hour.

Caribou are canaries in the clearcut. The fourth objective is to help instill an ethic of caring in young people who urgently need to cultivate a fierce love for the living world – without which they themselves seem likely to inhabit an ever-darkening future.

The Canadian government has an international obligation to protect an additional seven percent of Canada’s land base in the very near future. The fifth objective is to sketch out what can still be done to build a future for Deep-Snow Caribou. Here is where our focus on the Wells Gray South herd comes into play; for no viable caribou recovery plan can any longer fail to include herds that broadly overlap with large protected areas.

Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou

The future of Canada’s Deep-Snow Caribou hangs in the balance. In 2005, there were still 18 herds of these caribou in the world. Today, there are only half that number, here shown in orange and green. Of these, the herds shown in orange are almost certainly doomed to early extirpation owing to overcutting. Only the three herds shown in green, i.e., Quesnel Highlands (F), Wells Gray South (G) and Central Selkirks (O), overlap significantly with protected areas and, for this reason, have a fighting chance of long-term persistence. But only if their respective protected areas are expanded to encompass their winter foraging needs.

Finally, we are living through a period of frightening – and unprecedented – change, driven entirely by a world view that many describe as “toxic”. This website’s sixth objective is to provide a one-stop resource for concerned citizens determined to achieve a clearer understanding of the terrible costs of resourcism; to learn, through the gift of caribou, how our societal “cult of more” must ultimately consume the living world that sustains us.

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