Greenwash Alert

For better or worse, the B.C. Liberals seem to believe that the best way to build a better future for all British Columbians is to sell off B.C.’s natural assets to the highest or any bidder as quickly as possible – a worldview tracing back to the gold rush days and manifesting today in ghost towns, toxic waste sites and, most recently, imperilled Mountain Caribou.

In time of election, who can really blame the B.C. Liberals for wishing to draw attention away from their failures and toward their wishful thinking for a brilliant future – to paint, that is to say, a dismal situation in hues of rose and green.

This webpage provides critical assessments – reality checks really – of recent and on-going communiqués from the B.C. government pertinent to the uniquely Canadian Mountain Caribou.

Our purpose is to call out greenwashing and doublespeak by a B.C. Liberal government infinitely less interested, one supposes, in the fate of Canada’s icon of mountain wilderness than it is, for example, in getting re-elected.

Let’s see how we go…

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PRESS RELEASE: B.C. commits $27 million to enhance caribou recovery

Office of the Premier, 1 February 2017

Demonstrating the province’s commitment to species-at-risk, the Province is investing $27 million on a comprehensive, caribou recovery program, Premier Christy Clark announced today at the 14th Annual Premier’s B.C. Natural Resources Forum.

“We’re taking action to protect the long-term survival of the woodland caribou,” said Premier Clark. “We’ve already invested millions of dollars and set aside critical habitat, but stronger action is required to reverse population declines, and ensure that our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to experience these animals in the wild.”

ANALYSIS: The B.C. Liberal government announced its original Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan (R.I.P.) in 2007, promising to stabilize the decline of these animals by 2014. For the record, there are about 600 fewer Mountain Caribou in the world today than there were when R.I.P. was released nine years ago.

The comprehensive program will build on existing efforts and will have five key components:

  • Critical caribou habitat protection and restoration
  • Maternal penning
  • Predator management
  • Research and monitoring
  • Increased compliance and enforcement

  • Critical caribou habitat protection would be a good idea; but if the B.C. Liberals really mean this, then surely they’ll grant the moratorium called for here. Stay tuned…
  • Critical caribou habitat restoration. Interesting phrase, but meaningless. Mountain Caribou depend absolutely on extensive tracts of old forests both for winter food – hair lichens – and for protection against predators. The only “habitat restoration” possible in such a case is to wait a century or so while caribou habitat restores itself.

    Critical Caribou Habitat Restoration? Sure thing, if you can wait about a hundred years. Too bad Wells Gray’s caribou are running out of time.

  • Maternal penning. Maybe try asking the B.C. Liberals how many calves and cow caribou have already died in these well-intended concentration camps. The answer (if they’re honest) will probably shock you.
  • Predator Management. As euphemisms go, this is a fine one. Still, words aren’t enough to mask the sheer brutality the B.C. Liberals’ short-sighted environmental policies have lately unleashed on SuperNatural British Columbia. (See “Of Wolves & Men”.)
  • Research. Actually the research has been done, the results are in, and the B.C. Liberals know very well where it points to. And yet they won’t even grant a moratorium in the Upper Clearwater Valley.

  • Monitoring. Monitoring extirpation is just too sad for words.
  • Increased compliance and enforcement. To a considerable extent, this is public money spent solving problems created in large part by the B.C. Liberals’ long history of environmental deregulation.

“Caribou recovery is complicated by numerous factors including habitat alteration, climate change, increased predation and competition from moose, deer and elk,” said Minister of Forests and Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Steve Thomson. “By investing $8 million this year, and another $19 million over the next two years, B.C. is making a clear statement that it is serious about caribou recovery.”

ANALYSIS: Not really. The $27 million is simply the cost of 16 years of environmental deregulation now being passed along to the B.C. taxpayer. Better this money, or most of it, should be used to pay the wages of soon-to-be-unemployed mill workers once the B.C. government begins to run up hard against the Federal Species at Risk Act – a situation entirely of the B.C. Liberals’ own making.

One of the first items to be completed will be a strategic action plan specific to the Quintette herd in the South Peace. Additional maternal penning projects, designed to increase calf survival of new caribou, are also being contemplated. There are currently two maternal penning projects, one near Revelstoke and the other near West Moberley.

There are 51 woodland caribou herds in British Columbia divided into four groups: southern mountain, central mountain, northern mountain, and boreal.

“These iconic creatures were once one of Canada’s most widespread species, found in over 80% of the country,” said Environment Minister Mary Polak.

ANALYSIS: Not so. Mountain Caribou have always been restricted to mountainous western North America, formerly south to northern Washington and Montana, and still to northern Idaho, albeit in small numbers.

“Today, many of the province’s herds are at-risk of disappearing altogether. We are taking the necessary steps to protect caribou habitat and working to ensure that economic development activities can continue without compromising caribou recovery efforts.”

ANALYSIS: Unfortunately this bears no relation to what is now happening near Wells Gray Park, where plans to log in Critical Habitat for Caribou are now underway – to the detriment of the world’s second largest herd of southern Mountain Caribou.

The B.C. government is committed to actions that will help recover populations of species at risk. The additional investments in caribou recovery will try to reverse the decline in caribou populations. Today there are some 19,000 caribou in the province, compared to between 30,000 and 40,000 at the turn of the last century.

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Premier’s response to a concerned citizen

Office of the Premier, 16 February 2017
Subject: RE: logging moratorium, Upper Clearwater Valley

Thank you for your letter expressing your pride in the natural beauty of our great province – it certainly is one of our most wonderful attributes and one that is appreciated by all of us.

“The natural beauty of our great province … is appreciated by all of us.” Photo courtesy of TJ Watt

We want to assure you that we are dedicated to protecting caribou herds throughout BC. On February 1st, the government committed $27 million in funding to enhance caribou recovery. As Premier Clark stated: “We’re taking action to protect the long-term survival of the woodland caribou. We’ve already invested millions of dollars and set aside critical habitat, but stronger action is required to reverse population declines, and ensure that our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to experience these animals in the wild.”

Based on the latest science, we know that caribou recovery requires many strategic actions. That’s why the Caribou Recovery Program will focus on five key areas: expanding habitat protection and restoration efforts, maternal penning, predator management, research and monitoring, and increased compliance and enforcement.

ASSESSMENT: To this point this letter is simply cut and paste from the 1 February press release, above. As such it is disrespectful to concerns raised about logging near Wells Gray Park. The writer would be advised to write a second letter saying, in effect, “Yes, I know about all that, well done. But I really don’t see how your $27 million programme aligns with plans underway in real time to log in Critical Habitat for Caribou near a protected area established many years ago to give sanctuary to what is the world’s second largest population of southern Mountain Caribou. I would be grateful if you would please comment on this?”

We have noted your comments about the forestry activity in the Upper Clearwater Valley. We see that you have already shared a copy of your letter with our colleagues, the Honourable Steve Thomson, Minister of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Please be assured that your input will be considered in any related discussion.

ANALYSIS: This is fine as far as it goes; but finer would have been if the points raised in the original letter were acknowledged.

Again, thank you for writing.

ANALYSIS: For some reason, the Premier is refraining from signing her letters. Maybe ask for a proper signature to ensure accountability.