The Upper Clearwater Referral Group calls upon the B.C. government to establish a moratorium on industrial logging adjacent to of southern Wells Gray Park until such time as its Mountain Caribou herds show definite signs of recovery. In principle the moratorium area should be situated on lands mapped as ‘critical habitat’ on page 87 of the report, Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population.
The Plight of the Mountain Caribou
In general terms the plight of Wells Gray’s Mountain Caribou can be attributed to a simple chain of cause and effect. Briefly: (1) intense industrial-scale logging immediately outside the park creates expanses of young sapling forests; (2) young sapling forests attract and provide food for moose and deer; (3) enhanced populations of moose and deer support enhanced populations of cougar and especially wolves; (4) enhanced populations of cougar and especially wolves sooner or later learn to hunt the park’s Mountain Caribou, especially during calving; (5) the park’s Mountain Caribou numbers decline.
It is in the nature of the wolf to prey upon the deer, including the reindeer and, indeed, the Mountain Caribou. But too many clearcuts crowded close to Wells Gray mean too many wolves and, now, too few caribou. Either we learn to accommodate wilderness values such as the Mountain Caribou by thinking outside the box framed by park borders, or Canada – and the world – is destined soon to lose an icon of Canadian mountain wilderness. No amount of poisoning wolves, sterilizing wolves or gunning wolves down from low-flying aircraft can change that. Photo by Mocbuy at wikipedia.
Intense clearcut logging has been ongoing near southern Wells Gray since the early 70s and, beginning about 1995, triggered a decline in the park’s Mountain Caribou herds. This decline continues to this day and has reduced the total population by about two-thirds, that is, from about 325 animals to about 120 animals at last count.
Since then, most logging near southern Wells Gray Park has taken place outside the Clearwater Valley. That changed, however, in January 2016, when clearcuts began to multiply across the valley’s western slopes. More recently still, MoF awarded CANFOR the first of ten proposed cutting permits on the east side of the valley.
This burst of logging activity within the Clearwater Valley will likely be disastrous for the park’s caribou herds. Briefly, snow in this portion of the valley is light by local standards, so Wells Gray’s deer and moose congregate here in winter – as do its wolves and cougar. Logging this area would create even better winter habitat for these animals, in time bringing even more predation to bear on the park’s caribou. A perfect predator storm.
What is particularly disturbing about this recent logging is that the forests being cut occur within an area federally designated in 2014 as Critical Habitat for Caribou – a legal designation under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA). For this reason alone, these cutblocks should never have been put up to bid by MoF nor should they have been approved. Yet the government officials who approved them were fully aware of their probable cumulative impacts on Wells Gray’s Mountain Caribou herds.
Early in the 20th century, wildfire burned off about 90,000 ha of low- and mid-elevation forests here. Nearly a century later, those burned areas support mature forests soon destined to transition to oldgrowth. As this process gets underway, the Clearwater Valley – most of it protected in Wells Gray – will become progressively less productive for moose and hence also for the wolves that predate upon them. With less predation and increased access to oldgrowth at valley-elevations, the park’s caribou herds are expected to rebuild. Indeed, nowhere else within the range of the southern Mountain Caribou does the future look so bright. Or so it would if logging near the park hadn’t triggered the loss of half the herd in the past decade alone.
The writing is on the wall. The vast protected area encompassed by Wells Gray Park northward to Bowron Lakes must sooner or later become a final sanctuary these animals; there’s nowhere else. This places CANFOR’s proposed logging into proper perspective.
For all of these reasons the Upper Clearwater Referral Group calls upon the B.C. government to establish a moratorium on industrial logging adjacent to southern Wells Gray Park until such time as its Mountain Caribou herds show definite signs of recovery. The moratorium area should be situated on lands mapped as ‘critical habitat’ on page 87 of the report, Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population.
Anatomy of a Moratorium. No further industrial logging should take place in the Clearwater Valley north of Spahats Creek. This portion of the moratorium area covers about 10,000 ha, divisible into nine units, A through J. Each unit represents a unique constellation of values (1 through 9). The red arrows mark important viewpoints. (Note: click map to enlarge.)
The hour is late for the Mountain Caribou, but perhaps not yet too late. Please speak out.