Upper Clearwater Valley, 15 March 2019
This webpage has two parts: first a summary overview of the issues at hand, and second a timeline chronicling the “rest” of the story – that is, from early April 2017 down to today, or thereabouts. (Skip ahead to beginning of timeline. Skip ahead to end of timeline.)
The purpose of our Death by 1000 Clearcuts website is threefold: first, to call upon the premier of British Columbia to establish a moratorium on industrial logging adjacent to southern Wells Gray Park until such time as its Mountain Caribou show definite signs of recovery and the Guiding Principles agreement is reinstated as a formal government objective; second, to prevail upon the federal Minister of Environment to act on an emergency protection order that has languished in her office since early April; and third, to call upon CANFOR to stand down from further logging within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou near Wells Gray Park.
The story now unfolding in the Upper Clearwater Valley has many elements, not least including some of the big ticket social and environmental issues of our time: disregard for science, disinformation, post-truth politics, cynicism, nature deficit disorder, habitat destruction, deepening climate change, environmental destabilization, species extinction, economic destabilization, growing fiscal inequality, increasing unemployment.
For convenience, these issues can be organized under four headings:
1. Our prevailing Neoliberal Mindset: This is the view, first, that the Earth and its nonhuman inhabitants have value only insofar as they contribute to human well being; and second, that human well being requires constant economic and material growth. Taken together, these beliefs demand the ever-expanding conversion of natural resources into monetary wealth and, from this, the implacable creation of ‘sacrifice zones.’ Sacrifice zones are places where people find themselves obliged to give up their own long-term best interests in exchange for short-term employment based on finite resource extraction. Such employment ends when the resource in question becomes depleted and, so to speak, tomorrow is finally overtaken by today. What happens next is never pretty: Community Alert.
2. Broken-treaty Governance: To judge from events in the Upper Clearwater ValleyGuiding Principles, B.C.’s provincial government cannot be depended upon to uphold formal agreements with its citizens. Such behaviour harkens to a shameful time in Canadian history which most of us like to think is securely in the past – except it isn’t.
3. Climate Denialism: Forestry operates over timescales measured in decades or longer. As climate change deepens, past weather events can no longer be counted on to predict future weather events. Yet CANFOR steadfastly refuses to accept that the impacts of the cutblocks it clearcut logs today will play out against a backdrop of increasingly extreme weather. In mountainous regions, this places downstream communities at long-term risk of flood.
4. The Sixth Global Extinction: Planet Earth is now undergoing a human-induced extinctionary spasm, the like of which has been seen only five times in the four billion year history of life. Aligning well with this is the precipitous decline of the Mountain Caribou – arguably Canada’s most blatant intersection with global extinction. As such, the story now unfolding in Wells Gray Park raises two disturbing questions: (1) if Canada, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, is unwilling to secure a future for its most iconic endangered species, then what hope is there for better outcomes elsewhere; and (2) is this really who Canadians are, that is, in their heart of hearts?
SO WHO’S TO BLAME?
The multiple wrongs being perpetrated upon a small rural community and a nearby endangered species are of course systemic; they mirror our prevailing understanding of the world as resource. Yet at higher resolution they invite censure on the part of five institutions and governing bodies that to varying degrees are no longer working on behalf of the public good.
First, to CANFOR, for failing to live up to its social license. Consider the chasm that separates CANFOR’s public commitment to its social license from its actions on the ground. First, here’s what Don Kayne, CANFOR President and CEO said about his company on 9 July 2012: “We will not support actions that impact parks, riparian areas or areas that provide critical habitat for species at risk, or other important environmental values such as biodiversity and old growth.” And now, here’s how CANFOR actually behaves out in the real world: Canfor rushes to clearcut critical habitat for endangered Mountain Caribou.
Second, to the B.C. Liberals for short-sighted environmental deregulation that over 16 years punished the environment and hollowed out rural communities. Above all, the policies of Christy Clark (and before her Gordon Campbell) betrayed the efforts of earlier B.C. governments to give lasting sanctuary to B.C.’s plants and animals, not least the Southern Mountain Caribou: Decline of Mountain Caribou in Southern Wells Gray Park.
Third, to the honourable Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, for seeming indifference to the pending extinction of a Canadian icon: for shirking her responsibility under Canadian law to adjudicate in a timely fashion an emergency petition on behalf of a federally listed species at risk, here the endangered Southern Mountain Caribou: Emergency Alert.
Fourth, to British Columbia’s professional bodies, the Association of BC Forest Professionals and the College of Applied Biology, for failure over many years to censure professional foresters and biologists whose behaviour transgressed their codes of ethics. In effect these organizations have turned a blind eye to the kind of behaviour that now threatens the future of endangered species like Mountain Caribou. They have much to atone for: Unprofessional Reliance.
And fifth, most regrettably, to Canada’s mainstream journalists, for indifference toward an international tragedy. The Canadian media has been curiously reluctant to bring to public attention the demise of this country’s icon of mountain wilderness: the mountain caribou. As mentioned, these animals are arguably Canada’s most potent intersection with the sixth great extinctionary episode now sweeping the planet. If the media spotlight’s not intended for the likes of them, then who in the name of all that’s wild and alive is it meant for?
WELLS GRAY CHRONICLE: APRIL 2017 THROUGH AUGUST 2018
The period from early April through late August was a critical one vis-a-vis Wells Gray’s Mountain Caribou. Here are some highlights: (1) a formal petition is sent to the federal government asking for an emergency protection order against further logging in Critical Habitat for Caribou near Wells Gray Park; (2) both CANFOR and the B.C. Forest Service are made aware of this petition; (3) CANFOR responds by logging yet another large cutblock in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou; (4) after 16 years of environmental deregulation, the B.C. Liberals are voted out of office; (5) the federal government fails to respond in a timely fashion to an emergency petition on behalf of Mountain Caribou; and (6) formal complaints are prepared against two key professionals – a forester and a biologist – whose actions will likely accelerate the decline of Wells Gray’s endangered Mountain Caribou.
Now the details:
|Winter 2018||Winter 2019|
|Spring 2017||Spring 2018||Spring 2019|
|Summer 2017||Summer 2018|
|Autumn 2017||Autumn 2018|
3 April 2017. DeSmog Canada publishes an article by Damien Gillis establishing a link between CANFOR’s donations to the B.C. Liberal Party and its being given permission to log in Critical Habitat for Mountain Caribou: B.C. Liberals Grant Major Political Donor Permission to Log Endangered Caribou Habitat.
6 April 2017. The Prince George Citizen carries an article by Mark Nielsen on Canfor’s proposed logging near Wells Gray Park: Logging threatens Wells Gray caribou herd, petitioners say.
7 April 2017. Acting on behalf of the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society and other environmental groups and individuals province-wide, William Andrews, lawyer, files an application with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for an emergency stop order on further logging and related road building in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou in the Upper Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Park. In his cover letter, Mr. Andrews notes that “the Minister’s decision under section 80(2) of Canada’s Species at Risk Act must be made in a timely manner, bearing in mind the emergency nature of the order requested.” Accordingly, a decision is requested with 45 days of receipt. Here is the application in full.
7 April 2017. The Wilderness Committee issues a press release titled BC won’t protect endangered caribou habitat, groups ask Ottawa to step in. The press release prompts a follow-up interview with CBC radio but otherwise fails to attract media attention. It can be read here: BC won’t protect endangered Caribou habitat, groups ask Ottawa to step in.
18 April 2017. Kamloops This Week carries a hard-hitting letter to the editor by local resident Roland Neave: Letter to the editor in Kamloops This Week.
24 April 2017. William Andrews, lawyer, sends a letter to Rachael Pollard, District Manager of the B.C. Ministry of Forests, requesting that she defer decision-making regarding CANFOR’s planned cutblocks until the federal government decides whether to grant the emergency stop order applied for on 7 April. The letter remains unanswered.
26 April 2017. William Andrews, lawyer, sends a letter in care of Stefan Borge, CANFOR, asking for cessation of logging activities that could adversely affect the Mountain Caribou of southern Wells Gray Park. Specifically the letter requests that logging be deferred on the east side of the Upper Clearwater Valley pending a decision by the federal government whether to make an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act. The letter remains unanswered. Letter to Stefan Borge, Canfor.
2 May 2017. Former Wilderness Committee national policy director Gwen Barlee submits an opinion piece to the Times Colonist. The document is never published but can be read here: Letter to the editor of the Times Colonist.
2 May 2017. Canadians for Caribou releases a protest video in which local residents ask CANFOR to stand down from clearcut logging in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou while the Federal Government reviews the petition for an Emergency Stop Order: Clearwater citizens send a message to million dollar BC Liberal donor Canfor.
15 May 2017. Sun Peaks News publishes an article by Jeana Mustain reporting on the petition for an Emergency Stop Order currently under review by the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change under Catherine McKenna: Logging of Clearwater Valley goes federal.
23 May 2017. A decision by Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, on the petition for an Emergency Stop Order falls due but is not received. Instead, Barry Smith, Director of the Pacific Region of the Canadian Wildlife Service, writes to say that CWS has been “engaged in gathering information on potential threats to the recovery or survival of” the Southern Mountain Caribou, recognizing “the importance of this issue, as well as the need to respond in a timely matter.” Letter from Barry Smith.
25 May 2017. Despite repeated requests to refrain from logging within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou while the Emergency Order is under review by the Federal Government, Canfor commences logging a 180 ha cutblock on the western slopes of the Clearwater Valley.
31 May 2017. A letter is received from CANFOR confirming its intention to clearcut log five proposed cutblocks in the area covered by the Emergency Protection Order.
1 June 2017. Canadians for Caribou releases a video establishing the link between Canfor’s logging within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou and the precipitous decline of the southern Mountain Caribou: Current Canfor logging operations in critical habitat for Mountain Caribou.
4 June 2017. Kamloops This Week runs an article by Cam Fortems on the petition for an Emergency Stop Order: Anti-logging residents await answer on appeal to federal government.
7 June 2017. Two months ago today, William Andrews, lawyer, filed an application with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for an emergency stop order on further logging and related road building in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou in the Upper Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Park. No decision has been forthcoming.
10 June 2017. Canfor finishes logging 180 ha in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou on the western slopes of the Clearwater Valley near southern Wells Gray Park. Cleanup activity continues for some weeks.
29 June 2017. Canadians for Caribou releases drone footage showing the extent of Canfor’s recent logging on the western slopes of the Clearwater Valley within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou: Canfor rushes to clearcut critical habitat for endangered Mountain Caribou.
29 June 2017. The Wilderness Committee issues a press release titled Logging ruins endangered southern mountain caribou habitat. Unfortunately the press release fails to attract media attention. It can be read here: Logging ruins endangered Southern Mountain Caribou habitat: Conservationists demand BC and Canada immediately ban logging within critical habitat.
29 June 2017. A caribou-friendly petition on Change.org is updated in light of the defeat of the B.C. Liberals and the end of 16 years of neoliberal policies. The petition asks the new NDP government to establish a moratorium on logging near southern Wells Gray Park in federally designated critical habitat for the survival and recovery of Mountain Caribou. Link here to add your name: Help save the uniquely Canadian Southern Mountain Caribou from pending extinction.
7 July 2017. Three months ago today, William Andrews, lawyer, filed an application with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for an emergency stop order on further logging and related road building in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou in the Upper Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Park. No decision has been forthcoming.
26 July 2017. DeSmog Canada publishes an article by Damien Gillis documenting Canfor’s recent logging near Wells Gray Park in Critical Habitat for Mountain Caribou: Endangered Caribou Habitat Clearcut During B.C. Election Uncertainty.
27 July 2017. It is learned that CANFOR proposes to log around 50 additional cutblocks near southern Wells Gray Park within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou: Kamloops TSA Planning Base.
29 July 2017. The Upper Clearwater Referral Group receives a letter from CANFOR asking for input on a newly proposed clearcut on the western slopes of the Upper Clearwater Valley within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou.
1 August 2017. CANFOR is undertaking road improvements in the Spahats Valley near southern Wells Gray Park preparatory to logging two high-elevation cutblocks situated within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou.
7 August 2017. Four months ago today, William Andrews, lawyer, filed an application with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for an emergency stop order on further logging and related road building in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou in the Upper Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Park. No decision has been forthcoming.
7 August 2017. The Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society submits two formal complaints pertinent to CANFOR’s recent and on-going logging near southern Wells Gray Park within Critical Habitat for Caribou. One complaint is addressed to the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals, the other goes to the College of Applied Biology of B.C. Both point to serious disregard for professional ethics.
29 August 2017 The Upper Clearwater Referral Group sends a letter to Premier John Horgan advising him of the threat of extinction of Wells Gray’s south Mountain Caribou herd. Here’s the letter: Caribou Alert.
7 September 2017. Five months after receiving a petition for an *EMERGENCY PROTECTION ORDER* on behalf of Wells Gray’s southern Mountain Caribou herd, and four months after the requested deadline for a decision, Catherine McKenna, Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, still hasn’t come through with a decision. In the meantime, 180 ha of federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou has been lost, and CANFOR has signalled its plans for at least fifty additional cutblocks within critical caribou habitat.
13 September 2017. Having ignored repeated arguments to place restraints on intrusive logging practices in the Upper Clearwater Valley, and three months after Canfor claims to have finished clearcutting vast areas on its western slopes, the Ministry of Forests announces a “Visual Landscape Inventory Update” for the Clearwater Valley. A meeting to be held on 26 September will ask for input on “viewpoints and viewscapes valued by the public” – too late for the well-being of Wells Gray’s Mountain Caribou, and too bad, alas, for Clearwater’s long-standing efforts to enhance its wilderness tourism economy. In the words of local resident Erik Milton: “I have to say that the request from forestry seeking input into visual impact in the valley crushed me a little. That they could ignore our suggestions, efforts, and plea’s for almost six years then clearcut large parts of the valley – and then have the audacity to ask for input afterwards seems almost orchestrated to me. In any case, it is as clear a signal as we’ve ever had as to the attitude of our bureaucrats toward democracy.”
6 October 2017. Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, writes to Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, asking for a decision on the Emergency Order submitted to her ministry by lawyer William Andrews on 7 April 2017. “While the applicant would prefer that both their resources and those of the Canadian Wildlife Services go towards protecting this endangered species and their habitat, they have been fundraising to support an application to the Federal Court.”
7 October 2017. A half year ago today, William Andrews, lawyer, filed an application with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for an emergency order on further logging and related road building in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou in the Upper Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Park. Incredibly, no decision has been forthcoming.
13 October 2017. Despite repeated requests to refrain from logging within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou while the Emergency Order is under review by the Federal Government, CANFOR reportedly commences further logging on the western slopes of the Clearwater Valley.
15 October 2017. Alive publishes an on-line article by Daniela Ginta on the plight of Wells Gray’s caribou. It’s called “Saving What’s Left of the Caribou: Why We Should Care.”
17 October 2017. William Andrews, lawyer, addresses a letter to Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, requesting a decision on the Emergency Order by October 31, 2017. “If you fail to respond substantively by that date then my instructions are to initiate an application in Federal Court for an order requiring you to make a decision under s.80(2).”
26 October 2017. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, responds to William Andrews’ letter of 17 October saying, in part, that her Ministry “continues to work with the Government of British Columbia to advance efforts to protect and recovery this iconic species and its critical habitat while taking the appropriate and timely actions necessary to assure that the species’ survival and recovery are not jeopardized.” The meaning of such a statement, coming nearly 7 months after submission of an emergency protection order under SARA, must be left to the readers’ judgement.
29 October 2017. The Upper Clearwater Referral Group has still received no response from Premier John Horgan to their letter of 29 August in which he is implored to take action on behalf of the Wells Gray South Mountain Caribou herd, now teetering on extinction. Here again, for the hell of it, is the letter: Caribou Alert.
31 October 2017. CANFOR’s logging operations in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou on the west slopes of the Clearwater reportedly began on Friday the 13th of October and reportedly continue today on Halloween. Scary stuff for members of the world’s second largest remaining Southern Mountain Caribou herd! Doubtless they take at least some comfort from Catherine McKenna’s meaningful words of 26 October 2017, above.
7 November 2017. Seven months ago today, William Andrews, lawyer, filed an application with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for an emergency stop order on further logging and related road building in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou in the Upper Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Park. No decision has been forthcoming.
17 November 2017. Today CANFOR finishes logging a high-elevation oldgrowth forest immediately south of Wells Gray in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou. Work began in mid October. Link here for a glimpse of what CANFOR has been up to. Meanwhile, logging on the west side of the Clearwater Valley continues, now in its second month. Busy, busy, busy…
6 December 2017. Enough is enough. Today William Andrews, lawyer, files an application by Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society in the Federal Court of Canada for an order that Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna make a decision on whether to recommend an emergency order for the protection of the Wells Gray Thompson caribou herd.
14 December 2017. Acting on behalf of the Valhalla Wilderness Society, Calvin Sanborn, lawyer, files a formal application with the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, for an emergency protection order calling an immediate halt to logging and motorized winter recreation in federally designated critical winter habitat within the range of Southern Mountain Caribou. In his cover letter, Mr. Sanborn notes that Minister McKenna is required by law to “to recommend an emergency order if you are of the opinion that a species faces such threats.” Here is the application in full.
29 January 2018. In an affidavit to the Federal Court of Canada, Robert S. McLean (Director General of the Assessment and Regulatory Affairs Directorate of the Canadian Wildlife Service) provides a handy summary of legalistic issues around species protection in Canada.
30 January 2018. In an affidavit to the Federal Court of Canada, Blair Hammond (Acting Regional Director, Pacific Region, Environment Canada) provides a useful if incomplete history of events pertinent to the decline of the Wells Gray South Caribou herd.
2 February 2018. Today William Andrews, lawyer, reports that a court date has been set for a hearing on 9 and 10 May at the Federal Court in Vancouver. See you there!
28 February 2018. Today William Andrews, lawyer, submits to the Federal Court of Canada his “Applicant’s Memorandum of Fact and Law,” in which he outlines the legal case for obliging Minister Catherine McKenna to form an opinion on whether the Wells Gray South herd faces imminent threats to its survival or recovery – something that ought to have happened ten months ago.
22 March 2018. Today caribou biologist Lee Harding makes a formal request to Environment Canada for the information and advice package used by Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, to adjudicate four petitions for an Emergency Protection order of BC Southern Mountain Caribou. See also 23 April 2018.
26 March 2018. In an affidavit to the Federal Court of Canada, Blair Hammond (Regional Director, Pacific Region, Environment Canada) acknowledges a major decline in the Southern Mountain Caribou population between 2017 and 2018.
23 April 2018. Today Environment Canada denies a freedom-of-information request by caribou biologist Lee Harding for the information and advice package used by Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, to adjudicate four petitions for an Emergency Protection order of BC Southern Mountain Caribou, two of which were received a year earlier. Officials at Environment Canada claim that no such information package exists, notwithstanding an e-mail (dated 18 October 2017) on file from the Canadian Wildlife Service stating that the file had already been completed and would “shortly” be provided to the Minister “to support her decision making under section 80 of SARA.” See also 7 September 2018.
24 April 2018. A consortium of 12 BC environmental groups sends a letter to Catherine McKenna (Federal Minister of Environment), George Heyman (BC Minister of Environment) and Doug Donaldson (BC Minister of Forests) requesting a moratorium on further activities detrimental to caribou in BC. The letter provides some helpful background and is well worth a read.
4 May 2018. In order to avoid a federal court challenge by the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society, Federal Minister Catherine McKenna posts a summary of her ‘imminent threat analysis’ for mountain caribou in southern and central British Columbia. “Immediate intervention is required to allow for eventual recovery,” says the analysis. Tragically, the Wells Gray South herd is not included as a herd in need of federal protection.
9 May 2018. An article in the Vancouver Sun published today by Randy Shore highlights what’s at stake for the BC government in its refusal to protect the Wells Gray South Mountain Caribou. Here’s the story.
10 May 2018. “Federal foot-dragging over protection of endangered southern mountain caribou herds has brought a strong rebuke from a Federal Court judge this week. … Justice Michael Phelan, in a decision on a judicial review launched by the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society, described the lack of action by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as “egregious.” Here’s the story. And here’s the judgment itself.
12 June 2018. Under threat of legal action by the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society, the federal government finally responds to “three” (actually four) submissions for emergency protection for Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. In her decision, Minister Catherine McKenna determines that seven herds – three of which no longer exist and another three of which have eight members between them – are indeed at risk and may qualify for federal protection. The Wells Gray South herd, however, is not included among the herds up for protection. Why? Because it has 111 members, whereas the cut-off point for protection is arbitrarily set at 100 members. Never mind that the herd has declined by half in the past decade. With respect, protection for herds already doomed to extinction is no protection at all.
14 June 2018. Today an open letter concerning the BC government’s Provincial Caribou Recovery Program Discussion paper appears, written by caribou biologists Justina Ray and Chris Johnson. Briefly, the letter criticizes the discussion paper for “lack of acknowledgement of the problem,’ “lack of acknowledgement of the accumulated body of research,’ “overemphasis of recovery actions to date,’ “lack of solutions,’ “inadequate attention to BC’s obligation to protect critical habitat under SARA,’ and “lack of transparency” on its intention to give up on some herds. Ray and Johnson also criticize the plan for failing to stress the desperate need for habitat conservation – the only scientifically grounded hope that remains for these caribou. For the record.
23 July 2018. Today the BC government brings out its Woodland Caribou Plan: Wells Gray South Subpopulation in draft form. Tellingly, this document ignores the crucial importance of Wells Gray Park – which broadly overlaps with two of the six remaining herds with more than 100 members – to the success of any attempt to recover and sustain Mountain Caribou into the future. Indeed, it’s tempting to conclude that the BC government, having precipitated the herd’s collapse over the past decade, has now effectively written if off – a tragic miscalculation if so.
8 August 2018. Today the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society meets in Vancouver with government officials seeking protection for the Wells Gray South caribou herd. In attendance are Sue Milburn-Hopwood (Assistant Deputy Minister Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada), Blair Hammond (Regional Director, Pacific Region, Environment Canada), Raul Rasmussen (Executive Director, Species at Risk Recovery, Resource Stewardship Division), Darcy Peel (Acting Director Caribou Recovery), Rachael Pollard (District Manager of Forests), Jennifer McGuire (Assistant Deputy Minister of BC Environment Ministry taking responsibility for Caribou), Jim Stanton (Assistant Deputy Minister, BC Parks), Laura Farquarson (Director General Regional Operations, lead on Mountain Caribou file). The BC government is given seven weeks from this date to come up with a decision for this herd.
9 August 2018. Today the Wilderness Committee releases photos showing ongoing clearcut logging in the Spahats Creek drainage, near the southern boundary of Wells Gray Provincial Park. Says WC campaigner Joe Foy: “The fact that our federal government has designated this forest as critical habitat for southern mountain caribou, who face an imminent threat of disappearing, apparently makes no difference to the B.C. government who continue to permit this extinction logging. I don’t know what is worse — the fact that B.C. has permitted this or the fact that Canada is not enforcing its own laws.”
9 August 2018. In a letter sent out today to its supporters, the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society announces that Canfor intends to log a long-contested cutblock on the western flanks of the Trophy Mountains later this year. The cutblock is labelled T121 and is within an area designed as Critical Habitat for Caribou under Canada’s Species at Risk act. Regional Manager Rachael Pollard awarded the permit for this cutblock in December 2016 in a act of betrayal that scuttled six months of negotiations between government, industry and the Wells Gray Referral Group.
29 August 2018. Today marks one year since the Upper Clearwater Referral Group sent a letter to Premier John Horgan imploring his government to take action on behalf of the Wells Gray South Mountain Caribou herd, pushed ever toward extinction by its environmental policies. At latest count, the herd now numbers 111 animals, more than a 50% decline in the past decade. Still no answer. Here again is the letter, for the record: Caribou Alert.
7 September 2018. Today caribou biologist Lee Harding makes a second request to Environment Canada for information used by Minister Catherine McKenna to adjudicate four petitions for an Emergency Protection order of BC Southern Mountain Caribou. Contrary to their earlier response (see 23 April 2018), officials at Environment Canada acknowledge the existence of such files and request 150 days to assemble them. See also 4 February 2019.
16 October 2018. On 7 April 2017, the Wells Gray Gateway Society submitted a request to the Federal Government for an Emergency Protection Order for the South Wells Gray caribou herd. In the 18 months since then, the BC government has approved 589 cutblocks within portions of the range of the park’s two caribou herds designated as critical habitat under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. The total area logged comes to 9,402 hectares or 23,232 acres. Eighty-eight of these cutblocks (1,933 ha) were approved after 12 June, when the Federal Government announced that it would recommend federal intervention for several southern mountain caribou herds.
28 October 2018. An article in the Globe and Mail today reveals that the BC government has approved 84 new cutblocks within federally designated critical habitat of caribou herds since 12 June, when Canada’s Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced that she would recommend an emergency order for these same herds. The approval of yet more logging affecting these same herds makes a mockery of the federal emergency order. Worse, it confirms that the BC government intends to manage Canada’s mountain caribou to extinction. Crucially, this policy is underwritten by both the BC New Democrat Party under John Horgan and the Green Party of BC under Andrew Weaver. As Roland Willson, chief of the West Moberly First Nations, puts it: “B.C. does not want to be seen as impacting the economy, and that’s primarily what has got us to this state: unfettered resource extraction.”
14 November 2018. Today the BC government posts 50 draft Mountain Caribou recovery plans. Thirteen of these plans pertain to the Southern Mountain Caribou. Intriguingly, four of the herds recommended for emergency protection by the federal government in June (Central Rockies, Duncan, Purcells-Central and Monashee) don’t get recovery plans by the BC government in November – the reason being that they are extirpated. At the same time, three of the herds that do get recovery plans (South Selkirks, Columbia South and Purcells-South) are functionally extirpated, each with four or fewer remaining caribou.
16 November 2018. Ecojustice lawyers, acting on behalf of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Greenpeace Canada, Wilderness Committee, and Wildsight, send a letter today to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna urging her to implement protections for Southern Mountain caribou in British Columbia. The accompanying press release reads, in part: “Southern Mountain caribou face imminent threats to their recovery – by definition, this means that the future of these herds depends on our ability to protect them today. These herds have been in a steady and worrying decline in recent years, primarily due to the destruction and degradation of their habitat.” Read the letter in its entirety here: Environmental groups call on feds to step up B.C. caribou protections.
8 December 2018. Today an article in The Narwhal appears bearing the title “‘We have left it too late’: scientists say some B.C. endangered species can’t be saved”. The article is an important one, well worth reading, but the title could use a reality check. For more than three decades, environmentalists have been calling upon the BC and Canadian governments to ensure a future for BC’s mountain caribou. Instead, the BC and Canadian governments have pursued environmental policies that, with passage of time, look more and more like designer extinction. “Leaving it too late” is oversight. “Designer extinction” is deliberate.
23 December 2018. Today a short letter is submitted for publication in the Vancouver Sun: “Dear Editor: B.C.’s Southern Mountain Caribou are closest we’ll ever have to Santa’s reindeer, but they’re disappearing fast. Recently, the B.C. government released draft recovery plans for 13 herds not already extirpated by industrial logging. Far from promoting caribou recovery, these plans are blueprints for their extinction. To survive, caribou need continuous access to large tracts of old forests at all elevations. At lower elevations, such forests now exist almost exclusively in parks. Rather than urge immediate protection of unlogged habitat near parks, the government’s recovery plans rely on wildlife management in the form of moose, deer and wolf culls – an approach that has no basis in science and has never worked wherever it has been tried. Do give these poor animals a thought during the holiday season.” The letter is not published.
1 January 2019. The portal to a new year seems a good time record some of the egregious behaviour directed toward the Southern Mountain Caribou by our political leaders. The list is long, so let’s stick to the four big ticket items. (1) On 4 May, federal Minister Catherine McKenna announces her ‘imminent threat analysis’ for these caribou which focuses on seven herds, six of which are actually or effectively extirpated, but omits the Wells Gray South herd, which might actually have benefited from federal protection. (2) On 23 July, the BC government under John Horgan posts 13 Woodland Caribou recovery plans, most of which are effectively blueprints for extinction. (3) On 26 July, the Horgan government is caught destroying hundreds of hectares of federally designated critical habitat for caribou near Wells Gray Park. (4) on 28 October, the Horgan government is shown to have approved 84 new cutblocks impacting the very caribou herds recommended for emergency orders by Federal Minister Catherine McKenna four months earlier. The approvals came after McKenna’s announcement.
5 January 2019. Focus on Victoria posts an article by Briony Penn, showing that BC’s NDP government under John Horgan continues to sell off the province’s oldgrowth forests at record speed. This being the case, the Horgan government is now well on its way to becoming the “government of extinction.” Whatever legacies John Horgan, Doug Donaldson, Dianne Nichols and other key players will be remembered for, driving the uniquely Canadian Southern Mountain Caribou past the point of no return is certainly one of them. Crucially, BC’s Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, whose party currently holds the balance of power, is fully aware of this pending outcome of business as usual but has chosen to do nothing about it; he too will surely be remembered as accomplice to extinction in one of the world’s wealthiest nations. For the record.
18 January 2019. Today it becomes official: the international South Selkirk caribou herd is no more. Read the details here, with thanks to The Narwhal reporter Sarah Cox: ‘A sad day’: two more B.C. mountain caribou herds now locally extinct. Meanwhile, federal Minister Catherine McKenna has still not followed through on her June 12 commitment to recommend seven (mostly extirpated) herds for emergency protection.
4 February 2019. Today 150 days have elapsed since Environment Canada agreed to provide caribou biologist Lee Harding with the information and advice package used by Minister Catherine McKenna to adjudicate four petitions for an Emergency Protection order of BC Southern Mountain Caribou. The package has still not been received. See also 19 March 2019.
1 March 2019. Today the BC government under Mr. Darcy Peel begins to chase down Wells Gray’s wolves by helicopter. Once run to ground, a few of these animals will be fitted out with radio transceivers, allowing Mr. Peel to follow their movements. If any are later found to prey on caribou, Mr. Peel may decide to have them gunned down – a decision that, if made, will trace directly to an earlier surprise decision by Mr. Peel’s predecessor, Mr. John Surgenor, who in about 2005 endorsed a proposal to designate the Wells Gray South herd as “assist to long-term sustaining” rather than “self-sustain,” as would have been expected in this case. Translated, this means that: (1) Mr. Surgenor gave the nod to 14 years of intense clearcut logging within the range of this herd; (2) in response, the herd has declined by 60 percent during this period; and (3) Mr. Peel is now setting up to “assist” the herd by shooting down its top predator. Notice that this is taking place within and around Wells Gray Provincial Park: a wilderness preserve established in 1939 and enlarged in the 1950s and 1990s precisely to protect these caribou from such a fate. For the record.
11 March 2019. Today a collective of ten caribou biologists publish a peer-reviewed paper in which two startling claims are made: first, that “protecting habitat will not save most caribou populations;” and second, that caribou can be “saved” instead by a programme of predator culls (wolves and cougar) and liberalized moose and deer hunts. Besides contradicting the Federal Government’s 2018 Imminent Threat Assessment, which stresses the importance of habitat protection for caribou recovery, this paper provides no convincing evidence that deep-snow caribou can be recovered by predator control alone; nor indeed does any such evidence exist. What the authors of this paper – Rob Serrouya, Dale Seip, Dave Hervieux, Bruce McLellan, Scott McNay, Robin Steenweg, Doug Heard, Mark Hebblewhite, Mike Gillingham and Stan Boutin – hoped to achieve by publishing such questionable findings is not clear. Is it by accident that their messaging does more to advance the interests of logging and mining than it does to ensure a future for Canada’s western caribou? See also 15 April, below.
19 March 2019. Today caribou biologist Lee Harding files a complaint with the federal Commissioner for the Access to Information Act in response to Environment Canada’s unwillingness to make available the information package used by Minister Catherine McKenna to adjudicate four petitions for an Emergency Protection order of BC Southern Mountain Caribou. The original request for this document was made 12 months earlier, on 22 March 2018.
15 April 2019. Today Vaughn Palmer, a columnist with the Vancouver Sun, draws the following erroneous (but seemingly intended) inference from the Serrouya & Co. paper of 11 March: “But recent research suggests that habitat protection is not likely to be all that effective in reversing the decline of caribou populations in the area. ‘The classic solution of protecting habitat will not save most caribou populations because of the time needed to recover old forests and the continental scale of disturbance, concluded a team of researchers headed by Robert Serrouya of the University of Alberta and including Dale Seip from the BC Environment Ministry.’”