The pending extinction of the Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou is no oversight or accident. Rather, it’s a government-orchestrated instance of “designer extinction” – extinction by design – taking place in real time in one of the world’s largest, richest nations – in utter contempt of Canada’s international obligations around species protection.
This webpage has two parts. Part I is a summary of HIGHLIGHTS of Deep-Snow Caribou decline between 1976 and 2020. Part II is a TIMELINE from 1954 through 2020 that chronicles both early attempts to ensure a future for these caribou and, since about 2000, another kind of decision-making that has gradually accelerated their decline, with emphasis on the Wells Gray South herd, representative of Deep-Snow Caribou decline as a whole. (Skip ahead to beginning of timeline. Skip ahead to end of timeline.)
PART I: HIGHLIGHTS: JULY 1976 THROUGH JULY 2020
The period 1976 through 2020 is crucial for the long-term survival of Wells Gray’s Deep-Snow Caribou – as for other Mountain Caribou generally. Here are some highlights:
(1) In July 1976, the BC Fish and Wildlife Branch brings out its first regional Caribou Management Plan for Deep-Snow Caribou, making clear its understanding that Deep-Snow Caribou need extensive oldgrowth forests at all elevations for long-term survival.
(2) In May 2002, Deep-Snow Caribou are assessed as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).
(3) In November 2002, the BC Liberal government passes its Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA), in which authority for granting of logging permits is transferred from government to the logging companies themselves – or rather to the professional foresters, biologists, terrain specialists and others employed by the companies and charged with signing off on logging plans.
(4) On 16 October 2007, the BC Liberal government announces its BC Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan, intended to “halt the decline of mountain caribou within seven years … and recover the population within 20 years.” Three key features of this plan are (1) its protection of 300,000 ha of mostly high-elevation habitat of little interest to the forest industry, (2) its heavy reliance on predator culls, and (3) its insistence that rates of logging within the range of Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou remain more or less at historic levels.
(5) In May 2014, these caribou are assessed as endangered by COSEWIC.
(6) In the spring of 2015, an aerial survey conducted in and near Wells Gray Park records ~121 caribou, i.e., down from 336 in 1995, 325 in 2002, 307 in 2004, 242 in 2006, 180 in 2008, 172 in 2011 and 133 in 2013. Industrial-scale logging in the vicinity of the park is widely accepted as the ultimate cause of the decline.
(7) On 7 April 2017, a formal petition is sent to the federal government asking for an emergency protection order against further logging in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou near Wells Gray Park.
(9) Even then, the federal government refuses to grant emergency protection to this herd (4 May 2018).
(10) With the blessing of the BC government, industry responds to the petition by further intense logging (YOUTUBE VIDEO) in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou.
(11) In July 2017, two formal complaints are prepared against a professional forester and a professional biologist who signed off on these and other logging plans clearly detrimental to Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou.
(12) During 2018, the professional organizations responsible for the ethical behaviour of these professionals dismiss the complaints without meaningful explanation.
(13) On 11 March 2019, a consortium of ten caribou biologists releases peer-reviewed paper in which it is claimed that habitat protection will not protect Deep-Snow Caribou, but that killing wolves and creating maternity pens – fenced areas for pregnant caribou – will.
(14) Based on the above paper, the BC government authorizes the killing of 463 wolves within the range of Deep-Snow and other Mountain Caribou during the winter of 2019/2020.
(15) On 14 July 2020, a peer-reviewed paper is published in which it is shown that the March 2019 paper by Serrouya and others promoting wolf kills and maternity pens as sufficient measures for Deep-Snow Caribou recovery is based on faulty reasoning combined with inept or unethical use of statistical methods.
PART II: DEEP-SNOW CARIBOU TIMELINE: OCTOBER 1954 THROUGH JULY 2020:
In October 1954, biologist R.Y. Edwards publishes a peer-reviewed paper in The Journal of Wildlife Management in which he calls attention to the northward decline of the Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou beginning “shortly after 1900” and suggests – correctly as it turns out – that these caribou “cannot tolerate fire or clearcut logging on winter range…”
In January 1974, caribou biologist R.W. Ritcey is reported to have said at a conference in Vernon, BC: “The caribou … requires mature or over-mature coniferous forests for its winter survival. Therefore, forest management which has the objective of maximizing wood fibre production through the maintenance of young productive forests will result in lowered caribou populations.” “History does not deal kindly with those who contribute to the elimination of a species.” Prophetic.
In 1974, E.F. Layser in a peer-reviewed paper on the “Mountain Caribou of northeastern Washington and adjacent northern Idaho,” notes that the American portion of the South Selkirk Deep-Snow Caribou herd, shared with Canada, “has decreased to perhaps less than 30 animals.” “The apparent decline … could be correlated to the acceleration of logging and disturbance within caribou habitat.”
In July 1975, biologist Lee Harding publishes a popular article on the Deep-Snow Caribou in an outdoor magazine called B.C. Outdoors. The article opens as follows: “Our mountain caribou can still be saved. This statement might surprise some people who didn’t know the caribou were in trouble. Yet they are and each year there are fewer and fewer mountaintops with caribou. The problem is not new.” In 2020, 45 years and 1000 clearcuts later, the proposition that “Our mountain caribou can still be saved” will be questionable.
In July 1976, R.W. Ritcey of the BC Fish and Wildlife Branch brings out the first regional Caribou Management Plan for Deep-Snow Caribou, already informally characterized as “threatened.” “The Branch recognizes,” says Mr. Ritcey, “that mountain caribou require old forests rich in lichen for their survival. It will ensure that this requirement is protected wherever possible and that mountain caribou are given proper consideration in forest management…” Unfortunately, these good intentions of 1976 will be subverted, starting around 2005, by the BC Fish and Wildlife Branch in its incarnation as the BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection [LINK TO 1 March 2019 xxX], now the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (hereafter Ministry of Environment). Some time after 2017, the Deep-Snow Caribou file will be transferred to the care of the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development Contacts (hereafter Ministry of Forests).
In 1979, D.R. Johnson of the University of Idaho publishes a peer-reviewed paper in Northwest Science in which he predicts that the Selkirk herd, shared between Canada and the US, “may soon be seriously threatened both from habitat loss and from direct man-caused mortality,” i.e., via poaching and collisions with vehicles travelling the newly completed Salmo-Creston highway. The herd is declared extirpated on 18 January 2019.
In 1981, the British Columbia Social Credit government passed its Environment Management Act, which allowed the Minister of Environment to require “any person who proposes to do anything that would have a detrimental environmental impact” to prepare an environmental impact assessment.
In 1994, the British Columbia NDP government passed its Environmental Assessment Act, in effect BC’s first-ever comprehensive Environmental Law. At the same time it also established the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) in the Ministry of Environment to oversee administration of the new law, thereby providing “an open, accountable and neutrally administered process for the assessment” of a broader range of “reviewable projects.”
In the spring of 1995, an aerial survey conducted by BC Ministry of Environment staff in and near southern Wells Gray Park documents an estimated 336 Mountain Caribou.
On 31 March 1996, the British Columbia NDP government established a Caribou Management Area on the western slopes of the Trophy Mountains under the Kamloops Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP).
In May 2000, the southern Mountain Caribou population was listed as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).
Between 2001 and 2005, the British Columbia Liberal government repealed, amended or replaced a wide range of environmental statutes, as well as cutting funding to environment-related ministries.
In the spring of 2002, an aerial survey conducted by BC Ministry of Environment caribou biologist in and near southern Wells Gray Park documents an estimated 325 Mountain Caribou, down from 336 in 1995. Nearby industrial-scale logging is widely accepted as the ultimate cause of the decline.
In May 2002, the status of the southern Mountain Caribou population was re-examined by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and confirmed as threatened. “Local herds … are generally small, increasingly isolated, and subject to multiple developments. Their range has shrunk by up to 40% and 13 of 19 herds are declining.”
On 30 May 2002, the British Columbia Liberal government repealed the 1994 Environmental Assessment Act, replacing it with its own Environmental Assessment Act as part of a broad deregulation of many environmental laws, and reducing 93 sections of the 1994 Act to 51.
Assessement by Environmental Law Centre (2010): One of the more controversial provisions in the new Act was a requirement “take into account and reflect government policy identified … by a government agency or organization responsible for the identified policy area” – in effect politicizing the environmental assessment process.
In November 2002, the British Columbia Liberal government passed its Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA), intended to help meet its target set in 2001 to eliminate one-third of all regulations.
On 31 January 2004, the BC government completed its transition from the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act (FPC) to the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA). Under FPC, the MoF D.M. had final authority to withhold cutting and road permits, whereas under FRPA (a professional reliance model), that authority was transferred to the logging companies themselves – and, through them, to the professional foresters, hydrologists, terrain specialists and others hired to advise them. From this point on, all logging proposals that meet an approved forest stewardship plan and respect First Nations rights and title MUST be approved.
Analysis by West Coast Environmental Law (2004): “the Forest and Range Practices Act and regulations bring in a new era of forestry deregulation which places an unprecedented degree of control over public resources in the hands of forest companies. There are inadequate checks and balances in the regulations. The potential to hold forest companies accountable is reduced by narrow definitions of terms like damage to the environment, and an increase in the defences available for non-compliance. Government itself will not have critical information necessary to diligently approve logging on public land. It has tied its own hands by imposing extraordinary restrictions on statutory decision makers, and introducing excessive red tape and bureaucracy to measures now necessary to protect the environment. The government has made a major ideological shift, stating that it intends to rely on professional foresters employed by forest companies to deliver the public interest, more than civil servants. All of this could render public and community input into forestry decisions less meaningful. Protecting the environment and maintaining community relations will be more due to the pleasure of a given forest company than a result of these regulations. Over the last decade, in many parts of the province the agencies have been stalled in implementing important conservation initiatives such as landscape level planning, wildlife habitat areas and ungulate winter range in many places in the province. The government has not ensured that these conservation measures were in place before handing over this level of responsibility and control to logging companies. The fact that regulations are now much more lax does not inevitably mean that the environment will be irreparably harmed, as that depends on how forest companies choose to act. But it does significantly increase the risk. Given the time lag that sometimes exists between forestry operations and impact, for some values it may take several years before the impacts are evident on the landscape. Overall, British Columbia has much to lose as a result of this deregulation.”
In the spring of 2004, an aerial survey conducted by BC Ministry of Environment staff in and near southern Wells Gray Park documents an estimated 307 Mountain Caribou, down from 325 in 2002. Nearby industrial-scale logging is widely accepted as the ultimate cause of the decline.
In the spring of 2006, an aerial survey conducted by BC Ministry of Environment staff in and near southern Wells Gray Park documents an estimated 242 Mountain Caribou, down from 307 in 2004. Nearby industrial-scale logging is widely accepted as the ultimate cause of the decline.
On 16 October 2007, the British Columbia Liberal government announces its BC Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan (MCRIP), which is intended to “halt the decline of mountain caribou within seven years for each Planning Unit and recover mountain caribou to 1995 population levels (2500 animals) across the mountain caribou range within 20 years in those Planning Units with greater than 10 animals.” [Note: the Wells Gray – Thompson herds are designated as Planning Unit 4A].
Analysis by Valhalla Wilderness Society (2016): The 2007 Recovery Plan for the Mountain Caribou herds of the Interior Wetbelt aimed to stop the decline of the southern herds by 2014, yet by 2014 these herds had lost 500 mountain caribou. Only 1,358 remained, and their numbers continue to decline. Predator control, maternity penning and translocations are receiving the mass of the focus and funds. In 2015, seven caribou died in pens in BC while the Revelstoke Rearing in the Wild (RCRW) for the North Columbia herd cost $367,582 for one year, and the Klinse-Za maternity penning project near Chetwynd cost nearly $1,000,000 in 2014 and 2015. In 2015, wolf killing reportedly cost BC taxpayers $500,000. However, these projects do nothing to address habitat loss and fragmentation of oldgrowth forest – the root causes of the decline.
In the spring of 2008, an aerial survey conducted by BC Ministry of Environment staff in and near southern Wells Gray Park documents an estimated 180 Mountain Caribou, down from 242 in 2006. Nearby industrial-scale logging is widely accepted as the ultimate cause of the decline.
In February 2009, the British Columbia liberal government under its Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan claims to have “protected approximately 2.2 million hectares of Mountain Caribou habitat from road building and logging.”
Analysis by Valhalla Wilderness Society (2010): Actually only 380,000 hectares were new protection, the rest either being already protected in parks or designated wildlife habitat, or else consisting of “modified harvest zones” subject to fragmentation. Only 77,000 hectares were located on the Timber Harvesting Land Base (THLB), i.e., 0.66% of the THLB over the mountain caribou range. Most of the 2.2 million hectares came from the “non-productive” or “inoperable” forest – forest too high or too steep to profitably log. In fact, 82.9% of the caribou reserves are high or very high elevation spruce-fir forest in caribou winter habitat, while only (12.8%) were located in low- to mid-elevation Interior Cedar-Hemlock forests, i.e., in critical spring and early winter caribou habitat.
In 2009, the British Columbia liberal government cancelled its Caribou Management Area on the western slopes of the Trophy Mountains, which had been in place under the Kamloops Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) since 31 March 1996. This results in a net gain for future logging on the Trophy Mountains and a net loss for Mountain Caribou protection.
In the spring of 2011, an aerial survey conducted by BC Ministry of Environment staff in and near southern Wells Gray Park documents an estimated 172 Mountain Caribou, down from 180 in 2008. Nearby industrial-scale logging is widely accepted as the ultimate cause of the decline.
On 9 July 2012, CANFOR president and CEO Don Kayne publicly summarized his company’s social license, in part stating: “CANFOR does not support actions that would overturn landscape objectives set through public planning processes unless there is full public consultation and support;” and “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.”
On 1 February 2013, Larry Pynn publishes a piece in the Vancouver Sun in which Chris Ritchie, BC fish and wildlife recovery manager is quoted as saying of the Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou: “It’s been a steady decline. Unless we take measures, which in some circumstances are pretty extreme … we don’t see any positive prognosis for these critters.” Measures being considered include “transplants from healthier herds, keeping calves in maternity pens until they are older and better able to survive predators, and a captive-breeding program in cooperation with the Calgary Zoo and Parks Canada.” As usual, no mention is made of habitat protection.
In the spring of 2013, an aerial survey conducted by BC Ministry of Environment caribou biologists in and near southern Wells Gray Park documents an estimated 133 Mountain Caribou, down from 172 in 2011. Nearby industrial-scale logging is widely accepted as the ultimate cause of the decline. [Note: the 133 estimate appears in COSEWIC 2014, but is at variance with the 121 estimate given in an e-mail attachment from Kamloops caribou biologist John Surgenor to Louise Ludham-Taylor dated 19 June 2015]
In May 2014, the status of the southern Mountain Caribou population was re-examined by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and upgraded from threatened to endangered: “The current estimate for the population is 1,356 mature individuals, which has declined by at least 45% in the past three generations, and 27% since the last assessment in 2002. … Surveys have shown consistently high adult mortality and low calf recruitment, accelerating decline rates. Threats are continuing and escalating.”
On 6 June 2014, the Federal Species at Risk Public Registry posted its Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada, which complements the British Columbia Liberal government’s 2008 Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan.
Assessment by the Referral Group:On page 87 of the recovery strategy, the southern Clearwater Valley is assessed as ‘Critical Habitat for Caribou’ for the Wells Gray-Thompson Local Population Unit of the southern Mountain Caribou. The area included covers both the east and west sides of the Clearwater Valley, including areas in which MoF subsequently awarded permits for industrial-scale logging.
In the spring of 2015, an aerial survey conducted by BC Ministry of Environment caribou biologists in and near Wells Gray Park resulted in an estimated Mountain Caribou population of ~121 animals, i.e., down from 336 in 1995, 325 in 2002, 307 in 2004, 242 in 2006, 180 in 2008, 172 in 2011 and 133 in 2013. Industrial-scale logging in the vicinity of the park is widely accepted as the ultimate cause of the decline. [Note: the 2015 estimate is based on an incomplete survey and hence is very approximate. A request for confirmation of these figures was sent to BC government caribou biologist John Surgenor on 15 January 2017, but no response was received].
In March of 2016, Stan Boutin and Evelyn Merrill review “the effectiveness … of recent population-based management levers for southern mountain caribou” In their concluding comments they press for “continued management emphasis on refining timber cutting practices that minimize lichen loss, promoting lichen succession, fostering more rapid recovery of mature forest, and reducing functional habitat loss by limiting recreational activities…” Reviewing this review in 2020, it seems evident that none of the above recommendations have been followed – presumably because the second and third ones are ecologically infeasible while the first and fourth are politically unappealing. Importantly, the reviewers suggest that “no one management tool is likely sufficient to promote caribou persistence.”
On 29 August 2016, the Upper Clearwater Referral Group met with Kamloops-Thompson MoF D.M. Rachael Pollard and MoF Resource Manager Rob Schweitzer. The following notes concern CANFOR’s use of Professional Reliance: (a) CANFOR’s “caribou biologist” is in fact an owl expert for with no documented online expertise with Mountain Caribou: (b) CANFOR’s hydrologist refuses to modify his prescriptions in light of deepening climate change, preferring to predict the future based on the past: and (c) CANFOR refuses to allow its terrain report to be vetted by highly regarded terrain specialists closely informed on the implications of working in volcanic settings.
Analysis by West Coast Environment Law (2004): FRPA WITH EMPHASIS ON PROFESSIONAL RELIANCE: “The requirements of FRPA are vague and involve judgments on issues that are both controvers584ial and inherently political. They involve judgments for which government must be accountable. For instance, professionals could certify that a logging plan will “without unduly reducing the supply of timber … conserve sufficient habitat for survival of a species at risk.” If regulations allow professional certification in this context, the private sector, not government, will be deciding what is needed to protect species and what constitutes an undue impact on timber supply. These requirements are simply not straightforward, non-controversial technical issues such as compliance with a building code. Government is forced to approve certified logging plans even if government officials believe the plans do not comply with the law and do not protect the environment. There is no liability regime in place to ensure professionals are accountable. While a professional association could theoretically decide to discipline a professional for outright incompetence, these powers are reserved for the most flagrant cases. In other areas where professional certification is used, fear of legal liability, in addition to the oversight of a professional body, helps to ensure that professionals are cautious and ensure compliance. For instance, engineers who wrongly approve a faulty building plan can be sued if the building collapses. However, in the context of FRPA it is far less likely that a professional forester could be held liable if a bad logging plan contributes to the extinction of a species.”
On 4 October 2016, the Federal and British Columbia Ministers of Environment announced a joint study to review the regulations in place for the protection of Southern Mountain Caribou and their habitat, and to “determine what additional steps may need to be taken by federal or provincial governments to protect and recover” these animals. The study is being conducted as part of the collaboration between Canada and British Columbia under the Canada-British Columbia Bilateral Agreement on Species at Risk.
3 April 2017. DeSmog Canada publishes an article by Damien Gillis establishing a link between CANFOR’s donations to the BC Liberal Party and its being given permission to log in Critical Habitat for Caribou: BC 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 provide, 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 BC 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 Deep-Snow 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 not accepted for publication 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 Deep-Snow Caribou: Current Canfor logging operations in critical habitat for Mountain Caribou. “Pro-caribou residents…” would have been a more accurate headline.
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’nt 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. As usual, 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 BC Liberals. The petition asks the new BC New Democrat Party 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 BC Election Uncertainty.
27 July 2017. It is learned that CANFOR proposes to log some 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 BC Forest Professionals, the other goes to the College of Applied Biology of BC. Both allege serious disregard for professional ethics with regard to endangered species.
31 August 2017 The Upper Clearwater Referral Group sends a letter to Premier John Horgan advising him of the threat of extinction of Wells Gray South 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 the Wells Gray South Deep-Snow Caribou herd, and four months after the requested deadline for a decision, Catherine McKenna, Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, has yet to render a decision. In the meantime, 180 ha of federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou has been lost, and CANFOR has signaled its plans for at least 50 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 clearcut logging 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”.
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’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.” This comes nearly 7 months after submission of an emergency protection order under SARA.
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 Deep-Snow Caribou herd, now teetering on extinction. Here again 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 continue until today.
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.
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 Deep-Snow 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 partial 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.
19 February 2018. Today an article in The Narwhal by Daniel Pierce brings attention to the BC government’s intention to continue killing wolves as cornerstone to its mountain caribou recovery programme. Hannah Barron, of Wolf Awareness, describes this as “a last-ditch attempt to make it look like they’re doing something … while habitat destruction continues.” “While government scientists say the wolf cull is necessary, many independent scientists are skeptical this strategy will have any meaningful long-term effect on the recovery of the mountain caribou, without significant measures to restore and protect their habitat.”
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 ten months after requested deadline.
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’s Deep-Snow 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 Deep-Snow Caribou population between 2017 and 2018.
5 April 2018. In an article by journalist Judith Lavoie published today in The Narwhal, an unidentified spokesperson for the BC Ministry of Forests admits that the province’s plan for the South Selkirk, South Peace and North Columbia areas is to eliminate all wolves in an effort to protect caribou that remain. “A minimum of 80 per cent of the wolves in the treatment area need to be removed and ideally all wolves will be taken.”
17 April 2018. An article published today in the Vancouver Sun, journalist Randy Shore reports that the Selkirk herd of the Deep-Snow Caribou, formerly shared between British Columbia and the US, is now “functionally extinct,” with only three animals left. The artcile includes the following statement by Calvin Sandborn of the Environmental Law Centre: “The federal and provincial governments have known since the ’80s that this crisis was happening. Scientists have been recommending reduced logging, but there wasn’t the political will (in B.C.) to do it.”
18 April 2018. In an article in The Narwhal, Judith Lavoie reports that the South Selkirk herd formerly shared between Canada and the US has three animals left, down from 11 in 2017. “Robert Serrouya, director of the Caribou Monitoring Unit at the University of Alberta and a Revelstoke resident, was not surprised at the South Selkirk herd’s imminent demise, because of habitat loss around the U.S./Canada border.” Curiously Mr. Serrouya attributes this habitat loss to “agriculture and human settlement,” with no mention of government-endorsed logging.
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.
4 May 2018. In order to avoid a federal court challenge by the Wells Gray Gateway Protecty, Federal Minister Catherine McKenna posts a summary of her Ministry’s Imminent Threat Analysis for mountain caribou in southern and central British Columbia. Two points stand out: (1) “Immediate intervention is required to allow for eventual recovery,” and (2) “In the majority of cases where short-term trends appear to be stabilizing or increasing, the trend is recent and attributed to intensive predator management, sometimes combined with maternity pens and management of primary prey. In the past, the cessation of such actions in the absence of appropriate ecological conditions has resulted in a continuation of caribou declines.” Tragically, the Wells Gray South herd is not recognized as a herd in need of federal protection.
4 May 2018. According to a news clip by Global News, the federal government says it is “one step away from issuing emergency protection orders for dwindling caribou herds in Alberta and British Columbia.” Here’s the clip.
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 Deep-Snow 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.
16 May 2018. West Coast Environmental Law today issues a press release with the subheading “Judge slams federal Environment Minister for failure to protect at-risk caribou herds.” In the strongly-worded judgement, and referring to a lawsuit brought before the federal court by the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society, Justice Phelan expresses himself in the following terms: “the Court is concerned that citizens should not have to resort to mandamus relief to cause the Minister to do what the legislation clearly requires the Minister to do unless there is good reason.”
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 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 because it has 111 members whereas the cut-off point for protection is set at 100 members.
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 urgent neebitat protection – the only scientifically grounded hope that remains to 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. Incredibly, this document makes no mention of the strategic importance of the Wells Gray South herd – which broadly overlaps with a protected area – to any viable recovery plan for Deep-Snow Caribou.
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 the Wells Gray South 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 BC government who continue to permit this extinction logging. I don’t know what is worse — the fact that BC 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 Deep-Snow Caribou herd, pushed ever closer to 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 Wells Gray South 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 Deep-Snow Caribou herds. Future historians examining the proximate causes of Deep-Snow Caribou extinction may well point to this permit-approval frenzy by the John Horgan government – which compromised the only protected habitat that could possibly sustain these animals into the long term – as the final straw.
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.
14 November 2018. Today the BC government posts 50 draft Mountain Caribou recovery plans. Thirteen of these plans pertain to the Deep-Snow 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 – for the very good reason that they no longer exist. 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 her proposed actions 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 full letter here: Environmental groups call on feds to step up BC caribou protections.
8 December 2018. An articleby Sarah Cox is published today in The Narwhal under the headline “‘We have left it too late’: scientists say some BC endangered species can’t be saved”. The article reviews the ethically problematic work of UBC researcher and priority threat management proponent Tara Martin, who seeks to de-prioritize protection for species for which the costs of recovery are judged too high. Environmentalist David Suzuki points to the underlying problem of this approach: “It provides a perverse incentive to industrial players to drive species to the point at which they are deemed ‘too costly’ to save” – a critique implicit in the article’s title, “We have left it too late.” It is worth noting that Martin’s work has received enthusiastic support from the BC government.
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.
18 January 2019. It is now official: the international South Selkirk caribou herd is no more. As of today, Deep-Snow caribou no longer occur in the coterminous USA. Read the details here, with thanks to The Narwhal reporter Sarah Cox: ‘A sad day’: two more BC 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. As of 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, there are reports that the BC Ministry of Environment 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, ths 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 peer-reviewed paper by ten caribou biologists is published, claiming that Deep-Snow Caribou can be “saved” by killing their top predators (wolves and cougar) as well as “overabundant prey” (moose and deer). In making this dubious claim, Rob Serrouya, Dale Seip, Dave Hervieux, Bruce McLellan, Scott McNay, Robin Steenweg, Doug Heard, Mark Hebblewhite, Mike Gillingham and Stan Boutin effectively give the green light to further industrial logging within federally designated critical habitat for caribou – a move that blatantly ignores four decades of research showing that Deep-Snow Caribou do not thrive in the absence of large-scale habitat protection.
11 March 2019. In an article published today by CBC Edmonton – “‘It’s that black or white’: wolves must die to save Canada’s caribou” – journalist Bob Weber summarizes the Serroya et al. paper (see previous entry) as suggesting that “kill more wolves and moose and pen pregnant cows” is the only way to reverse caribou decline in BC and Alberta. On the other hand, Carolyn Campbell of the Alberta Wilderness Association fears this approach “could be used … by industry and government to prolong unsustainable forest exploitation while endlessly harming wildlife species.” Here’s the story.
14 March 2019. In a hard-hitting letter sent today to the Revelstoke Review, Michael Bloomfield of the Harmony Foundation and Sadie Parr of Wolf Awareness lambaste the paper by Serrouya et al. (see 11 March 2019 entry) in the following terms: “The report Saving Endangered Species Using Adaptive Management not only lacks scientific rigor in its design, but should also be questioned for side-stepping an ethical review process that would have prohibited its publication.” Also this: “Beyond raising serious debate within the scientific community, this travesty should disturb every decent person. Because wolf killing largely occurs without supervision there is no intervention to end extreme cases of suffering, which is unavoidable with the methods being used.”
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.
10 April 2019. Today the Vancouver Sun runs an article by Vaughn Palmer in which BC Forests and Lands Minister Doug Donaldson attempts to diffuse push-back to the BC government’s 2018 Mountain Caribou recovery plan, which could result in the loss of 500 forestry jobs in northeast BC. “The federal government,” he says, “issued an imminent threat of extinction [assessment] in May 2018,” “The path that we were headed down … was leading to a result where the federal government would unilaterally impose an order, based on habitat only, that would be catastrophic to workers, catastrophic to communities, and could result in billions of dollars in economic losses in B.C.” Curiously, the draft recovery plan pertains only to shallow-snow Mountain Caribou east of the Rocky Mountains. The seven Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou herds identified by the imminent threats assessment have somehow quietly fallen off the table.
11 April 2019. In an article published today in the Vancouver Star, caribou biologist Rob Serrouya is quoted as saying of the Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou: “No other critter has as much potential to constrain so much the economy, because of the habitat caribou need — which sits right on valuable forest stands and valuable oil and gas deposits”. Read here.
15 April 2019. Today Vaughn Palmer, a columnist with the Vancouver Sun, draws the following (seemingly intended) inference from the Serrouya & Co. paper of 11 Mrong> “…habitat protection is not likely to be all that effective in reversing the decline of caribou populations….” In fact, all existing scientific evidence indicates that caribou will not persist in the absence of habitat protection.
3 June 2019. An article published today in the Clearwater Times announces that CANFOR, after over-cutting local forests for several years, has finally run out of “fibre supply,” and will permanently shut its local mill effective 31 July. Total direct jobs lost: 172. This is a story repeated in dozens of BC towns. Read all about it here.
17 June 2019. In a joint letter sent today to the federal Environment Minister by the Wilderness Committee, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative and Greenpeace, the honourable Catherine McKenna is urged to follow up on her imminent threat assessment for Southern Mountain Caribou – including the Deep-Snow Caribou – in which she noted that “immediate intervention is required to allow for eventual recovery”. The entire letter can be read here.
15 July 2019. In an article published today in The Guardian, journalist Cassidy Randall notes that “scientists have identified caribou as the most critical terrestrial umbrella species in North America. Caribou rely on large tracts of old-growth forests for their main food source of arboreal lichen. Old-growth forests are havens for a vast array of other animal and plant life, so caribou conservation acts as an umbrella to ensure the survival of large numbers of other species that are too difficult to manage for on an individual basis, such as insects, mosses, lichens and birds like the pileated woodpecker.”
27 July 2019. The Narwhal: Canada’s forgotten rainforest.
29 August 2019. Today marks two years since the Upper Clearwater Referral Group sent a letter to Premier John Horgan asking his government to take action on behalf of the Wells Gray South Deep-Snow Caribou herd, nudged ever closer to extinction by its environmental policies. Still no response. At latest count, the herd now numbers 111 animals, more than a 50% decline in the past decade. Here again is the letter, for the record: Caribou Alert.
16 September 2019. In a press release released today by the Wilderness Committee, Charlotte Dawe calls attention to clearcut logging currently underway within critical habitat for the Wells Gray South caribou herd “in an area larger than 500 Canadian Football League football fields. The logging tenure is held by West Fraser Timber, a company that “has stated it supports caribou recovery but continues to log critical habitat essential for the survival of the species.”
18 September 2019. In a bombshell article that appears today in the Victoria News BC Interior Caribou protection area big enough, minister says, BC Forests Minister Doug Donaldson announces that no additional habitat protection is being contemplated for the Deep-Snow Caribou. “Our analysts … feel that we have enough habitat protection measures in place [for these herds], thereby contradicting the imminent threats assessment performed by Catherine McKenna, Federal Minister of Environment, who last year determined that seven Deep-Snow Caribou herds qualify for federal protection.
8 October 2019. Today, Randy Shore of the Vancouver Sun publishes an article in which the “BC Caribou Recovery Program” is reported as calling for “more than 80 per cent of wolves in critical caribou habitat be eliminated using a combination of radio-collaring and aerial shooting.” In response to this, BC Wildlife Federation spokesman notes that “If you don’t restore habitat, you will have to cull wolves forever.”
9 October 2019. In an open letter to the Honorable Catherine McKenna, Canada’s federal Minister of Environment, 22 environmentalists and other concerned citizens call on the federal government to “enforce the Species of Risk Act to increase habitat protection for the Southern Group of Southern Mountain Caribou…” The letter is in response to the 18 September 2019 assertion by BC Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson that “there will be no additional habitat protection for [Deep-Snow Caribou], because there is already enough protected.”
17 October 2019. Today Charlotte Dawe of the Wilderness Committee issues a press release with the following message: “The province recently announced $6.5 million to go towards southern mountain caribou habitat protection but protecting habitat from logging and other industrial activity isn’t mentioned … All the money is going to habitat restoration with no mention of halting further habitat destruction.” “It’s like we’re bailing out a sinking boat,” says Dawe, “while jack-hammering a hole in the bottom.”
20 December 2019. Around this time, a peer-reviewed paper by R-C. Collard, J. Dempsey and M. Holmberg reports on a study of 65 legally required environmental assessments pertinent to potential habitat loss by Canada’s Woodland Caribou between 1995 and 2017. Sixty-four of the proposed projects are approved, while the 65th is rejected on the basis of water quality, not caribou. The authors conclude that environmental assessment “is failing caribou, acting as a means by which the state licenses major developments with potentially significant adverse effects for caribou, with a pretense of protection.”
January 2020. In a report published this month by the Wilderness Committee, Charlotte Dawe notes that Deep-Snow caribou have declined 46% over the past three generations. “Only two subpopulations had more than 250 mature individuals, nine numbered fewer than 50, and six of these fewer than 15.” The report includes a very helpful, up-to-date map of logging and other disturbance within the range of the Southern Mountain Caribou. It concludes that federal habitat thresholds for recovery have been exceeded by all herds examined, including the Wells Gray South herd, with 27% disturbance in “core” habitat and 48% disturbance in peripheral or “matrix” habitat. “Our results are important because they provide clarity on the failure of both the federal and provincial government to fulfill obligations under SARA.” A very important source document.
8 March 2020. In an article published in the Clearwater Times, the logging company Interfor announces that it has closed a deal to purchase cutting rights in the Clearwater area owned by CANFOR, who shuttered its local mill nine months earlier. “The two licenses have a combined allowable annual cut of approximately 349,000 cubic metres.”
12 March 2020. In an article published today in the Revelstoke Review, journalist Liam Harrap quotes BC Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson as saying “there is already adequate land in Revelstoke set aside for caribou, so it’s unlikely the [BC government’s caribou recovery] plan will further restrict logging and recreation, such as snowmobiling. … “Our biologists feel that we have set enough land aside.” It’s hard to know what to make of these bolded statements.
13 April 2020. An article by journalist Sarah Cox published today in The Narwhal reports that “Coastal GasLink paid $171,000 to kill wolves in the range of ‘the endangered Hart Ranges] herd that will lose critical habitat to the company’s pipeline for a gas export project…” “The money … was part of $1.5 million the B.C. government required Coastal GasLink to pay for ‘caribou and predator monitoring’ — a condition for receiving a provincial environmental assessment certificate for its 670-kilometre pipeline.”
25 April 2020. Sarah Cox in an article published today in The Narwhal reports that the B.C. government during the winter of 2019/2020 “spent $100,000 in the habitat of the Columbia North Deep-Snow Caribou herd to kill 10 wolves — an average of $10,000 per wolf.” Once started, this wolf slaughter programme will need to go on indefinitely. If you stop shooting wolves, says caribou biologist Stan Boutin, the wolves “will go back in numbers very quickly to what they were before you started the control…”
5 May 2020. Today a peer-reviewed paper by Eric C. Palm, S. Fluker, H.K. Nesbitt, A.L. Jocob and M. Hebblewhite shows that the BC government approved logging of 900 square kilometres of critical habitat for caribou after its legal designation under Canada’s Species at Risk Act in 2014.
29 May 2020. Today CBC journalist Bob Weber publishes an update on the Mountain Caribou situation in British Columbia. Among other findings: BC is one of only four Canadian provinces without an equivalent to the federal Species At Risk Act; in no province are the agencies that issue permits for forestry or energy development required to conform to Canada’s Species At Risk Act; and being listed as threatened or endangered under the act makes no difference to whether a species recovers or goes extinct.
14 July 2020. Today a peer-reviewed article is published by Lee Harding, Mathieu Bourbonnais, Andrew Cook, Toby Spribille, Viktoria Wagner and Chris Darimont in which it is shown that that earlier assertions made by Serrouya and others (11 March 2019) concerning the need for wolf culls throughout the range of Deep-Snow Caribou is based on faulty reasoning in combination with inept or unethical use of statistics. Taking the rebuttal at face value, it is hard to understand how the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences would have seen fit to publish the Serrouya et al. (2019) paper in the first place. In any case, the BC government must now step away from its strong reliance on this five-times-flawed study as a basis for its policy of endless wolf culls , especially in the case of Deep-Snow Caribou.
14 July 2020. Today an article in The Atlantic by journalist Sabrina Imbler begins as follows: “This winter, 463 wolves died in British Columbia. Their deaths were not due to a freak accident or a natural disaster, but a government-sponsored cull meant to save endangered mountain caribou. Killing wolves is often controversial, and in this case their deaths may have been in vain: A group of scientists says the decision to cull the wolves rested on a statistical error.”
14 July 2020. Today an article in The Guardian by Leyland Cecco notes that the authors of the Harding et al. paper (see 14 July 2020, above) “could find no statistical support for claims that culling wolves and penning in pregnant caribou offset population decline – especially in the most vulnerable cases. In the case of the endangered Wells Gray herd in central British Columbia, which has suffered one of the worst population declines, the researchers found that wolves weren’t even a major predator: bears, cougars and wolverines were far more deadly.”
14 July 2020. Today yet another article, this one by Randy Shore in the Vancouver Sun reports on the Harding et al. paper (see 14 July 2020, above), which rebuts assertions made by Serrouya and others (11 March 2019) concerning the need for wolf culls throughout the range of Deep-Snow Caribou. “(The authors) are good scientists,” notes co-author Chris Darimont. “…they have a huge body of work, so this is a bit of an outlier for them. I’m surprised the paper hasn’t been withdrawn.”
14 July 2020. Today still another article on the Harding et al. paper (see 14 July 2020, above) is published, this one by Hina Alam of the Canadian Press. “The effects of the flawed 2019 study have had profound implications because the B.C. government relied on it to expand its wolf cull program, killing 463 wolves over the winter of 2019-20, the study says.” This article runs in about 25 news outlets across Canada.
16 July 2020. Today the Valhalla Society posts an excellent, highly detailed analysis of the causal relation of the BC and federal governments to on-going Deep-Snow Caribou decline. Read all about it here.
16 July 2020. Today journalist Jocelyn Doll in the Revelstoke Review reports on an initiative in the Bigmouth Valley 130 km north of Revelstoke to “restore” habitat for Deep-Snow Caribou by planting trees along 11 kilometres of road. It is to be hoped that caribou in the region will be willing to wait for 120 to 150 years until the forests that results from this initiative is of sufficient age to sustain them. Of note: “The funds are part of an $8.5 million commitment by the province, over three years, to support such projects.” For the record.
22 July 2020. Today journalist Liam Harrap in Kelowna Capital News reports on the BC government’s Wolf Cull program within the range of the Deep-Snow Caribou: “Since the aerial wolf management program started in 2016 for Revelstoke, 52 wolves have been killed by the province to help stop declining caribou populations.” Also worth noting: “Since 2015, 1208 wolves have been killed by the province. According to Wildsafe BC, there are approximately 8,500 wolves in the province.”
24 July 2020. Today Cottage Life carries an article by Grace Hunter in which she writes of the rebuttal paper published on 14 July 2020: “Alarm bells went off for Lee Harding, the lead author on the new research and a retired Canadian Wildlife Service biologist, when he and his co-authors realized there was no ‘null model’ included in the 2019 study. A null model is a routine statistical analysis used to determine how likely it is that a result would be observed by random chance. When the authors ran the original 2019 data through a null model, they found that ‘there was no statistical difference at all between the so-called treatments of wolf culling and/or maternal pens versus random chance,’ says Harding”.
26 July 2020. Today Baillie Vickers of AM 1150 Radio reports that Pacific Wild will take the BC government to court over its wolf cull programme. In the absence of Endangered Species legislation for BC – a campaign promise of the BC NDP government under John Horgan – lawyer Rebeka Breder will go after the government for illegally hunting from helicopters and violating legislation against transport of firearms on airplanes.
30 July 2020. Today professional biologist (!) Amelia Porter, in a Defender Radio podcast titled Wolf Cull Science, demystifies the science behind the 14 July rebuttal of the BC government’s over-the-top wolf kill programme.