The Columbia Shuswap Regional District has joined a chorus of other Southern Interior governments calling for more thorough consultation on mountain caribou recovery programs that it is feared could result in backcountry closures.
The issue of the draft caribou management plans reached the CSRD board at their April 18 meeting. After discussion led by Mayors Terry Rysz and Gary Sulz of Sicamous and Revelstoke, the board voted to write to the government ministers responsible for developing the caribou recovery plans and deciding on any future closures. They’re asking all stakeholders be consulted on closures and that the timeline for consultation be extended one year, at the very least.
Director Paul Demenok moved the board also invite a government representative to the CSRD to offer a more thorough explanation of the process that could result in backcountry closures; the board also approved this motion.
The draft caribou recovery plan for the Frisby-Boulder-Queest herd recommends closing snowmobiling in all delineated core areas while maintaining current standard operating procedures for heli and cat-ski operators.
Director David Brooks-Hill said lobbying for a long delay on the provincial management plans may not be the best idea. He said the federal government could unilaterally introduce a plan that might include wider closures under section 11 of the Species at Risk Act if no provincial plan is in place.
Rysz and Sulz have both hosted meetings on the subject of caribou recovery plans in their communities with attendance in the hundreds.
Both mayors noted their meetings show that the public in the Southern Interior towns where recreation and industry would be most affected by closures are becoming aware of the issue and are very concerned about backcountry access.
“Everyone wants to build the herd and make sure they’re protected. I’m for it, I don’t want to lose any of our animals,” Rysz said.
He added that discussions with other communities show similar concerns over the lack of consultation throughout the area caribou management plans will affect.
Sulz said factors beyond recreation and industrial use play into the caribou herd management. Although there is a wolf cull on in the areas where caribou live he said it is insufficient.
Sulz said he thinks cooperation is possible with various levels of government and the public to find a solution which doesn’t require backcountry closures.
The provincial government has extended the timeline for public consultation on the caribou recovery plans to the end of May. Further information and an online feedback form are available at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/caribou/section11agreement/.
-With files from the Revelstoke Review