B.C. Fails to Protect Caribou, Report Charges
Mark Hume, Globe and Mail, Sept 15
VANCOUVER -- For nearly 30 years, the government of British Columbia has been struggling to save the province's dwindling population of mountain caribou, a rare variant of a subspecies that is found almost nowhere else in the world.
Numerous provincial management strategies have been drafted since the 1970s, with another expected out this fall, but a report to be released today by Valhalla Wilderness Watch says B.C. is losing the fight because of its consistent failure to protect forest habitat.
"British Columbia's policy of liquidating its old-growth forest is killing mountain caribou," states the report, written by Anne Sherrod, a veteran environmental writer and wilderness advocate from New Denver, in the West Kootenays.
Valhalla Wilderness Watch is a relatively new environmental organization that grew out of, but is separate from, the Valhalla Wilderness Society, which has long campaigned for the protection of wilderness areas in B.C.
The paper reviews nearly three decades of scientific research into the mountain caribou problem. It concludes that habitat destruction is the root cause of the decline, which has seen the mountain caribou population drop by more than 50 per cent in the past 10 years.
"Forty-five years of accumulated clear-cuts have made mountain caribou more vulnerable to predators, exposed them to displacement by snowmobiles and helicopters, reduced their food supply, and disrupted their access to food. Old-growth forest is their only refuge.
"At this advanced stage of old-growth liquidation, every additional clear-cut in mountain caribou habitat is pushing them into extinction," the report says.
The document states that the B.C. government identified as early as 1979 that caribou loss was related to logging, but little has been done to limit the cutting of old-growth forests.
There are an estimated 1,900 mountain caribou in B.C., accounting for 98 per cent of the world's population, with small numbers found in Idaho and Alberta. They exist in 18 separate herds spread through a zone of inland temperate rain forest in mountain chains from the Peace River district in the north to the Idaho border in the south.
Mountain caribou are dependent on old-growth, temperate rain forests, subsisting through the winter on arboreal lichen that grows only on trees more than 100 years old. That rich forest has been increasingly fragmented, the report states, isolating herds of mountain caribou and making the entire population vulnerable.
"With the advance of global warming, increased forest fires have taken a toll on the old forest, but by far the greatest cause of the loss of old-growth forest has been human activities, especially logging. Although trees will grow back, once cutblocks and roads are put in, the trees will be logged again before they can reach old age, so the old-growth is, for all practical purposes, destroyed forever," the document says.
Recent studies have identified wolves and cougars as a serious threat to mountain caribou, leading to calls for predator control programs. But the report says heavy predation is just another impact of logging.
The report concludes that mountain caribou can be saved but only with logging restrictions.
"The destruction of old-growth forest sits at the hub of radiating effects that have caused the decline of the mountain caribou. Any recovery effort that fails to focus upon this root cause is a fraudulent use of science and is doomed to failure," the report states.
"There should be a moratorium on all logging in mountain caribou habitat."
There are three subspecies of caribou in Canada: barren ground, Peary and woodland caribou. Mountain caribou are a subgroup of the woodland subspecies, evolving uniquely to adapt to B.C.'s inland temperate rain forest.
Environmentalists oppose B.C. proposals to protect
caribou by killing wolves
Compressed link: http://tinyurl.com/hplpf
Friday, September 15, 2006
OTTAWA (CP) - Environmentalists are denouncing proposals to protect British Columbia's dwindling population of mountain caribou by killing wolves and cougars.
A report by B.C.-based Valhallah Wilderness Watch says the caribou are in decline because clearcut logging is eliminating their habitat, not because of predators.
The group released a report saying there are only 1,900 mountain caribou left, all of them in B.C. forests where they feed on lichen that grows on old-growth trees.
Colleen McCrory, a director of the environmental group, said the population could be extinct within 10 years unless current practices change.
She said the provincial government has refused to curb the rate of logging, and the federal Species at Risk Act has provided no protection.
Rachel Plotkin of the Sierra Club of Canada said the B.C. approach to caribou protection will drive wolves and cougars into the same predicament.
© The Canadian Press 2006