Telkwa herd left out of new provincial and federal plan to save BC caribou

By Marisca Bakker Wednesday, November 29, 2017 Page A5 - Smithers Interior News

The provincial and federal governments have drafted a plan to help the declining southern mountain caribou in B.C., however the dwindling Telkwa herd is not part of their core recovery plan.

According to a press release from the provincial government recovery actions include range planning, habitat protection and restoration, as well as population management, including maternity penning and access control to sensitive caribou habitat. British Columbia will also lead in establishing a restoration fund under the agreement to support recovery actions for southern mountain caribou. 

The Skeena Region Technical Report estimates there are less than 20 Telkwa Caribou left in the region.

While there are efforts made by the province to protect the animals, such as a proposed Recreation Management Plan for the Telkwa Range, the herd is not listed in the core group, called the Central Group, the new plan aims to help first.

Stikine MLA and Minister for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Doug Donaldson said this draft agreement may be helpful in the future for Telkwa.

“We’ve already taken steps to address the species at risk legislation federally with the Telkwa herd and supported public organizations that use that area. The one that was announced last week with the feds is similar but deals with the herds south of Dawson Creek,” he said.

“So it might have some implications down the road for the Telkwa herd in that it might be a good template, but immediately it doesn’t have any impact on what we are doing locally.”

The provincial and federal governments will consult with Indigenous communities and other stakeholders over the next several months and release a final agreement next spring.

The recreation management plan for the Telkwa Range should be up for public comment soon.

The Province’s official public review period for the draft plan is slated to open by the end of November.

The Telkwa Mountain Recreation Access Management group has been working since 2016 to provide recommendations to the ministry on access management in the Telkwa mountains. The plan is being put together because voluntary access for non-motorized and motorized use has not been effective. The ministry wants to manage access to help the declining Telkwa caribou herd grow.

The Ministry of Environment said the Telkwa herd is part of the broader Southern Mountain Caribou population, but is not part of the 

Central Group. They are part of the Northern Group identified in the Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada.

On the Government of Canada’s Species at Risk Public Registry it states the “northern” ecotype is on the BC Conservation Data Centre’s Blue list meaning special concern, and the “mountain” ecotype is on the Red list which means threatened and/or endangered.

The Central Group in the draft plan consists of the Pine, Narraway and Quintette Local Population Units in Northeastern B.C., covering large areas roughly centered along a line from Williston Lake to Kakwa Park.

This draft plan adds that once the final agreement is in place, their intention is to expand the agreement to other southern mountain caribou groups in British Columbia— which would then include the Telkwa Herd.