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VWS says BC Timber Sales plan threatens Central Selkirk Caribou

A bull mountain caribou in fall, photographed in the Hart Ranges of British Columbia. — Photo courtesy David Moskowitz.

Severely endangered Central Selkirk mountain caribou are taking refuge in the proposed Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park this winter, while BC Timber Sales (BCTS) advertises plans that would push clear cuts into the park proposal and within 220 metres of known aninmal locations said the Valhalla Wilderness Society in a recent media release.

Craig Pettitt, a director and field person for the Valhalla Wilderness Society, said BC Timber Sales is helping to push these caribou off the face of the planet, adding the proposed Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park was designed to protect the caribou.

Pettitt said there are only 26 caribou left, which the encroaching clearcuts are isolating the animals in smaller and smaller patches of habitat, limiting their food and making it easy for predators to hunt. 

"BCTS doesn’t have to destroy these animals’ habitat,” said Pettitt. “It is a Crown corporation owned by the BC government, and it holds the tenure in this area. BCTS has invited public comments due by February 21, but it never should have planned these cutblocks and put them on the table."

The VWS said in 2018 Environment Canada declared that the herd was under imminent threat and of “particular concern”.

The federal government urged immediate new habitat protection, but almost three years later BC has not protected any, while BCTS cutblocks creep closer and closer to caribou located by government radiocollars.

The VWS said some of the planned cutblocks are in the Lardeau Valley on the Lake Creek face, and on the west side of Duncan Lake which would come within 220 metres of recent caribou locations, and enter VWS’s park proposal.

The forest in Lake Creek is old-growth or close to it, with heavy loading of hair lichens, the chief overwintering food for Deep Snow Mountain Caribou. 

In the Duncan Valley, the VWS said the BCTS has already pushed roads and clearcuts onto the west Duncan lakeside inside the proposed park over the last two years. The newly planned cutblocks would penetrate further into the park proposal and still closer to areas used by the caribou.

Much of the forest is recovering from old  forest fires, and is upwards of 100 years old — soon to provide the old-growth that caribou need.

The VWS said said the proposed clearcuts are in federally-designated Matrix Habitat. These zones are supposed to function as a buffer around caribou core habitat, and have only partial logging; but in reality they have no protection at all, as BCTS is heavily logging these zones.

The Society’s park proposal is part of a widely-supported conservation complex for the caribou. It would consist of a fully protected park connecting to critical caribou habitat in the existing Goat Range Provincial Park, with Ungulate Winter Range offering partial protection to caribou habitat.

Should the caribou fail to survive, a fully protected park would preserve precious old-growth remnants from 60 years of clearcutting, which host other threatened species including grizzly bears, wolverines and bull trout.

The BC government did designate a large percent of the park proposal as Ungulate Winter Range (UWR) in 2008, but important areas used by the caribou were omitted from the UWR, and at best the UWR is only partially protected. The park proposal should be enacted, and the UWR extended as a buffer.

BCTS has invited the public to comment on the proposed cutblocks. Comments must be submitted in writing by February 12, 2020 to BCTS Planning Forester/BC Timber Sales, Nelson Office, 1907 Ridgewood Rd/Nelson, BC/V1L 6K1. Or email letters to this link.