BC Government: Government implements interim moratorium to protect caribou
June 20, 2019
VANCOUVER – Government is implementing an interim moratorium on new resource development in parts of northeastern British Columbia, while providing more time to protect jobs and support workers as it engages with affected communities and industries on long-term caribou protection strategies.
Government has also released the Lekstrom report on caribou recovery and unveiled a broader plan to continue work with the Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations to protect the region’s caribou herds.
The Lekstrom report on caribou recovery makes 14 recommendations, including calling for the interim moratorium.
Government also announced its intention to sign the Southern Mountain Caribou Bilateral Conservation Agreement (Section 11). The agreement establishes a framework for co-operation between Canada and B.C. to work collaboratively with Indigenous nations, local governments, industry and communities to develop caribou management plans for southern mountain caribou.
“Blair Lekstrom has recommended that we press the pause button on new resource development and take more time to engage with affected communities and industries, while taking necessary steps to protect caribou,” said Premier John Horgan.
“Everyone in the Peace region agrees that we need to recover our caribou herds and protect local jobs. Regrettably, this issue has divided communities and provoked sentiments that have no place in British Columbia. The only way we will make progress is by working together. We must listen and work collaboratively to find the best solution.
“Chief Ken Cameron of the Saulteau First Nation and Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nation have provided visionary leadership on caribou recovery. We are asking them to work with our government and the federal government as we engage with community, industry and stakeholder groups to protect this iconic species, while supporting a healthy local economy.”
Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, said, “We’re taking these actions because we want to protect the caribou herds while limiting potential economic impacts. This allows us to look after the interests of workers and communities as we take real action to recover the herds.”
Caribou numbers in the central group of the southern mountain caribou population have faced serious declines in the past 20 years. Prohibiting new high-impact forestry and mining activities is required while public engagement, Indigenous consultation and negotiations on a long-term caribou management strategy are underway.
Today’s announcement follows public engagement on caribou recovery and the Draft Section 11 Agreement and Draft Partnership Agreement, which began in March 2019. In April, Premier Horgan announced the appointment of Lekstrom as community liaison tasked with engaging residents of the Peace region on a draft Partnership Agreement between British Columbia, Canada, West Moberly First Nation and Saulteau First Nation. The government will continue to engage with communities and stakeholders and expects to sign the partnership agreement following that engagement. That process will include identifying opportunities to mitigate industrial impacts as a result of the moratoriums. Lekstrom will continue to act as a liaison between government and communities on caribou protection plans.
A backgrounder follows.
Moratorium to protect caribou
Government is protecting critical caribou habitat in the South Peace region by imposing an interim moratorium on new industrial activities. The moratorium on new resource development is in areas critical to caribou recovery. The areas are in the vicinity of MacKenzie, Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd, and are consistent with Zone A2 and B3 within the Draft Caribou Recovery Partnership Agreement.
The order under Section 7 of the Environment and Land Use Act will prevent new authorizations with regard to Section 12 of the Coal Act, Section 10 of the Mines Act and Section 25 of the Oil and Gas Activities Act. In short, it will prevent new authorizations with regard to these acts that would be detrimental to caribou and caribou habitat in the moratorium area.
The order under Part 13 of the Forest Act allows the minister to take specific action within this area. The order precludes the issuance of permits associated with harvesting of trees and construction of roads. Road construction will be allowed only to facilitate harvesting of already issued cutting permits or timber sales licences. The area associated with this order represents 734,410 hectares of land, including approximately 120,000 hectares of Timber Harvesting Land Base over three management units: Dawson Timber Supply area (TSA), Mackenzie TSA and Tree Farm Licence 48.
The moratorium provides habitat protection for caribou while the important work with First Nations on long-term caribou management continues. In addition, it will provide more time for engagement with local municipalities, the Peace River Regional District, industrial operators in the area and other stakeholders, with the aim of recovering caribou populations while maintaining community economic stability. The moratorium will be in place until June 20, 2021, or until it is repealed. A map of the interim moratorium areas, Zones A2 and B3, is available online: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/caribou/section11agreement
2003 – Southern mountain caribou designated as “threatened” under the federal Species at Risk Act.
2014 – Federal government posts a recovery strategy for southern mountain caribou. Plan requires provinces to create range plans for each caribou range in their jurisdiction.
2014 – Federal update from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada finds that central mountain caribou are still in decline and measures are not in place to halt the decline.
2017 – Federal government receives multiple petitions under the Species at Risk Act for action to address threat to caribou. British Columbia commences negotiations for development of a Section 11 Conservation Agreement to avoid a federal emergency order.
2018 – Focused negotiations with West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations. April to June engagement on B.C.’s Caribou Recovery Program.
May 2018 – Federal minister of the environment and climate change determined that southern mountain caribou faced an “imminent threat” to recovery in 10 local population units across British Columbia. Determination requires consideration of an emergency order by the federal cabinet.
Office of the Premier
Ministry of Forests, Lands,
Natural Resource Operations
and Rural Development