Eight environmental groups, Valhalla Wilderness Society, Pacific Wild, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Wilderness Committee, Wildlife Defence League, The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, Wolf Awareness Inc., and
Bears Matter, applaud a recently published scientific report that reveals how much habitat the caribou in the South Peace region have lost.
The title of the report says it all: ‘Witnessing Extinction – Cumulative impacts across landscapes and the future loss of an evolutionarily significant unit of woodland caribou in Canada’ (Johnson et al., 2015).
“The findings of the report are shocking, but this is the very first time that, for a rapidly disappearing caribou population, we’ve had actual measurements of the amount and kind of habitat they’ve lost,” says Anne Sherrod, spokesperson for
the Valhalla Wilderness Society. “Now that we know the habitat loss is severe, it puts a heavy responsibility on government to do something about it.”
Two University of Northern BC (UNBC) scientists and a government biologist who authored the peer-reviewed report emphasize that the South Peace caribou herds constitute “a unique and irreplaceable component of Canada’s biodiversity”.
They hypothesize that “this generation of resource managers and conservation professionals” may observe the extinction of these unique caribou herds if industrialization continues at current rates.
Historically, vast numbers of caribou, described by the First Nations as “a sea of caribou” roamed the South Peace region, when the large areas of intact wilderness and old growth that caribou need to survive still existed. Today, hydroelectric
projects, cutblocks, roads, seismic lines, open pit coal mines, as well as widespread oil and gas activity in the South Peace region have severely fragmented the landscape and reduced the old growth forests.
The authors of ‘Witnessing Extinction’ studied five herds (Moberly, Burnt Pine, Quintette, Narraway, Bearhole–Redwillow) over 11 years and found that caribou are displaced from clearcuts by distances of 0.5 to 5.5 kilometers. Caribou also
avoid pipelines and seismic lines by distances from 0.5 to 13.5 kilometers and based on data showing industrialization over 22 years had experienced “extreme reductions in habitat valued as high (0.6–52.9%) and very-high (0.2–65.9%) quality”.
This extreme habitat loss wiped out the Burnt Pine herd, while the Moberly herd “is declining at an annual rate of 12.7%”: its numbers dropped from 191 animals in 1997 to just 16 in 2013. The other herds have also suffered sharp declines.
In 2014, these herds were listed as “Endangered”. To save the caribou, the authors of ‘Witnessing Extinction’ recognize “the immediate need for habitat protection and restoration.” Some scientists believe that culling wolves, bears, wolverines and cougars will buy time to restore habitat and save the caribou; but even scientists who believe that are starting to recognize that culling predators without sufficient habitat protection is futile.
Chris Genovali, executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation, explains: “The wolf cull is a consequence of industrial logging and other human activity, which have transformed areas of the caribou’s habitat into a landscape that can no
longer provide the food, cover, and security these animals need to survive. Rather than address the real problem, i.e., the destruction of life sustaining caribou habitat, the B.C. government has chosen to scapegoat wolves.”
Ian McAllister, Pacific Wild’s director, stressed that: “This year 73 wolves were killed from helicopters in the South Peace alone. Killing top predators will harm the whole ecosystem and not miraculously save the caribou in the absence of habitat protection. This report is damming evidence of chronic government negligence over many years in protecting these endangered herds.”
The provincial and federal governments must stop the sham caribou conservation and the wolf cull in the South Peace region. They must take the necessary radical measures to immediately arrest caribou habitat destruction, which will also serve
to mitigate climate change caused by fossil fuel extraction and logging. The undersigned environmental groups demand that the provincial and federal governments do not allow the caribou to go extinct on their watch by permitting more industrialization and by failing to restore critical caribou habitat.
Undersigned Groups: Valhalla Wilderness Society, Pacific Wild, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Wilderness Committee, Wildlife Defence League, The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, Wolf Awareness Inc., Bears Matter
The report, “Witnessing Extinction” may be downloaded from
Valhalla Wilderness Society
Anne Sherrod, firstname.lastname@example.org
Take Action http://www.pacificwild.org/site/take_action/wolf-action.html and more information at http://www.raincoast.org/projects/wolves/wolf-mgmt/
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The Freedom of Information (FOI) released memos were obtained by the Vancouver Observer.
In early 2014, the BC Liberals controversially re-opened the grizzly hunt in two pockets of the province in the Caribou and Kootenay hunting areas. Mining Minister Bill Bennett was also given high-level briefings on January 7 to re-start the trophy hunt, the memos show.
Provincial biologists calculated that grizzlies in the west Chilcotin wilderness were rising by 91 bears over a year prior. So certain bureaucrats appear to have seen that as support for a proposed mine.
“[By] all accounts there’s a few critters to spare, but my question is whether they might be kept handy to help mitigate a new mine,” wrote Gerry MacDougall, a wildlife manager with the Forests, Lands and Natural Resources ministry, at the time.
“Do you know if anyone connected those dots for [the Minister’s] consideration?” he asked.
Assistant Deputy Minister Richard Manwaring replied: “I don’t know Gerry. It’s an annual [hunting] decision, so we could revisit that for sure if the mine became real I think.”
An active mine proposal at the time was Taseko’s “New Prosperity” gold-copper project, until it was rejected last year. A federal panel concluded that there “would be a significant adverse cumulative effect on the South Chilcotin grizzly bear population, unless necessary cumulative effects mitigation measures are effectively implemented.”
The mine remains fiercely opposed by the Ts’ilhqot’in Nation, fresh off a Supreme Court land-rights victory.
“Worrisome” use of grizzly data by B.C. government
One grizzly bear policy expert growled at what he sees as the province’s odd use of bears for industrial interests.
“This is very worrisome,” reacted Faisal Moola, a forestry professor at the University of Toronto on Thursday.
“They’re using this contested evidence that grizzly bear numbers are increasing, to justify not only a controversial [hunting] activity that a majority of British Columbians are against, but also to justify resource development in those areas as well.”
“This shows a real lack of understanding of the science,” he added.
Provincial government map of the two areas opened grizzly hunting in 2014: the Caribou and Kootenay Boundary management areas.
In response to questions from the Vancouver Observer on Thursday, a Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations spokesperson disputed that the director was using the bears to promote resource development.
“[The] interpretation of this email is inaccurate,” said Bethel.
Rather, Bethel stated, the wildlife director was inquiring “as to whether other impacts to bear populations (such as habitat disturbance from mining) were also factored into consideration before allowing a Limited Entry Hunt.”
In other emails discussing how to brief Minister Bennett, the same wildlife director repeated the idea that the alleged uptick in grizzly population numbers could be used as a way to mitigate resource-extraction impacts.
“If there is a harvestable surplus [of grizzlies] the Minister of Forestry Lands and Natural Resources could consider those to offset the cumulative effects of resource development,” he wrote.
The presumption of a “surplus” of grizzlies is not shared by everyone. Moola, who doubles as a director general with the David Suzuki Foundation, says scientists doubt the government’s bear count, which suggests there are 15,000 grizzlies in B.C.
A recent study by SFU and the University of Victoria found the province’s grizzly count science had a high degree of uncertainty.
NHL hockey player Clayton Stoner posing with dead grizzly (Coastal Guardian Watchmen) http://commonsensecanadian.ca/suzuki-time-to-end-grisly-trophy-hunt/
Watching grizzly bears catch and eat salmon as they swim upstream to spawn is an unforgettable experience. Many people love to view the wild drama. Some record it with photos or video. But a few want to kill the iconic animals — not to eat, just to put their heads on a wall or coats on a floor.
Foreign hunters bag BC bears
The spring grizzly kill starts April 1 and extends for several weeks, followed by a second fall season. By year’s end, several hundred will have died at the hands of humans, close to 90 per cent shot by trophy hunters — many of them foreign licence-holders, as the B.C. government plans to enact new regulations to allow hunters from outside B.C. to take 40 per cent of grizzlies slated for killing. The government also plans to allow foreign interests and corporations to buy and run guide-outfitting territories previously run only by B.C. residents. Local hunting organizations say the new rules put them at a disadvantage.
Government takes money from hunting lobby
According to the Vancouver Observer, hunting guide associations donated $84,800 to B.C. political parties from 2005 to 2013, 84 per cent to the B.C. Liberals.
In the controversy over regulatory changes, we’ve lost touch with the fact that the grizzly trophy hunt is horrific, regardless of whether bears are killed by resident hunters or big-game hunters who pay thousands of dollars for the chance to kill a bear here — often because it’s illegal in their home countries.
BC’s population in doubt
Grizzlies once roamed much of North America, from Mexico to the Yukon and from the West Coast through the prairies. Habitat loss and overhunting have since shrunk their range by more than half. In Canada, 16 subgroups are on the brink of extinction, including nine in south-central B.C. and Alberta’s entire grizzly population.
Just how many bears reside in B.C. is in dispute. The government claims more than 15,000 grizzlies live here, but Raincoast Conservation Foundation science director Chris Darimont, a University of Victoria conservation biologist, puts the number closer to the government’s earlier estimate of 6,600 — before it doubled that in 1990 based on a single study in southeastern B.C.’s Flathead area.
Government scientist’s work suppressed
According to a Maclean’s article, in 2000, the government “suppressed the work of one of its own biologists, Dionys de Leeuw, for suggesting the hunt was excessive and could be pushing the bears to extinction. De Leeuw was later suspended without pay for having pursued the line of inquiry.” The government then pursued a five-year legal battle with groups including Raincoast Conservation and Ecojustice to keep its grizzly kill data sealed.
Allan Thornton, president of the British Environmental Investigation Agency, which has studied B.C. grizzly management since the late 1990s, is blunt about the government’s justification. “The British Columbia wildlife department does not use rigorous science,” he told the Vancouver Observer. In 2004, the European Union banned imports of all B.C. grizzly parts into member countries after its analysis found the hunt to be unsustainable.
Business case questioned
Grizzlies play important ecological role
Grizzly population health is an indicator of overall ecosystem health, and bears are important to functioning ecosystems. They help regulate prey such as deer and elk, maintain forest health by dispersing seeds and aerating soil as they dig for food, and fertilize coastal forests by dragging salmon carcasses into the woods. Hunting isn’t the only threat. Habitat loss, decreasing salmon runs, collisions with vehicles and other conflicts with humans also endanger grizzlies. Because they have low reproduction rates, they’re highly susceptible to population decline. Hunting is one threat we can easily control.
First Nations, citizens oppose hunt
According to polls, almost 90 per cent of B.C. residents oppose hunting grizzlies for trophies, including many Frist Nations and food hunters. Scientists say it’s unsustainable. The Coastal First Nations coalition has banned grizzly hunting in its territories, but the government doesn’t recognize the ban. The Raincoast Conservation Foundation has bought hunting licences in an attempt to reduce bear kills on the coast.
Simply put, most British Columbians — and Canadians — are against the grizzly trophy hunt. It’s time for the government to listen to the majority rather than industry donors and ban this barbaric and unsustainable practice.
Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.
Please sign and share Petition: https://www.change.org/p/protect-grizzly-bears-by-banning-the-trophy-hunt-in-bc More Actions: http://pacificwild.org/site/take_action/trophy-hunt-campaign.html
OVER SIXTY CANADIAN AND INTERNATIONAL SIGNATORIES VOICE OPPOSITION TO THE B.C. WOLF KILL IN AN OPEN LETTER TO THE B.C. GOVERNMENT (note: 16 new signators added since Open Letter sent to Premier Feb 25, 2015)
‘B.C. Government scapegoats wolves for its failure to protect caribou habitat’
February 25, 2015
Dear Honourable Premier Clark,
The undersigned conservation organizations and concerned citizens oppose the ongoing inhumane slaughter of wolves by helicopter in the South Selkirk Mountains and the South Peace region. We demand that this killing be immediately halted and that the cost of this slaughter ($575,000) to BC taxpayers be put towards caribou habitat protection.
Your government’s claim that killing wolves will save these caribou populations has no scientific basis as proven by the failure of BC’s wolf “reduction” programs, involving the sterilization, killing, trapping and/or poisoning of wolves. For years, these programs have failed to halt the decline in imperiled caribou populations. Killing more wolves will not miraculously save the caribou.
The caribou populations are declining because for decades your government has failed to adequately protect their habitat. In the Selkirk Mountains, the caribou population has crashed because of logging in addition to snowmobilers, heli-skiers and cat-skiers scaring them off their critical winter feeding grounds. In the South Peace, critical caribou habitat has been destroyed and fragmented by logging, oil and gas development, access roads and coal mines. Recreational users and industrial development can increase wolf populations and their access to caribou, however, studies of wolves in BC and Alberta show that wolves prefer deer to caribou and that the greatest stressor to caribou is human activity. Years of scientific studies have also proven that mountain caribou require large areas of intact wilderness habitat to survive.
We, the undersigned, therefore join our voices with more than 173,400 persons who have signed the #SaveBCWolves petition, and call on the BC government:
• to immediately halt the ongoing inhumane aerial wolf slaughter;
• to develop caribou recovery plans in line with procedures for identifying critical habitat under the federal Species at Risk Act. These plans should include the creation of large intact protected areas in high and low elevation habitat that are off limit to logging, resource extraction and recreational users with buffer zones where minimal industrial or recreational human encroachment is permitted;
• to ensure the recovery plans are implemented through a transparent and open process, including the publication of annual reports compiled by government scientists and peer-reviewed by independent conservation experts;
• to increase the immediate protection of the 18 surviving caribou in the Selkirk Mountains by enforcing all snowmobile closures recommended by government scientists, excluding overlapping heli- and cat-ski tenures from protected caribou habitat and its buffer zones and prosecuting trespassers. Ongoing Snowmobile Management Agreements negotiations with snowmobile clubs should be open to public review and comment.
See List of Signators
Honorable Mary Polak, M.L.A., Minister of Environment, ENV.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Tel: 250 387-1187
Honorable Steve Thomson, M.L.A., Minister of Forestry, Lands and Natural Resource Operations FLNR.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Tel: 250 387-6240
Honorable Bill Bennett, M.L.A., Minister of Energy and MinesMEM.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Tel: 250 387-5896
Sixty-Two Signators to Open Letter to Premier Clark
Canadian Non-Profit Organizations (5)
Animal Alliance of Canada, Ont’90
Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Ont
Bear With Us Sanctuary, Mike McIntosh, Ont’92
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, Ont’65
Coyote Watch Canada, Ont’08
British Columbia Non-Profit Organizations (17)
Bears Matter, Barb Murray, BC’06
Clayoquot Action Society, BC, ‘13
Friends of Clayoquot Sound, BC’ 79
Friends of Nemaiah Valley, BC’00
Friends Uniting for Nature Society, BC ‘08
Lifeforce Foundation, Peter Hamilton , BC’81
Pacific Wild Alliance, BC’06
Pacific Northwest Collective, BC’14
Purcell Alliance for Wilderness, BC
Save the Cedar League, BC
Sierra Club BC,’75
Silva Forest Foundation, BC’92
Standup4Greatbear, Norm Hann, BC
Valhalla Wilderness Society, BC’75
Wilderness Committee, BC’80
Wolf Awareness Incorporated, BC’87
Yellowhead Ecological Association, BC’71
USA and International Non-Organizations (10)
Animals Asia, China/UK’98
Change for Animals Foundation, UK
Eastern Coyote/Coywolf Research,MA, USA’07
IFAW- International Fund for Animal Welfare,Ont ’69
National Wolfwatcher Coalition, MN, USA
N. American Wolf Foundation ( Wolf Hollow),MA USA’88
Predator Defense, OR, USA’90
Spectacled Bear Conservation Society-Peru, BC’2007
Wolf Conservation Centre, NY’99
Canadian Businesses and Individuals (30)
Aboriginal Journeys Whales and Grizzly Bear Tours, BC
Applied Conservation GIS, Baden Cross, BC
Behavioral & Enviro Solutions, Biologist, Else Poulsen, Ont
Bluewater Adventures Ltd.,BC
Brian Brett, Poet and Novelist, BC
Charlie Russell, Bear Specialist and Author, AB
Ellie Archer, Wildlife Viewing Guide, BC
Evelyn Kirkcaldy, Wildlife Artist, BC
Dr. Faisal Moola, PhD – Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto; Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, University of Toronto
Great Bear Chalet, BC
Grizzly Bear Ranch, BC
Holly Arntzen, Conservationist, Musician, BC
John E. Marriott Wildlife and Nature Photography, AB
Kootenay Reflections, Jim Lawrence, Photographer, BC
Dr. Lorna Crozier, Professor Emerita, OC, BC
Maple Leaf Adventures, Kevin Smith, BC
Mark Leiren – Young, Author, Journalist and Playwright, BC
Natural Art Images, Brad Hill – Photographer, BC
Ocean Adventures Charter Co Ltd., BC
Ocean Light II Adventures Ltd., BC
Dr. Patrick Lane, D. Letters, OC, BC
Dr. Paul Paquet, Wildlife Biologist, AB
Remote Passages Marine Excursions, BC
Robert Bateman, Artist, BC
Ross Peterson, Retired Biologist, BC
Steve Williamson Photography, BC
Susan Musgrave, Masset, Haida Gwaii, BC
Sylvia Dolson, B.C. Animal Welfare Advocate, BC
Watershed Sentinel, BC
Wayne P. McCrory, RPBio, BC
Signators Signed After First Open Letter Sent Feb 25, 2015 (16)
David Polster, M.Sc., R.P.Bio, Ecologist, BC
Genevieve Singleton, Nature Interpreter, BC
Mothership Adventures, BC
Peggy Sowklen, DVM, Artists for Conservation, BC
Vicky Husband, CM, OBC, BC
World Animal Protection Canada, Ont’50 (formerly WSPA)
International Animal Rescue, UK
California Wolf Center, CA
Endangered Species Coalition,DC
Epic-Environmental Protection Information Center, CA
Klamath Forest Alliance, CA
Malcolm R. MacPherson, Ph.D.Retired Scientist, NM
Northeast Wolf Coalition, MA
Watershed Watch Salmon Society, BC
Western Wildlife Conservancy, UT
Wildlands Network. WA