The Telkwa caribou herd has been in decline for several decades. The causes are many and complex: loss of habitat; in-migration of other ungulates due to clearing of lands, forests and lichens that are the primary food source; increase in predation as a result of those changes in landscape; industrial development and recreation.
A provincial government process (Telkwa Recreation Access Management Plan or TRAM) was developed to ensure the protection of the herd and its home range while still permitting a degree of quality recreation. To this end, 13 local recreation groups met for over 60 hours across six months with an independent facilitator to find compromises and solutions. Their recommendations were then passed to a panel of caribou biologists. The next step before the recommendations are forwarded to the provincial cabinet for a final decision was completed last week. Local Ministry biologists took the recommendations to local governments in Houston, Telkwa and Smithers and then hosted two public meetings at Round Lake Hall.
Some in attendance at the public meetings do not fully understand that because these caribou are covered under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), the provincial government MUST take steps to protect the Telkwa caribou herd and their habitat. It is not a matter of choice — they are mandated to implement strategies that will maintain the herd and increase their numbers to over 100.
If the provincial recovery plans are not sound, and/or are not supported by the public, the federal government will step in. And that could mean TOTAL closure of the Telkwa Mountains to ANY recreational activity. Opponents might consider this.
Finally, to the individual who attended one of the public meetings and stated that there were only three in attendance who cared about the caribou (the inference being that only Ministry staff do), let me assure him that there are MANY of us who care, and care deeply, about the caribou.
Many of us are willing and ready to take the necessary steps to put the NEEDS of the caribou above our recreational WANTS.