On Nov. 9, the Houston Snowmobile Club (HSC) had a meeting where a stewardship management agreement was signed by Tony Plev, director with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Shea Long, president of the HSC, and witnessed by Dennis Tait, councillor for the District of Houston, to protect caribou in the Skeena Region.
In September 2017, the Ministry presented to Houston, Telkwa and Smithers council meetings proposed restrictions on the Telkwa range to offset the caribou decline.
Recreation is an influence on northern caribou in the Telkwa range, and has been identified as a threat to caribou populations due to displacement from high-quality habitat and an increase in predator access.
According to the Ministry, there are approximately 22 caribou accounted for in the Telkwa range, which are continually at risk of local extinction.
“One of the best ways to achieve lasting conservation outcomes is for groups to get together and find common ground by creating innovative solutions to protect wildlife,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “Staff in my ministry and the Houston Snowmobile Club are demonstrating the value of a collaboration-based approach.”
The agreement outlines the Houston Snowmobile Club and Ministry’s shared roles and responsibilities in the recreational riding area.
“The parties will work together to ensure that snowmobiling activities do not affect caribou,” said a Ministry statement. “This includes closing certain areas to recreation when there are caribou present and minimizing the influence of recreation by promoting best-management practices to visiting and resident snowmobilers.”
The agreement also provides information on how the Ministry and Houston Snowmobile Club will work together to continually keep each other informed about activities related to the Telkwa caribou herd.
“This agreement is a companion document to the proposed Recreation Management Plan for the Telkwa Mountains, which outlines the areas proposed to be designated for recreation use and those for caribou habitat,” said the Ministry statement.
The province has created a five-pillared management plan to address all potential causes of caribou population decline. These include habitat protection, population monitoring, recreation management and engaging with communities.
The Village of Telkwa mayor and council said last month they feel left out of planning for the recreation management plan.
The Smithers Snowmobile Association (SSA) was involved with the planning process with the Province but the one member who was allowed to voice an opinion during the procedures, former SSA director Wade Lubbers, said last month it was unfairly and poorly put together. He said the club will abide by the rules but will not promote them or help enforce them.
President of the Bulkley Valley Quad Riders Society Dave Tolton hadn’t seen the proposed plan yet when he said a few weeks ago they were included in the initial planning process.
“We asked for one ride up Starr Basin and they said we could have that and we asked for one ride up to the Grizzly Plateau and were actually given two a year, so we basically got what we asked for,” said Totlon.