The Province is proposing the idea of imposing mandatory recreational access restrictions in the Telkwa Mountains to help the caribou recovery effort.
While voluntary access restrictions have been in place since the early 2000s, these restrictions would be for both hikers and motorized vehicles in different areas of the range.
Councils in both Telkwa and Smithers had presentations last week from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development, which focused on a diminishing population of caribou in the area.
As of now, they said there are only 18 caribou in the area, which is another decline for the herd that has struggled to maintain a healthy number for several decades.
In their presentation to Telkwa council on Monday night, ministry representatives said the Telkwa caribou avoid heavily disturbed valley bottoms and primarily use high-elevation habitat higher than 1,600 metres.
They said another factor for the diminishing population is the predator-prey dynamic, such as more moose.
They also noted that recreation activities that overlap the alpine habitat can lead to the displacement of caribou or increase predator access.
Over an eight month period, the Telkwa Mountain Recreation Access Management (TRAM) group along with the ministry identified six recreation zones in the Telkwa Mountains: Grizzly Plateau, the Meat Cache, Hunter Basin, Webster Lake, the North and East Telkwas, Mooseskin Johnny East and West.
The proposed areas of restrictions for non-motorized use are in the area north of the Starr Basin. For motorized restrictions, a map shows the proposed restrictions in the Hunters Basin along with restrictions north of the Starr Basin.
“I was completely unaware that this was going on until tonight and now I’ve received this report on my table and not on the agenda.” Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen stated last Monday at the council meeting.
“I’ve expressed my frustration over and over again with the provincial government over the timelines they impose on user groups, on local government for response to their activities, their reports, their suggestions.”
In response to council having to respond to this proposal at the end of the month, Repen addressed his displeasure with the government.
“I will be moving that we do not respond and that we express our disappointment in the provincial government that they do not give local user groups the opportunity to examine the reports and documents. This is critical recreational area for the Village of Telkwa and our residents,” he said.
Ministry officials stated the public consultation was supposed to be this past June, but due to the Province technically not having a government, that was pushed to September. As a result, the ministry has extended the deadline for council to make a formal comment to Oct. 14.
Two public forums were scheduled for Sept. 20 and 21 at the Round Lake Hall at 6:30 p.m. The ministry stated it has been in contact with snowmobile and other user groups, and there will be more public engagement prior to a regulation change set for next June.