There has been no real progress in efforts to save the southern mountain caribou in B.C., according to a longtime wildlife biologist.
Even though the B.C. government announced a caribou recovery plan last October, the animals are facing extinction, says Dr. Lee Harding, formerly with Environment Canada.
Harding was hired by the environmental group ForestEthics to evaluate the progress of the first six months of the new government recovery plan.
He found that while many teams of experts and stakeholders are working to find a way to protect the remaining herds, once again, government action is not living up to promises.
“We have had three different recovery plans developed for these caribou in the last 20 years and there still has yet to be any substantial action to actually protect the caribou,” said Harding on Tuesday in Coquitlam.
Government constraints on habitat protection and upcoming agreements with recreation groups spell doom for the remaining animals, said Harding, because the caribou are dependent on the same old growth forests favoured by loggers, and they can’t survive disturbances that come with snowmobilers and heli-ski operators.
“I can imagine all of them going extinct in a few decades, and more than half of the populations going extinct very soon,” said Harding.
There are just an estimated 1,900 southern mountain caribou left in B.C., down from approximately 5,000 about 20 years ago, said Harding.
The remaining population is spread out among 11 herds. However, three herds are so small that the government is making no efforts to save them, according to Harding.