British Columbia

B.C. environmentalists welcome moves to protect caribou

A coalition of B.C. environmental groups is happy about recent moves by the province to protect the endangered mountain caribou population but says more still needs to be done.

A coalition of B.C. environmental groups is happy about recent moves by the province to protect the endangered mountain caribou population but says more still needs to be done.

"They haven't finished the job yet," said Joan Snyder of the Federation of BC Naturalists,  which represents natural history groups and nature clubs.

The Environment Ministry said it would take measures to limit disturbances to the animals in a large portion of the province's mountainous backcountry.

B.C.'s Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan puts more than 20,000 square kilometres off limits for logging and road building. It also means 10,000 square kilometres of alpine caribou habitat will be out of reach for snowmobilers in the B.C. Interior.

But Snyder said despite the closure to snow machines, snowmobilers are still out there until a plan is worked out with the government to stop taking their machines into those areas.

"There are still snowmobilers up there riding around where the biologists have said they don't want them because it's deleterious to the caribou."

The government's goal is to restore the mountain caribou population to the pre-1995 level of 2,500 animals throughout their existing range in B.C. There are now about 1,200 to 1,400 mountain caribou, Snyder said.

Mountain caribou in B.C. are the world's southernmost population of the animals and the only remaining population that lives in rugged, mountainous terrain.

Mountain caribou are listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act and are "red listed" — meaning they're endangered or threatened — in British Columbia.

It is illegal to hunt, trap, wound or kill any endangered species, including mountain caribou.

The maximum fine for a conviction under the B.C. Wildlife Act is $500,000, up from the previous $150,000 maximum after amendments introduced by the government last year. Penalties can also include imprisonment for up to three years, up from the previous maximum of 18 months.

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