British Columbia

B.C. wolf cull: did forest industry unduly affect policy?

Environment Minister Mary Polak says there was nothing out of the ordinary about a logging company's input into B.C.'s controversial wolf cull plan, despite their apparent favour of the plan and disfavour of more protected areas for caribou.

Mary Polak says her ministry met with industry and environmental groups about caribou management

A number of mountain caribou herds are on the brink of local extinction in two parts of B.C. A controversial wolf cull is in progress to reduce the numbers of predators they face. (Wildlife Infometrics)

The Wilderness Committee says documents obtained in a freedom of information request point to meddling by logging companies in B.C.'s decision to cull wolves to protect mountain caribou.

But Environment Minister Mary Polak says that's not the case.

Wilderness Committee policy director Gwen Barlee told Radio West host Rebecca Zandbergen that the FOI documents she received about how B.C. decided to begin the cull were full of "red flags."

"What it shows was that the B.C. government was working hand in hand with the logging industry in writing and drafting and creating recovery strategies for species at risk in this province, including caribou," Barlee said.

"It appeared that the province was trying to avoid putting further restrictions on logging, so instead, they went ahead with an unproven, untested, unethical wolf kill."

Barlee says she believes it was the influence of logging companies that made the province choose to go ahead with a wolf cull instead of expanding protected areas for the caribou, which the Wilderness Committee believes is the best way to stabilize the caribou population.

Minister: wolf cull 'a last resort'

The documents Barlee claims are evidence of industry meddling include a briefing note prepared for Minister Polak's meeting with logging company Tolko Industries on April 30, 2014.

The briefing note says the company was "concerned" with the Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan (MCRIP), especially with the proposal to protect land for the caribou from human activities such as logging.

The briefing note suggests that industry stakeholders were unhappy that a wolf cull had not yet been attempted.

"Industry has criticized government for failing to effectively implement this recovery action, and will be very reluctant to forgo additional harvesting opportunities to meet any additional habitat targets imposed by the federal recovery strategy," it reads.

But according to Minister Polak, that quote is nothing out of the ordinary.

"I don't think it would surprise anyone that that would be the position that the forestry industry would take," she told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"The fact is, the plan for mountain caribou has been in place since 2007.  It has always contemplated management of wolves, but we've taken it as a last resort," and noted that before the cull began, the provincial government protected 2.2 million hectares of forest from industrial logging and restricted other human activities in caribou habitat.

Polak says that meeting with stakeholders, including business stakeholders, is standard practice, and her ministry also met with environmental groups before beginning the wolf cull.

She says that at the last count, carried out in March of 2015, there were only 14 caribou left. 84 wolves have been killed by snipers in helicopters since the wolf cull began.

To hear the interview with Gwen Barlee, click on the audio labelled: Environmentalists claim industry input on wolf cull a problem

To hear the interview with Environment Minister Mary Polak, click the audio labelled: Polak says nothing out of the ordinary about logging company input


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