Northern B.C. officials concerned caribou protection plan could hurt jobs
B.C. Ministry of Environment says local communities will be consulted before caribou plan finalized
B.C.'s plan to protect some caribou is causing consternation for some Northern B.C. communities.
The B.C. government is working on a protection plan for some caribou herds that are on the brink of being lost forever, but that has some with the Peace River Regional District concerned about the potential effect on local industry.
Now the district is demanding to be included in the planning process.
"We know very little about what's included and of course that's our concern," Dan Rose, a director of the regional district for the Chetwynd area, told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk.
"We've had snippets of information that has come out ... there's actually four ministries involved in the negotiations and we seem to get mixed messages from them."
Rose says caribou protection is important but local jobs could be threatened if a plan comes forth protecting large parts of the province.
He said in Chetwynd, for instance, logging and coal are industries that support around 500 jobs and provide the town with about a third of its tax base. Losing those industries, he said, could be catastrophic.
Ministry says communication happening
But the Ministry of Environment said, in a statement, that its officials met with the regional district twice over the last three weeks "and have provided them the information they have requested."
The ministry said it is negotiating with both First Nations and the federal government on caribou protection in a way that will minimize disturbances to industry.
"All of these caribou recovery efforts are opportunities where existing and new partnerships with industry and community stakeholders can contribute to successful caribou recovery," the ministry said.
The ministry added that specific areas for protection have not yet been decided and further talks with local governments will take place before the plan is finalized.
Opposition MLA criticizes process
Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier, however, says the regional district has reason to be concerned with so much on the line.
The Liberal critic for oil and gas development said he wants to see a full study of socio-economic harms to the region completed before any plan is drafted.
"It's all about making sure all the information and impacts are known and the affected people need to be at the table to share those experiences," Bernier said.
"It's not much comfort to say that they'll be told after negotiations of taking place what's going to happen."
He said "hundreds if not thousands" of jobs are at stake with the caribou protection plan if backcountry land needed for pipelines or tourism is cut off.
Listen to the full interview with Mike Bernier:
Listen to the full interview Dan Rose:
With files from CBC Radio One's Daybreak North