British Columbia

Province says there's 'confusion' about possible closures for caribou protection plan

The Revelstoke, Salmon Arm, South Shuswap and Sicamous chambers of commerce have released a petition calling on the province to halt the negotiation process for the Caribou protection plan, because they are concerned about the effect backcountry closures could have on the tourism industry. 

4 chambers of commerce started petition asking the province to halt protection plan negotiations

The B.C. government says stopping what it describes as "new high-impact forestry and mining activities" is necessary while a management plan is developed. (Mark Bradley, Boreal Nature Photos)

The province's plans to try and recover dwindling caribou populations is coming under scrutiny because of concerns some communities have about the effect possible closures could have on tourism.

The Revelstoke, Salmon Arm, South Shuswap and Sicamous chambers of commerce have released a petition calling on the province to halt the negotiation process for the caribou protection plan until more consultation is done.

However, Darcy Peel, director of B.C.'s Caribou Recovery Program, said there are no imminent plans for closures in the southern Interior, and people are getting confused about the two different draft plans that are in the works. 

"There is confusion, and we've attempted to try to quell that and get in front of it," said Peel.

2 draft plans

There are two draft plans being developed: the draft Partnership Agreement which applies to the northeastern area of the province, and then a broader section 11 agreement which is aimed at the recovery of the southern mountain caribou in B.C. 

The draft partnership agreement discusses a management process being implemented that will consider which areas are important for snowmobiling and which areas are important for caribou. 

"[It will] identify any conflicts, look for solutions to minimize those conflicts, and likely there will be closures in that area," Peel told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

However, the plan in the north will not necessarily be the same in the south. 

"It's a different situation up there, because they don't have a lot of snowmobile management in place that relates to caribou recovery."

The province is still working on the next phase of herd planning as part of the section 11 agreement, and no decisions about closures have yet been made.

The first phase of the herd plan was aimed at establishing the status of the herds — actions that have been taken in the past to recover them — and compiling information on them, said Peel.

"The next step... is to come out to communities and talk about how we move these from Phase 1 to Phase 2 ... and build implementation plans to enable caribou recovery where it makes sense to do so."

Chamber concerns

In the draft herd plan, one recommendation is to "close snowmobiling in all delineated core areas."

The chambers of commerce in the Columbia Shuswap are worried about the toll possible closures could take on tourism, said Sheila Devost executive director of the Sicamous District Chamber of Commerce.

"We depend on tourism as the economic driver in our area," she said.

"Our main concerns right now are the discussions that are taking place or not taking place with the people who this most affects. Both the provincial and federal governments are making decisions without really consulting with the people that it's going to [have an] impact on."

The chambers want more information and data on the caribou from the government and involvement in the consultation process, said Devost. 

Consultation coming, says Peel

Peel explained that the recommendation for closures in the herd plan was just one person's point of view at the time the draft document was made.

"I'm not saying that there won't be any [closures], because there could be as we go through and look at things, but we'll do that together," he said. 

"We know that backcountry recreation is important in parts of the province ... and so we don't want to come in and just disrupt things without having conversations with the people who could be impacted most," he said.

Four chambers of commerce have released a petition calling on the province to halt the negotiation process for the caribou protection plan until more consultation is done. However, Darcy Peel, director of B.C.'s Caribou Recovery Program, said there are no imminent plans for closures in the Southern Interior, and consultations are coming. 7:36

With files from Daybreak South

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