British Columbia

Painter Robert Bateman joins activists calling for end to logging in caribou habitat

“It’s quite simple: We need to stop logging. We need to stop wrecking their habitat… If you take away where they live and you take away what they eat, it’s game over," said Bateman, 88.

Province says no logging in 'critical' habitat — but definition of this varies

On Monday, environmental groups called for an end to logging in critical caribou habitat in B.C. (Robert Serrouya)

A famed B.C. painter and naturalist is among those calling on the province to stop issuing logging permits in the habitat of critically endangered mountain caribou.

Robert Bateman joined representatives from several environmental groups Monday at his Victoria gallery to make the demand. He believes habitat loss is the biggest threat to endangered herds.

"I've seen so many things that have disappeared or become scarce," Bateman, 88, told All Points West host Robyn Burns. "I think there are a lot of precious things that are disappearing before our eyes and they don't need to.

"It's quite simple: we need to stop logging. We need to stop wrecking their habitat… If you take away where they live and you take away what they eat, it's game over.

Robert Bateman is an Order of Canada-winning painter and naturalist, best known for his paintings of Canadian wildlife. (Manusha Janakiram/CBC)

Wilderness Committee, one of the advocacy groups joining Bateman on Monday, said in a statement that the province has authorized logging in 83 areas of "critical" habitat for eight of the most imperiled southern mountain caribou populations.

Without intact forests, the group said, B.C.'s mountain caribou will continue to disappear and it wants a moratorium of development in the animals' habitat.

Wildlerness Committee posted this photo on its website of what it says is a logging operation in caribou habitat near Wells Gray Park. (Wildlerness Committee)

Bleak future

In recent years, scientists have painted a bleak picture about the future of Western Canada's mountain caribou.

Ten herds are believed to be under "imminent threat" of disappearing. One, the South Selkirk herd, is down to three females — none of them pregnant — as of summer 2018.

University of Alberta researcher Robert Serrouya says caribou are less adept at dealing with predators than other animals like deer or moose. (Hans Mohr)

Logging and drilling activites in B.C.'s hinterland are cited as a threat to the animals because they destroy forest habitat. Roadbuilding in wilderness areas is also a threat because it allows wolves to travel easier in their hunting efforts.

Efforts have been taken to restore the populations, including "maternal pens" where mother caribou can birth and raise their calves safe from predators during the critical early days of life. The pens have had mixed results.

A controversial wolf cull has also been tried as a way to reduce the number of predators hunting the endangered ungulates.

Government defends response

In a statement, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Forests said no logging tenures have been issued inside of B.C.'s critical caribou habitat, but acknowledged there is a difference between what the federal and provincial governments define as critical habitat.

The spokesperson said 2.2 million hectares in B.C. is protected mountain caribou habitat where logging is not allowed.

The spokesperson added that $27 million over three years is to be spent on caribou recovery. Each of B.C.'s 54 herds has a draft management plan completed, but further work is required. Some of that work will continue this fall and involve First Nations.

The province added it is working with the federal government on issues of mountain caribou protection.

Listen to the full interview with Robert Bateman:

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West

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Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is an award-winning journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten.