Conservation groups are calling on the provincial government to stop logging caribou habitat near Revelstoke.
Days ago, the B.C. government announced a new approach to old-growth forests, including to delay logging in the Incomappleux Valley east of Revelstoke.
Yet, there are plans to log more than three square kilometres of intact rainforest north of Revelstoke in the Argonaut Valley.
“The B.C. government is taking two steps forward and three steps back by attempting to create habitat while also obliterating old-growth habitat that caribou have been known to use. It’s a net loss,” said Wilderness Committee conservation and policy campaigner Charlotte Dawe in a press release.
“The government is sabotaging itself and caribou, not to mention wasting taxpayer money, by logging right next door.”
Conservation groups said the proposed clear cuts fall within the 120-member North Columbia herd’s critical habitat and tracking data shows caribou use the area.
Studies suggest logging and other industrial activity is largely to blame for the severe decline of southern mountain caribou.
Between March 1, 2019 to July 2, 2020, the province approved 104 cut blocks, totaling 19 square kilometres of caribou habitat near Revelstoke, not including new roads built.
Wildsight, Echo Conservation Society and Wilderness Committee visited the Argonaut Valley last month. They said the planned area to be logged is primarily old-growth rainforest with cedars and hemlocks over 50 metres tall and hundreds of years old.
“The rainforest in the Argonaut Valley is an incredible place, with giant ancient cedars,” says Echo Conservation Society Executive Director Thomas Knowles. “B.C.’s interior rainforest is a hidden ecological jewel along the eastern edge of the province, but we’re letting it slip away to logging.”
Conservation groups said the area is critical habitat for endangered southern mountain caribou, which have recently disappeared from the southern part of their range in the Kootenays after two herds were lost in the Purcell and Selkirk mountains.
Parks Canada quietly announced earlier this month that a caribou herd had gone extinct in Jasper National Park.
“Mountain caribou have already been wiped off the map in southern B.C., mostly because of the destruction of their habitat through logging,” says Wildsight Conservation Specialist Eddie Petryshen. “The North Columbia herd is the southernmost herd left in B.C. with the best chance at survival but they won’t survive if we keep clear cutting the old-growth forest they need.”
The Canadian government estimates there to be approximately 6,000 Southern Mountain caribou in total, between 15 herds across the Columbia Mountains and parts of the western Rocky Mountains.
The cut blocks in the Argonaut Valley are to be auctioned off by BC Timber Sales, which is the provincial government’s own logging agency. Conservation groups are call on the government to cancel the auction and restore the five kilometres of already-constructed road.
“If B.C. won’t protect this critical caribou habitat, then federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson must use his powers under the Species at Risk Act and issue an emergency protection order to protect irreplaceable caribou habitat,” says Dawe.
With little more than one per cent of old growth in B.C. still standing, conservation groups are asking why the province is allowing any logging of the little old-growth that remains.
B.C.’s definition of old growth is 140 years old in the interior.
B.C. is working on provincial caribou recovery plans to help caribou. In February, the provincial and federal government unveiled an agreement to add two million acres to protected areas in northern B.C. to help the endangered animals.
B.C. has yet to release caribou plans for Revelstoke. The province is aiming to release them within the year.
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