A partnership agreement to recover the endangered central group of southern mountain caribou was signed today by Chiefs of the West Moberly First Nations and Saulteau First Nations and Ministers of the British Columbia and Canadian governments.
The partnership agreement has a 30-year term and is the first of its kind in Canada.
Approximately 2 million acres of land will be placed into protected areas. Caribou habitat in these zones of the partnership agreement will not be disturbed by new industrial development activities.
The partnership agreement also establishes a Caribou Recovery Committee, which will be staffed by officials from the four governments and will operate on a consensus-basis. The Caribou Recovery Committee will review applications in the other areas covered by the partnership agreement. Proposed development in these zones must meet stringent mitigation requirements and be consistent with the goal of stabilizing and recovering self-sustaining caribou populations.
The partnership agreement is centred around the Klinse-za (Twin Sisters) mountains and the Klinse-za caribou herd. In 2013, the herd numbered just 16 animals and was facing imminent extirpation. West Moberly and Saulteau began a maternal penning program to give newborn calves a better chance of escaping predators. Along with habitat restoration and a combination of scientific and traditional management measures, the Klinse-za population has now risen to over 80 animals. The partnership agreement promises long-term support for these recovery efforts, including multi-year funding for maternal penning, habitat restoration, and an Indigenous Guardians program.
The signing of the partnership agreement follows nearly 12 months of engagement with local governments and residents, industry, environmental organizations, wildlife experts, neighbouring First Nations, and the public. Working groups have been established to support implementation of the partnership agreement, with several local governments actively participating in the design of forestry-related mitigations, snowmobile management plans, and the review of socio-economic impacts.
With a negotiated partnership agreement now in place, the federal government is unlikely to impose an emergency order onto lands within the Peace region, a prospect which posed serious and unpredictable risks to local industry and jobs.
Contrary to false rumours spread in an online petition, and repeated by some local politicians, the partnership agreement will not close hiking, fishing or camping sites in the backcountry, and will not shut down mills, mines, or pipelines. Socio-economic impact assessments have been conducted by the provincial and federal governments. West Moberly has been assured that resources are in place to address impacted tenure holders and to support local communities.
West Moberly First Nations