Logging would endanger caribou, says committee

The threatened mountain caribou is about to get even more threatened, according to Wells Gray World Heritage Committee

Times Staff

The threatened mountain caribou is about to get even more threatened, according to Wells Gray World Heritage Committee (WGWHC).

A proposal by Canfor to salvage log beetle-killed lodgepole pine near Wells Gray would not only kibosh any spontaneous recovery for the park's resident mountain caribou might have in store, it would also further stress a herd already in serious decline, the committee states.

That's the message WGWHC recently sent in a letter to Terry Lake, B.C. Minister of Environment. Wells Gray World Heritage Committee is a group dedicated to furthering the candidacy of British Columbia's fourth largest wilderness park for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

WGWHC challenged Lake to step up to his obligation as B.C.'s minister responsible for mountain caribou recovery by establishing a moratorium on industrial logging in the Clearwater Valley.

"Until now we hadn't understood just how rapidly Wells Gray's southern caribou herd is declining," said Trevor Goward, spokesperson for WGWHC. "The news is appalling. In 2002, the herd consisted of about 325 animals. Today, 10 years later, the population has declined by about one-third; only 200 animals are left".

Earlier this year the group called attention to the likelihood that the Wells Gray herd would soon undergo a degree of "spontaneous recovery, as 90,000 ha destroyed by fire in the early 20th century now begins to transition to old growth, a key requirement for mountain caribou.

According to WGWHC, industrial logging in the Clearwater Valley adjacent to the park would create winter forage favourable to deer and moose. This in turn would support enhanced numbers of their main predators, wolves and cougar.

"Wolves and cougar have been on the rise in Upper Clearwater for several years now," said Steve Murray, spokesperson for the Upper Clearwater Action Committee. "It used to be a rare thing for valley residents to lose livestock or pets to predators; but now it's almost commonplace. Some of us have lately begun to feel concern for the safety of our children".

In its earlier news release, WGWHC asked Canfor to honour the assertion of its CEO and president, Don Kayne, that, '... Canfor will not support actions that overturn landscape objectives set through public planning processes unless there is full public consultation and support. We will not support actions that impact parks or critical habitat for species at risk.'