Premier John Horgan meets with former MLA Blair Lekstrom (left) and Forests Minister Doug Donaldson about new land use restrictions to preserve caribou, Dawson Creek, April 19, 2019. (B.C. government)

Local governments not sidelined in Indigenous talks, B.C. minister says

Doug Donaldson addresses fallout from caribou habitat plan

A sweeping plan to expand caribou habitat at the expense of struggling local economies turned into the top issue for B.C. local governments gathered for their convention this week, and Forests Minister Doug Donaldson has taken steps to reassure them.

After Premier John Horgan put new forest and mining restrictions in northeast B.C. on hold for further consultations this spring, Donaldson told Black Press last week that additional protected areas in the Cariboo and Kootenay regions won’t be necessary to protect dwindling caribou herds.

And going into the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver this week, Donaldson said the province’s plan to proceed with new legislation to formalize Indigenous rights on land use doesn’t mean the needs of local governments are downgraded.

“I come from a local government background, so I’m well aware of how local governments often have a lot of on-the-ground knowledge with local first nations,” Donaldson said in an interview.

“When we as a government directly engage with first nations on a government-to-government basis, by treaties or other agreements, we will and do engage with individual local governments on their interests. If you don’t, you’re losing out on valuable relationships and experience that many local governments have created with local first nations.”

A resolution calling on the province to maintain “principles of mutual respect, consultation and cooperation” with local governments passed with little discussion Wednesday, after being endorsed by the UBCM executive as their top selection for the 2019 convention.

Horgan called on Dawson Creek councillor and former MLA Blair Lekstrom to make recommendations this spring, after Peace region residents protested being shut out of talks between the province and the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations on the extent of protection.

The province accepted Lekstrom’s recommendation to put a moratorium on “new high-impact forestry and mining activities” in the Peace region for two years, while consultation continues on restrictions that could shut down some forest operations.

Protection strategies have been expanded in recent years, including snowmobile restrictions and extensive forest protection zones. Despite those measures, mountain caribou herds in the Kootenays have dwindled, in some cases to extinction.

RELATED: Forestry, recreation squeezed by B.C. caribou plan

RELATED: Soon-to-be-extinct caribou moved north of Revelstoke

“Our analysts are looking around at the other herds that need to be protected in the province, and they feel that we have enough habitat protection measures in place related to those other herds,” Donaldson said Sept. 18. Killing wolves and protecting caribou calves in maternity pens are among strategies that have had some success.

The federal government was preparing an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act to impose new restrictions, citing climate change and habitat disturbance as key factors in the population decline. Over the past century, B.C. caribou populations have fallen from an estimated 40,000 animals to about 15,000.

A report by the Council of Forest Industries earlier this year pointed out that caribou populations have also declined in Wells Gray Provincial Park and Jasper National Park. Caribou have disappeared from Banff National Park, which has been protected from industrial activity since 1885.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trail RCMP report violent home invasion

Trail RCMP report violent break and enter

West Kootenay SAR crews rescue injured mountain biker near Rossland

Crews were called in to help after the biker seriously injured himself at around noon Saturday

Heads up: Trail resumes parking enforcement June 1

The city suspended parking fees March 31, resume meter regulations on June 1

Trail police catch speeders, deal with distraught man and animal calls

Trail and Greater District RCMP news brief from Sgt. Mike Wicentowich

City of Rossland looks to implement mail ballot voting

City said new procedure could make voting easier and more accessible for residents

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Snowbirds jets will not be leaving Kamloops, just yet

The Snowbirds have been in Kamloops since May 17 when a plane crashed killing Capt. Jennifer Casey

COVID-19 checkpoints ‘up to them,’ Bonnie Henry says of remote B.C. villages

Support local tourism economy, but only if you’re invited in

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Eight people arrested in Victoria homeless camp after enforcement order issued

Those living in tents were given until May 20 to move indoors

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

Most Read