Caribou consultation meeting set for April 15

Get more background on the upcoming Revelstoke meeting on the draft federal/provincial mountain caribou plan here.

File photo: Caribou are released into a maternal pen as part of the Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild penning project, which is located on the west shore of Lake Revelstoke. Photo: Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild/file photo

The provincial government will be hosting a Revelstoke open house on two proposed draft agreements designed to preserve mountain caribou.

The Revelstoke meeting is set for Monday, April 15, from 5:30–9:30 p.m. at the Revelstoke Community and Aquatic Centre.

The topic of the meeting is a draft agreement between the federal and provincial governments designed to preserve mountain caribou. The Section 11 draft agreement under the federal Species at Risk Act was prompted by legal petitions to the federal environment minister by environmental groups, which led to the federal environment minister declaring that caribou faced an ‘imminent threat.’ This caused the federal government to seek a Section 11 agreement with the provincial government.

In essence, this puts the provincial government in a tough spot. They need to come up with a plan that will satisfy the federal government, help to actually recover the caribou, and do so while trying to balance the socio-economic concerns of the communities that will be affected by further restrictions to activities such as forestry and backcountry recreation and industry.

The meeting is designed as a public consultation and information meeting.

The B.C. government is accepting feedback on the draft plan until May 3. Here is a link to their engagement website.

What to expect at the meeting

The B.C. government has held several of these meetings in the past few weeks in central and northern B.C.

In general, the meeting portion of the consultation session involves a panel presentation from a range of government officials, followed by a Q&A session.

Here’s video from a meeting held in Williams Lake:

The Revelstoke Mountaineer has covered the Section 11 agreement issue for over a year. Anticipating that the agreement would have serious implications for the backcountry resource and recreation sectors in the Revelstoke area, we have written several in-depth stories on the subject.

For background on the issue, please see our story archives on this page.

Caribou and Communities group forms

B.C. government plans local consultation meetings in April or May on newly released draft Section 11 agreement

The following story was published in the April/May issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.

Milt Hamilton (left) and Dave Seaton of Caribou & Communities present to the audience at a Mar. 7 meeting at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

A scan of the parking lot at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre was an indication of the crowd gathered inside for a caribou-related presentation on Mar. 7. Instead of the townie bikes and Patagonia jackets typical of past caribou-related presentations, the parking lot was full of pickups hauling sleds. Inside, snowmobile-brand jackets were the style choice. The audience of just under 200 was rounded out by constituents from the forestry and backcountry adventure crowds.

They were there for the Caribou & Communities presentation, hosted by the newly formed coalition of groups concerned about losing access to the backcountry due to the ongoing caribou recovery plan development in B.C.

The main speaker at the presentation was Milt Hamilton, a retired scientist who did work with mountain caribou. He presented a series of slides on the background of the caribou recovery plan, which kicked into high gear in May of 2018 when the Catherine McKenna, the federal environment minister, declared some caribou in B.C. were facing an “imminent threat.”

This led to a series of developments that today is focused on the B.C. and federal governments negotiating a Section 11 agreement for mountain caribou recovery.

This has caused concern for socio-economic interests that rely on the backcountry, including forestry, mining, snowmobiling, heliskiing and other backcountry users.

The message from the presenters was clear. They were concerned about a lack of consultation on the ongoing development of the caribou strategy, and they wanted a seat at the table.

“You’ve got to get proactive and be part of the solutions, be part of the process, be part of the decision making,” Hamilton said.

Nakusp mayor Tom Zeleznik made the trip up for the presentation. He said a similar coalition had just formed in Nakusp. “We want to be able to collaborate with you as a group.” Zelznik said. “No one’s contacting us. I had no idea this was going on.”

Later in the presentation, Kathleen Connolly from Concerned Citizens for Caribou Recovery (CCCR), was patched in from her home in Northeast B.C. Her group has been at the forefront of pushback on the ongoing caribou recovery program. In Central and Northeastern B.C., the issue has had a lot more public involvement; they’ve petitioned government for more information and say as the plan is developed.

“We need meaningful consultation,” Connolly said. “We are going to be making delegations to the council. We all need to be involved in this and we desperately need to be at the table.”

All of the groups have commonalities. Their primary constituents have socio-economic concerns about any more caribou closures, and they are calling for consultation and more information about the developing plans.

All of the groups have been backed by opposition Liberal MLAs, who have echoed the calls for consultation and local meetings — a hard-to-assail political position, although it belies the reality that an effective recovery plan won’t be hashed out at a town hall meeting in a gymnasium.

Editor’s note: The Section 11 agreement was released just hours before our press time for the April/May issue. We have since published a detailed look at the plan as it relates to the story. For that story, see this link.