Caribou consultation: Revelstoke mayor hopes constructive comments will lead to seat at the table

Revelstoke mayor Gary Sulz hopes that constructive community comments at the April 15 B.C. government consultation meeting on the draft caribou recovery plan will lead to a seat at the table in future caribou management plans. Read and listen here.

File photo: Revelstoke mayor Gary Sulz Photo: handout

Revelstoke mayor Gary Sulz hopes that constructive community comments at the April 15 B.C. government consultation meeting on the draft caribou recovery plan will lead to a seat at the table in future caribou management plans.

He spoke with the Mountaineer ahead of the Monday meeting and gave his read of the plan as it is outlined on the provincial caribou plan engagement page.

The Mountaineer has reported on the caribou issue for over a year, since the federal government stepped in under the Species at Risk Act. For background on the issue, see our caribou story archives here.

“It appears that there’s not going to be any further closures that we have already,” Sulz said. “However, in the fine print it states that the government has the option of closing more forested land if it’s so desired or needed to protect the caribou, so those are the concerns. We’re concerned about the what the possible ramifications will be with [Species at Risk Act] Section 11 should they need to do further closures.”

Listen: Revelstoke mayor Gary Sulz on the upcoming draft caribou recovery plan meeting on April 15.

Sulz said that there is some misinformation out there about the nature of the plan as proposed. “I don’t want to be a fear-monger,” he said. “We want to be the partners at the table in managing our resources. We’ve done that in the past. We’ve been very good at that. Our local foresters and our biologists have done extremely well with the maternity penning with the caribou.”

His hope is that the community can be assured a seat at the table in the future, “to help with an action plan going forward,” he said. “We understand that the draft agreement is a framework. So if we can work with inside the framework and then dial down to how the protection is going to be done then we’ll have a better understanding.”

He characterized the current engagement sessions as a “rushed process” and fears that any future management regime won’t allow local stakeholders the ability to provide ongoing feedback. However, he said that while at a forest industry conference he recently attended, he received word from B.C. premier John Horgan that the government will listen to local input on the plans. “We’re very concerned that they’ll do something without our input, or without paying attention to our input. Now, they’ve told me that they will pay attention to our input,” he said.

Forester Kevin Bollefor transports a caribou to a maternal pen adjacent to Lake Revelstoke operated by Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild, part of an effort to preserve the species. Photo: Rob Buchanan/Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild/file photo

Despite the assurances, the city hasn’t been able to get a sit-down meeting with the caribou recovery team but was instead told to provide feedback during the Monday night session. “I’m hoping that we’ll be able to speak our mind, and I am not sure how these meetings are going to go,” Sulz said. “We’re kind of in the dark as much as everyone else in the community.”

Sulz also noted that a greater concern is the federal/provincial agreement under Section 11 of the federal Species at Risk Act will fail, leading to a unilateral federal intervention brought on by court challenges. “There’s a chance that this could be mandated into place through the courts under SARA, so we’re concerned about that,” he said. “If that were to happen, that means that all the backcountry would be closed for the caribou, which means that we don’t get into the backcountry for snowmobiling, for heliskiing, for logging, for any of the activities that we get to enjoy.”

He noted that the federal environment minister has asked the provincial government to complete the plan in a year, saying pressure is coming from environmental groups such as Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. Sulz said that organization’s goals don’t align with forestry- and backcountry-dependent communities like Revelstoke. “They would like to see all of the backcountry closed from the Yellowstone to the Yukon, which considerably makes most of British Columbia a giant park,” Sulz said.

Sulz wants the parties to “use the science,” saying “we can actually manage it without shutting the doors on everything.”

He hopes that individual community groups will come out to provide feedback in a constructive way. “Come willing to speak with a spokesperson from your group,” he said. “Definitely, they need to see the people behind our local concerns,” he said.

The Revelstoke caribou consultation meeting is at the Revelstoke Community and Aquatic Centre on Monday, April 15 from 5:30-9:30 p.m.

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Aaron Orlando
Aaron Orlando is the Creative Director of and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's worked in Revelstoke as a journalist and editor for the past ten years. Got tips on Revelstoke news, entertainment, sports, outdoor life, community or anything else? Email or call/text Aaron at 250-814-8710.