Caribou need urgent federal protection

ELC Clinic student Chelsea Harris (2016-17) at Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park, Alberta. It was taken last August shortly after she saw her first (and hopefully not last) caribou in the wild.

I am extremely thankful for my ELC experience. After spending countless hours of my life sitting in classrooms and hearing lectures, it was abundantly fulfilling to put my mind to something of real practical value and that I felt had the potential to make a real difference.

If government doesn’t act quickly to protect mountain caribou habitat, the species will soon be extinct. On behalf of the Valhalla Wilderness Society, the ELC petitioned the federal government in December to demand an emergency order to save BC’s 10 southern mountain caribou herds.

Chelsea Harris, the ELC Clinic student who worked on the petition, says the sharp and steady the decline in caribou populations surprised her. “I have been studying caribou since 2013,” says Chelsa. “It was unsettling to say the least, to discover that many herds have declined even further in the five years since I first researched southern mountain caribou.”

The petition argues that BC’s Mountain Caribou Recovery Plan failed because BC refused to curb most of the logging of the caribou’s old-growth habitat. It also failed to implement all the snowmobile bans recommended by its own team of biologists.

“We are the third team this year to send the Minister scientific proof of an emergency situation regarding mountain caribou,” says ELC Legal Director Calvin Sandborn. “Each of the two previous petitions documented the case for single herds. This new document shows that all 10 southern herds face imminent threats to their very survival. Now the law requires Ms. McKenna to recommend that Cabinet issue an emergency order to protect their habitat.”

Chelsea says people who want to help can contact the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to voice support for the petition.

Now is the time for action as caribou are migrating down from the high country to forage in low elevation forests. Without the mature forests to provide winter forage and protection from wolves, the caribou will not survive.

Read the report:

Petition for Emergency Order to protect Southern Mountain Caribou