Boreal caribou range across nine provinces and territories in Canada, including northeast British Columbia (B.C.). These forest-dwelling caribou are listed as “Threatened” under Schedule 1 of Canada’s Species at Risk Act and have a red-listed conservation status in B.C. owing to their historic population decline. A draft Boreal Caribou Protection and Recovery Plan (BCPRP) has been developed outlining the proposed management measures deemed necessary to support future population recovery. The BCPRP was codeveloped by the B.C. government and Fort Nelson First Nation in collaboration with the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and is envisioned to build off earlier management actions within the current
Implementation Plan for the Ongoing Management of Boreal Caribou in British Columbia released in 2011.
As part of the caribou recovery planning process, the Government of British Columbia sought feedback on the proposed BCPRP management measures. Public engagement included an online posting and comment period (consisting of a feedback form and invitation to send written submissions) as well as a series of community and stakeholder meetings and drop-in sessions. From April 4 to May 20, 2022, we received: 273 completed surveys from the general public; 14 formal written submissions from industry and trade associations, First Nations, and a government agency; and seven emails from members of the public.
Overall, 54% of completed surveys and written submissions supported the BCPRP’s management goal to recover boreal caribou populations across their range to a self-sustaining status and to a level capable of supporting an Indigenous sustenance harvest and supporting management objectives. The main reasons cited included the importance of maintaining and restoring caribou habitat. Some supporters (along with most of those opposed and those taking a neutral stance), felt that caribou population levels should be recovered to the point where they can support harvesting by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous hunters.
The majority (66%) of survey respondents also indicated support for the BCPRP’s proposed habitat protection and management measures which would restrict or offset natural resource development activities that would further degrade caribou habitat. Top reasons for that support included the view that habitat protection and restoration was essential to caribou recovery, and that industrial interests should not be prioritized over the conservation of caribou and other wildlife. However, the majority of formal written submissions from industry associations and producers expressed concerns over potential negative impacts that the BCPRP might have on future industrial access to natural resources within caribou range. Industry associations and producers explicitly called for greater clarity and further consultation on any new regulatory requirements that could result from the BCPRP being implemented.
Just over half of survey respondents (56%) strongly supported the BCPRP proposal to develop a predator management program to increase boreal caribou populations. The primary reason cited was that predator management is effective and required to recovery wildlife populations. Those taking a neutral stance (along with those who opposed predator management) more frequently indicated that human access to caribou habitat has led to increased predation and should be the focus of management. Few written submissions commented specifically on the proposed plan to develop a predator management program within the BCPRP planning area. However, several submissions called for the consideration of additional population management tools for caribou in addition to predator management.
The majority of survey respondents (82%) were supportive of the BCPRP’s proposed adaptive management, evaluation, and monitoring measures, which will improve caribou and habitat monitoring efforts to better understand how management actions affect boreal caribou populations. Survey respondents and formal written submissions stressed the importance of making caribou planning decisions using both science and Indigenous knowledge, and with stakeholder input.