Potential Conflict between Future Development of Natural Resources and High-value Wildlife Habitats in Boreal Landscapes

Nobuya Suzuki
Katherine Parker
Resource Date:

We used the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area in northeast British Columbia, Canada as a case study to determine potential conflicts between future resource development and high-value habitats of large mammals in an undeveloped boreal landscape. More than 50 % of high-value habitats for caribou, moose, elk, wolves and grizzly bears were located in Special Resource Management Zones, where natural resource developments could occur. We developed geographic information system (GIS) layers of potential forest resources, oil and gas, minerals, wind power, all resources combined, and roads; and quantified the proportions of high-value habitats overlapping these potentials. Greater proportions of high-value habitats across seasons for moose, elk, and wolves overlapped areas with high cumulative resource potential (winter, 49–70 %, growing season, 35–63 %) more than for three other species (grizzly bears, Stone’s sheep, mountain goats). This pattern was similar for forest resources, oil and gas, wind power, and roads. Caribou were more seasonally influenced. The proportions of their high-value habitat in areas with high cumulative resource potential (winter, 53 %, growing season, 16 %), as well as high forest and oil and gas potentials, were greatest in winter; in contrast, overlap with high mineral potential was greatest during the growing season. We recommend a quantitative and visual GIS approach to scenario planning in the Muskwa-Kechika to maintain the abundance and diversity of wildlife populations there. Resource development would likely increase early seral habitats, presumably benefiting moose, elk, and wolves, but could adversely affect caribou and grizzly bears through habitat loss and increased access.