Sweeping Emergency Order sought to save mountain caribou

Mountain caribou ave a Christmas present to Federal environment Minister Catherine McKenna Dec. 14. But this present wasn’t made in a workshop at the North Pole or delivered by reindeer (aka domesticated caribou). It comes from the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre, a former Environment Canada biologist and the Valhalla Wilderness Society.

The package is a Petition under the Species at Risk Act that documents the fact that all 10 of British Columbia’s most southerly mountain caribou are in imminent danger of extinction – and demands an Emergency Order to save them.

“If the Minister follows the law, these Canadian reindeer could be safer by Christmas Eve. We are the third team this year to send the Minister scientific proof of an emergency situation regarding mountain caribou,” says Calvin Sandborn, Legal Director of the ELC. “Each of the two previous petitions documented the case for single herds. This new document shows that all ten 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.”

“This is clearly an emergency,” says Dr. Lee Harding, a retired Environment Canada biologist and manager. “Four of the 10 local populations of these genetically unique caribou are extinct or nearly so — and five others are approaching extinction. All 10 populations have declined dramatically since the 2008 provincial recovery plan, and continued to decline after the 2014 federal recovery strategy.”

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

“At this very season the caribou are migrating down from the high country to low elevation forests that they need to survive,” says Harding. “In many areas these caribou will not find the mature forests they need for winter forage and to escape from wolves. Instead, they face clearcuts and active logging.”

“Santa’s reindeer are domesticated caribou,” says Anne Sherrod, a spokesperson for the Valhalla Wilderness Society. “Logging of old growth forest is killing their wild brothers by diminishing their food and increasing predation. Future generations will ask why we led them, as children, to cherish these animals in effigy, yet watched with indifference as they were annihilated off the face of this Earth. At this point we either get an emergency order from the federal government, or we watch a large and beloved mammal found nowhere else in the world disappear as a result of decades of inaction.”

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