Coalition decries logging in endangered caribou habitat
- Coalition decries logging in endangered caribou habitat
Forestry watchdog says action need to save species
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
A report to be released today by a coalition of environmental groups says timber companies -- including the B.C. government's own timber sales program -- are receiving approvals to log in endangered mountain caribou habitat, despite warnings from the province's forestry watchdog that immediate action is needed to save the species.
The report, issued by a coalition of eight groups, says logging has been approved in 54,000 hectares of caribou habitat, a vast swath of forest on the western slopes of the province's eastern mountain ranges stretching from Prince George through the Cariboo and the Kootenays to the U.S. border.
"It calls into question whether the government is really committed to recovery of this species," said ForestEthics campaigner Candace Batycki. ForestEthics is one of the groups that sponsored the report.
West Fraser Timber, the province's second-largest logging company, Tolko Industries and B.C. Timber Sales are identified as the biggest loggers on caribou habitat. All companies logging in caribou habitat are required by law to meet specific rules.
Batycki said logging is a critical factor in the decline of the caribou. It fragments habitat and opens the forest to new species, such as deer and moose. They, in turn, bring in new predators, such as wolves.
The eco-groups want a moratorium on all logging in all caribou habitat. But the head of the Forest Practices Board, the government watchdog that focused public attention on the species in a report it released last fall, said Monday that a moratorium may not be the answer.
Board chair Bruce Fraser said the declining caribou population is a complex issue, and simplistic solutions -- such as banning logging -- may not halt the decline.
In its September report, the board warned that unless coordinated government action is taken, the herds could be condemned to extinction.
Since the report, the province has created a caribou coordinator and tightened harvesting guidelines by making them law.
Wayne Clogg, vice-president of woodlands operations for West Fraser, said his company has future plans to log in caribou habitat but it is currently focused on harvesting in beetle-infested timberlands to the west. He said West Fraser's logging plans are in regions where the herd populations are considered stable.
The mountain caribou is listed as a species at risk and logging has been identified as a factor in the fragmentation of its habitat. Numbers have been historically declining to the point that only 1,600 mountain caribou remain in the province.
However, other factors, such as climate change, increased use of the wilderness by snowmobilers and increased predation by wolves are also affecting the herds.
The report comes on the eve of a major forest industry conference taking place in Vancouver this week. The timing is aimed at increasing pressure on companies logging in caribou habitat, said Tzeporah Berman, of ForestEthics.
The groups intend to hold a protest at the Global Forest and Paper Summit, which opens in Vancouver Wednesday.
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