Wolf culls, caribou protection and habitat management
Mr. Speaker: Member, Saanich North and the Islands. A. Olsen: Almost 30 of British Columbians
52 surviving caribou herds risk extirpation. A dozen of the herds have fewer than 25 animals.
Two herds in the Kootenay region were declared locally extinct earlier this year.
We know why. Caribou are highly sensitive to disruptions to their natural environment,
disruptions such as clearcutting forests, seismic exploration, road-building, oil and
gas development and land clearing. These are the conditions that allow wolves to thrive.
Hunting in families, STḴȺYE is a proficient predator, with highly developed relationships
and exceptional capacity to work together. The vegetation that once offered protection
for the caribou and their food…. With rapid changes to the land base, the caribou have
been exposed. Exploration corridors, trails and roads serve as predator highways, and
caribou have had little time to evolve new food sources, skills or tactics to protect
themselves. The provincial response has been in part to
shoot wolves from helicopters as a predator management strategy. My question is to the
Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources and Rural Development. Is the government planning
to increase the wolf cull? Hon. D. Donaldson: Thank you to the member
for the question. We as a government take caribou recovery in B.C. very seriously. That’s
why we rely on a range of approaches in supporting these populations.
When it comes to making decisions about wolf management in B.C., for instance, we rely
on expert research and the science. The research shows that wolves are the principle predator
of caribou in B.C. In fact, in May of 2018, the federal government, under the Species
at Risk Act, said the caribou populations in B.C. were under imminent threat, not due
to habitat loss but due to predators. Predator control is one of the tools we use,
especially when herds are reduced in numbers to critical levels. We also use other methods,
such as habitat protection, habitat restoration, maternity penning and supplemental feeding.
This is because caribou are an iconic species to B.C. and Canada, and we’re taking measures to stabilize their populations and grow their numbers. Mr. Speaker: Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental. A. Olsen: I thank the minister for the response. The real issue here is, actually, habitat
destruction, and it’s on track to get worse. This government continues the massive taxpayer-funded
subsidies of foreign corporations to expand LNG and thus increase fracking in caribou
habitat. We know culling wolfs to reduce the pressures
on caribou is just a band-aid solution to a human-made problem. If this government doesn’t
fundamentally change the way they manage the landscape, then frankly, we’ll have to continue
killing STḴȺYE until they are no more. This government is reluctant to specifically
protect species at risk because they are showing no restraint. Apparently, this government
is okay with the short-term status quo approach to managing the decline to zero on a long
enough trajectory that no one will notice. My question, again, is to the minister. Is
he comfortable knowingly committing a species to extinction by shying away from the responsible
ecosystem habitat management that we need, while spending millions of dollars to shoot hundreds of wolves so this government can continue unsustainable logging practices and increase fracking? Mr. Speaker: Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Hon. D. Donaldson: Well, I agree with the member in that we’ve had to take drastic emergency
measures to protect the populations of caribou that are left in this province. That’s because
the inadequate patchwork of actions taken by the previous government led to the threat
of an imminent stop-work order under the Species at Risk Act around habitat protection.
We’re determined to take this on. We know land use decisions impact caribou habitat
and populations. We’ve provided $47 million for our caribou recovery strategy. That involves
a whole suite of actions that I outlined earlier. We also took the unprecedented step of putting
in place an interim moratorium on new industrial activities on 734,410 hectares of land in
the northeast of the province until we can finalize a partnership agreement with the
federal government, with First Nations in the area to address caribou populations and
stability. This is all part of an effort that includes
making sure that we protect this iconic species. It’s part of the biodiversity in this province
that we enjoy and part of the constitutionally protected rights of Indigenous people to hunt
these animals. We’re determined that, with the measures we are taking, the caribou populations
will stabilize and grow.