The province and the Houston Snowmobile Club signed a stewardship management agreement today to protect caribou in the Skeena Region.
The agreement addresses the influence of recreation on northern caribou in the Telkwa Mountains. Recreation has been identified as a threat to caribou populations, as it could displace caribou from high-quality habitat and increase predator access to caribou range.
“One of the best ways to achieve lasting conservation outcomes is for groups to get together and find common ground by creating innovative solutions to protect wildlife,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, in a press release. “Staff in my ministry and the Houston Snowmobile Club are demonstrating the value of a collaboration-based approach.”
The agreement outlines the shared roles and responsibilities for both parties in the Houston Snowmobile Club’s riding area. The parties will work together to ensure that snowmobiling activities do not affect caribou. This includes closing certain areas to recreation when there are caribou present and minimizing the influence of recreation by promoting best-management practices to visiting and resident snowmobilers. The agreement also addresses how both parties will contribute to boundary marking and keep each other informed about activities related to the Telkwa caribou herd. This agreement is a companion document to the proposed Recreation Management Plan for the Telkwa Mountains, which outlines the areas proposed to be designated for recreation use and those for caribou habitat.
The Telkwa caribou herd has been of conservation concern since the late 1960s when there was a drastic decline in the number of caribou counted in the herd. Currently, there are approximately 22 animals in the herd and it is at continual risk of local extinction.
Landscape changes in and around the Telkwa Mountains have resulted in an ecosystem that supports moose, elk, deer and their predators. While predation and habitat loss are impacting this small caribou population, other disturbance factors, such as recreation, may also have cumulative effects.
The province is working to address all potential causes of caribou population decline in the Telkwa Mountains through a five-pillared management plan, which includes habitat protection, population monitoring, recreation management and engaging with communities.
“The Houston Snowmobile Club is happy to have worked with local biologists and government staff to achieve this agreement that provides snowmobiling opportunities while protecting caribou,” said Les Auston, a representative from the club.