The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is asking for the public’s help to determine who interfered with a caribou recovery program by illegally “reactivating” an intentionally closed portion of the Fisher Creek Forest Service Road.
A government-approved deactivation of five stretches of the Fisher Creek Forest Service Road (spanning about 2.3 kilometres in the Mount Bickford area, near Chetwynd) began in late September 2017 and was completed on Oct. 9, 2017, at a cost of about $140,000. Deep pits were dug, earth barriers were established and numerous logs were laid across the roadway to close the road to vehicle traffic, as part of the B.C. government’s ongoing caribou restoration program.
Specifically, this road was taken out of service to assist with the recovery of the Klinse-Za caribou herd, which currently consists of about 70 animals. The recovery project is a joint effort of West Moberly First Nations and Saulteau First Nations, and is supported by Wildlife Infometrics, Woodlands North and the B.C. government.
Closing the road was intended to discourage recreationalists and natural predators from using the former roadway to gain access to areas where the caribou herd could be found, while also helping to protect pregnant cows and newborns during the calving season. However, the illegal reactivation of part of the road once again provided access to critical caribou habitat and hampered ongoing efforts to restore the Klinse-Za caribou herd.
It’s an offence under B.C. legislation to construct or maintain a forest service road without authorization from the provincial government. Natural resource officers from the ministry’s Compliance and Enforcement Branch believe that this unlawful activity occurred between Oct. 9 and Oct. 19, 2017.
The person who partially reactivated the Fisher Creek Forest Service Road used heavy equipment to remove logs and level out piles of dirt, but only managed to clear about two-thirds of the affected roadway before the illegal activity was discovered on Oct. 19, 2017. The road has since been deactivated once again, at a cost of about $20,000.
Natural resource officers are actively investigating this incident, but have not yet identified the culprit, due in part to the site’s remote location. The person responsible faces significant penalties under the Forest and Range Practices Act and/or the Water Sustainability Act — up to $500,000 in fines or up to two years in jail.
Anyone with information about the Fisher Creek Forest Service Road incident can call the Natural Resource Violation Reporting line, toll-free at 1 877 952-7277 or call #7277 on a cellphone. A report can also be submitted online at: https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hen/nrv/report.htm