Bob Zimmer is criticizing both Ottawa and Victoria over the province’s decision to impose a two-year moratorium on new resource development in parts of of the northeast as part of its caribou protection plan.
“We are now seeing the worst-case scenario play out before us,” he said in a statement issued Friday. “The province was forced to act under threat of unilateral action by the federal government. I place the blame on the Liberal government and (Environment) Minister (Catherine) McKenna’s unreasonable demands.”
However, Zimmer, the MP for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies, levelled most of his criticism at the provincial government
“Residents from across the region have expressed their concerns with the draft caribou recovery plans and what it will mean for our communities,” he said. “Instead of listening to these concerns, the province, along with their federal Liberal counterparts, have decided to impose a two-year moratorium on new resource development in our region.”
In April, after several well-attended public meetings where residents overwhelming were upset with the plan to protect caribou herds and after South Peace MLA Mike Bernier delivered a 30,000-name petition to Victoria, Premier John Horgan admitted that the province dropped the ball on local consultation on the issue. He then halted the caribou recovery plan process to facilitate more consultation and appointed former Liberal MLA Blair Lekstrom to be his liaison.
The extended consultation sessions doesn’t seem to have changed the overall outcome as Lekstrom, in a report to the province last week, recommended the moratorium.
“I personally attended most of these meetings and a moratorium was always an ‘only if all else fails’ option but instead it’s the first course of action,” said Zimmer. “We have also heard from local experts that a moratorium would not necessarily be effective in seeing caribou numbers increase. In fact, in some cases caribou numbers have increased where no moratorium exists and caribou numbers have decreased in areas like Tweedsmuir and Jasper Provincial Parks where no resource development exists.
“I care about caribou, conservation and doing what needs to be done to bring the herds back but it needs to be done through real and sincere consultation with the backcountry experts who truly understand caribou and their habitat.”
Zimmer said he is concerned the interim moratorium will lead to permanent restrictions.
“Sadly, we see that local mill closures are likely a result of actions like these with more closures likely to come,” Zimmer said.
The moratorium areas are in the vicinity of MacKenzie, Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd, and are consistent with Zone A2 and B3 within the Draft Caribou Recovery Partnership Agreement.
The order precludes the issuance of permits associated with harvesting of trees and construction of roads. Road construction will be allowed only to facilitate harvesting of already issued cutting permits or timber sales licenses. The area associated with this order represents 734,410 hectares of land, including approximately 120,000 hectares of Timber Harvesting Land Base over three management units: Dawson Timber Supply area (TSA), Mackenzie TSA and Tree Farm Licence 48.
The moratorium will be on future resource development, namely logging which is facing problems of fibre supply across the province. Current licences will not be affected.