The MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin and Mayor of Williams Lake say they’re being left in the dark on proposed Mountain Caribou legislation.
Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development Doug Donaldson says the species are listed by the federal government under their species at risk act meaning if the Province does not take action to make sure the herds recover, the federal government will.
“There is an ability for the federal government to impose actions upon us under the species at risk act, ” he said.
“But what we want to do is come to an agreement with them under the act and that’s what we are working on right now-it’s called a Section 11 Agreement.”
Donaldson adds he has heard from municipalities and communities around the province regarding the negotiations that are underway with the federal government, and that it was the number one topic of many of the rural communities that he met with at the UBCM convention in September.
“I met with Williams Lake Council at UBCM and I don’t believe the Mayor was in attendance at that meeting or perhaps he missed that part of the discussion where I made the commitment to make sure that we engage with communities like Williams Lake before any final decisions are made,” he said.
Mayor of Williams Lake, Walt Cobb says he believes the current legislation will negatively impact tourism operators, anyone in the backcountry, and our forestry and mining. He says that he is trying to set up a meeting between Christmas and New Year’s with local stakeholders to further discuss the matter.
“When we look at the drafts that have come out on what they’re going to do it could shut down a huge portion of British Columbia, not just up north,” Cobb said.
“My fear is that they’re doing the one-off situation where they’re going to pick and choose so they’ll get a small group and they’ll cut them off and then they’ll go to a different area.”
The mountain caribou in British Columbia has been declining for a number of years from a population of 40,000 to 15,000. The Southern Mountain Caribou in the northern central interior alone Donaldson said have declined from 800 animals to 220.
“This is an issue that just didn’t crop up since we became government,” Donaldson said.
“It really became an issue especially with some of the herds that are in decline over the last 16 years when the BC Liberals were in power and they chose to ignore the situation so we’re addressing it head-on because yes we are concerned if the federal government imposes an order under the species at risk act then it will have implications and major impacts, but we’re trying to avoid that order by taking the responsible course and engaging with the federal government on the actions that we’re already taking and that we’ll be engaging with communities in the new year.”