We are still talking caribou. Why, you might wonder? The answer is simple but the solution is bafflingly complex with multiple interest groups pumping their polarized perspectives – real or imagined. From the office of the Mayor I can look directly into the northern extremity of the land base of the Quintette herd of Central Mountain Caribou not five miles distant. Their territory tends to follow the Sukunka River south on the east side and extends to about Hook Lake thence north and east with Tumbler Ridge about in its geographic centre.
East and south of the Quintette territory you will find the Narraway herd land base extending to the Alberta border but the herd, I expect, does not recognize such flimsy political boundaries and will cross at will to follow its food sources.
West of the Sukunka we find the Burnt Pine herd in the territory of the Pine and Burnt Rivers. The Moberly herd is to the west of that beautiful lake; it extends north to the Williston Reservoir, and west to the Kennedy Siding herd that borders the Burnt Pine and the Parsnip River south of Mackenzie. The Scott herd occupies both sides of the Parsnip arm of the Williston Reservoir. A quick review of your physical geography will show you that these herds share the land base with our major forest harvesting and coal mining activities.
Of interest and concern to us is the fact that the Burnt Pine, Quintette, and Narraway herds have been identified by the Federal Minister of Environment as at risk under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and in need of immediate intervention. The Act requires the Minister to affirm the risk and make recommendations to Cabinet.
I just turned to look again over the green hills and valleys to our still-snowy mountains that we share with the Central Mountain Caribou. Vista magnificent! In glancing at our mountains and valleys (vista magnificent!), of necessity, I had to look over (in contrast to overlook) the homes of hundreds of people whose livelihoods are intimately linked to forest and mountain; a truckload of logs that just now rolled into town on its way to the mill.
These logs are our livelihood. By them we put food on our tables. Indeed, we even buy our tables (another load goes by) with the proceeds of the trees harvested from our forests. I stress the verb, harvest. We are not raping and pillaging our woodlands as some allege. (There is more fibre in the forests of our area today than there was 50 years ago.) I believe our foresters are taking a sensible and sustainable approach to the harvest, much as a careful farmer does with her fields and crops.
Naturally, it takes longer for a forest to regrow the crop. But regrow, it does! I’ve seen the evidence wherever I have travelled – North America, Europe, Asia, and right here in our own valleys and mountains. My dad logged and operated a bush sawmill not ten miles from the centre of Chetwynd almost 70 years ago. Today you couldn’t find the location without knowing its precise coordinates. I went back probably 20 years ago looking for the site; had to tramp around forth and back but eventually stood in its place only to be astonished at the marvelous regenerative powers designed into our forests by the Creator.
But there are people who would shut us down and exclude us from the forests that we love and cherish (not sure how they build their houses and get from there to over there). One of them vigorously expressed her opinions on the Caribou Recovery teleconference this morning.
Happily, I believe our Provincial Government ultimately will take an approach not quite so radical. Nevertheless, it is caught between the Federal determination to carry out its perceived obligations under SARA and certain other international treaties to which Canada is signatory, and British Columbia’s own interest in protecting a stable revenue stream and economic base with the families such a base supports.
Vigilance is always the price of liberty. Apparently vigilance is also the price of sustaining our rural, agrarian, forest-based, and wilderness-oriented ways of life. And vigilance is expensive (but not so expensive as failure to be alert and act)! The Regional District Board will need to secure immediately the services of a competent biologist with experience in caribou management to assist us in crafting the defense we must make to Government. Time is not on our side.
Oh, by the way, here is a marvelous little wisdom from the ancients that seems to be appropriate for our present, precarious circumstances: “The complacency of fools will destroy them.” Indeed! My lack of complacency on this topic wakes me up in the night. That also is foolish.